Abstinence is a voluntary restraint from indulging a desire or appetite for certain bodily activities that are widely experienced as giving pleasure. Most frequently, the term refers to abstention from sexual intercourse, alcohol or food. The practice can arise from religious prohibitions or practical considerations.

Abstinence has diverse forms. Commonly it refers to a temporary or partial abstinence from food, as in fasting. In the twelve-step program of Overeaters Anonymous abstinence is the term for refraining from compulsive eating, akin in meaning to sobriety for alcoholics. Because the regimen is intended to be a conscious act, freely chosen to enhance life, abstinence is sometimes distinguished from the psychological mechanism of repression. The latter is an unconscious state, having unhealthy consequences. Freud termed the channeling of sexual energies into other more culturally or socially acceptable activities "sublimation".

Abstinence in religion

Abstinence may arise from an ascetic element, present in most religions, or from a subjective need for spiritual discipline. In its religious context, abstinence is meant to elevate the believer beyond the normal life of desire, to a chosen ideal, by following a path of renunciation.

For Jews, the principal day of fast is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. For Muslims, the period of fasting lasts during the whole month of Ramadan, from dawn to dusk. Both Jews and Muslims abstain from pork in their regular diet. In Islam, pre-marital sex is prohibited. Many Christians (as well as other religions) aim to be completely abstinent from pre-marital sex. Also, Catholics abstain from food and drink prior to taking Mass, and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during Lent. Many Traditionalist Catholics abstain all Fridays in the year. Catholics distinguish between fasting and abstinence; the former referring to the discipline of taking one full meal a day, and the latter signifying the discipline of eating no meat (fish is allowed). Some Protestants have preferred to abstain from drinking alcohol and the use of tobacco. Mormons abstain from certain foods and drinks by combining spiritual discipline with health concerns. Mormons also fast one day a month, for both spiritual and charitable reasons (the money saved by skipping meals is donated to the needy). The Seventh-day Adventist Church encourages the consumption of only clean meats as specified in Leviticus and strongly discourages the consumption of alcohol, smoking and the use of narcotics.cite web
title = Fundamental Beliefs
url = http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/fundamental/index.html
accessdate = 2006-03-07
year = 2005

In India, Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus abstain from eating meat on the grounds both of health and of reverence for all sentient forms of life. Total abstinence from feeding on the flesh of cows is a hallmark of Hinduism.

In medicine

In medicine, abstinence is the discontinuation of a drug, often an addictive one. This might, in addition to craving after the drug, be expressed as withdrawal syndromes. Abstinence from smoking is also recommended for those who undertake of have recently undertaken cosmetic surgery. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) said about this issue, in a paper about smoking and its affects on cosmetic surgery,

Total absistence from smoking during the peri-operative period still remains the best course of management in order to reduce the negative effects of smoking on wound healing and propensity towards skin necrosis. [cite journal
last = Jewell, M.D.
first = Mark L.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Smoking and Plastic Surgery
journal = ASPS® Patient Consultation Resource Book
volume =
issue =
pages =
publisher = ASPS
location =
date = February 2007
url = http://www.khouryplasticsurgery.com/download/Smoking_and_Plastic_Surgery.pdf
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2008-07-13


ee also

Types of abstinence

*Sexual abstinence
*Smoking cessation
*Straight edge


*Alcoholics Anonymous
*Pagans In Recovery
*Narcotics Anonymous
*Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPT)

Other related topics

*Chastity ring
*Sexual sublimation
*Wedding of the Weddings

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  • Abstinence — • Includes information about old and new testament fasting as well as church laws Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Abstinence     Abstinence      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • abstinence — [ apstinɑ̃s ] n. f. • austinance 1050; lat. abstinentia 1 ♦ Privation volontaire de certains aliments (par ex., viande) ou boissons (alcool), pour une raison religieuse ou médicale. Faire abstinence le vendredi. ⇒ 1. maigre. 2 ♦ Littér. ⇒… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • abstinence — Abstinence. s. f. Vertu par laquelle on se prive des plaisirs de la bouche. L abstinence n est guere moins utile au corps qu à l ame. une louable abstinence. Il se dit aussi de La simple moderation dans l usage des aliments. On luy a ordonné une… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Abstinence — Ab sti*nence, n. [F. abstinence, L. abstinentia, fr. abstinere. See {Abstain}.] 1. The act or practice of abstaining; voluntary forbearance of any action, especially the refraining from an indulgence of appetite, or from customary gratifications… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • abstinence — Abstinence, f. penacut. Abstinentia. Abstinence de vin, Vini abstinentia. Abstinence de soupper, Coenae abstinentia. Abstinence de guerre, Feriae bellicae, B. Induciae temporariae …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • abstinence — (n.) mid 14c., forbearance in indulgence of the appetites, from O.Fr. abstinence (earlier astenance), from L. abstinentia, noun of quality from abstinentem (nom. abstinens), prp. of abstinere (see ABSTAIN (Cf. abstain)). Specifically of sexual… …   Etymology dictionary

  • abstinence — index abstention, continence, disuse, moderation, nonuse, temperance Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • abstinence — *temperance, continence, abstemiousness, sobriety Analogous words: forbearance, refrainment (see corresponding verbs at REFRAIN): forgoing, eschewal, abnegation (see corresponding verbs at FORGO): *renunciation, self denial, self abnegation… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • abstinence — [n] restraint from desires, especially physical desires abnegation, abstaining, abstemiousness, asceticism, avoidance, chastity, continence, fasting, forbearance, frugality, moderation, refraining, renunciation, self control, self denial, self… …   New thesaurus

  • abstinence — ► NOUN ▪ the practice of abstaining, especially from drinking alcohol. DERIVATIVES abstinent adjective. ORIGIN Latin abstinentia, from abstinere, hold from …   English terms dictionary

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