Revisiting the Role of Impulsivity and Compulsivity in Problematic Sexual Behaviors

J Sex Res. 2019 Feb;56(2):166-179. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2018.1480744. Epub 2018 Jun 18.


Impulsivity and compulsivity are transdiagnostic features associated with clinically relevant aspects of psychiatric disorders, including addictions. However, little research has investigated how impulsivity and compulsivity relate to hypersexuality and problematic pornography use. Thus, the aims of the present study were to investigate (a) self-reported impulsivity and compulsivity with respect to hypersexuality and problematic pornography use and (b) the similarities and possible differences between hypersexuality and problematic pornography use in these domains. Utilizing structural equation modeling (SEM) in a large community sample (N = 13,778 participants; female = 4,151, 30.1%), results indicated that impulsivity (β = .28, β = .26) and compulsivity (β = .23, β = .14) were weakly related to problematic pornography use among men and women, respectively. Impulsivity had a stronger relationship (β = .41, β = .42) with hypersexuality than did compulsivity (β = .21, β = .16) among men and women, respectively. Consequently, impulsivity and compulsivity may not contribute as substantially to problematic pornography use as some scholars have proposed. On the other hand, impulsivity might have a more prominent role in hypersexuality than in problematic pornography use. Future research should examine further social and situational factors associated with problematic pornography use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Compulsive Behavior / physiopathology
  • Erotica*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Young Adult