Effectiveness of Brief Abstinence for Modifying Problematic Internet Gaming Cognitions and Behaviors

Daniel L. King, Dean Kaptsis, Paul H. Delfabbro, Michael Gradisar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This pilot study tested the efficacy of a voluntary 84-hour abstinence protocol for modifying problematic Internet gaming cognitions and behaviors. Method: Twenty-four adults from online gaming communities, including 9 individuals who screened positively for Internet gaming disorder (IGD), abstained from Internet games for 84 hours. Surveys were collected at baseline, at daily intervals during abstinence, and at 7-day and 28-day follow-up. Results: Brief voluntary abstinence was successful in reducing hours of gaming, maladaptive gaming cognitions, and IGD symptoms. Abstinence was highly acceptable to participants with total compliance and no study attrition. Clinically significant improvement in IGD symptoms occurred in 75% of the IGD group at 28-day follow-up. Reliable improvement in maladaptive gaming cognitions occurred in 63% of the IGD group, whose cognition score reduced by 50% and was comparable to the non-IGD group at 28-day follow-up. Conclusions: Despite limitations of sample size, this study provides promising support for brief abstinence as a simple, practical, and cost-effective treatment technique for modifying unhelpful gaming cognitions and reducing Internet gaming problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1573-1585
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number12
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • abstinence
  • cognition
  • DSM-5
  • Internet gaming disorder
  • online games
  • treatment


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