The Growing Problem of Teens and Porn Addiction

Aug 7 • For the Parents • 24026 Views • Comments Off on The Growing Problem of Teens and Porn Addiction

A teenage boy sneaks a peek of a hidden “girlie” magazine – it’s an image you might be familiar with firsthand or through movies and TV. While it’s normal for teenagers to be curious about sexual images, an addiction to porn can have a serious impact on them. An addiction to pornography develops when a teenager begins to overuse the images to the point where it begins to take over his or her life, often making addiction treatment necessary.

How Addiction Works

Porn addiction is not as well researched as other behavioral addictions, like problem gambling or compulsive eating.  However, experts believe it works in a similar way. The addiction is not simply making a choice to watch or view that kind of material. Instead, it’s a compulsion with its roots in the brain’s biology. The visual stimulation creates a biochemical high in the brain’s pleasure center. Like other addictions, including substance abuse, porn addiction in teens is chronic and becomes progressively worse over time.

Sometimes the teen initially seeks out pornographic images by viewing graphic websites or magazines. Other times, the first exposure is accidental. For example, he or she may have been inadvertently exposed to online pornography after typing an innocent search term that produced X-rated results. However, that initial exposure may lead to more that are intentionally sought out.  In some teenagers the brain is primed over time to compulsively seek out the biochemical high the sexual images produce.

Keep in mind that an addiction to porn does not necessarily mean he or she has an addiction to physical sexual acts. Sex addiction often includes the compulsion to engage in high risk and / or inappropriate sexual behavior, including having multiple sexual partners, having sex with strangers, flashing, or voyeurism. A person with a porn addiction may not even masturbate during viewing, although the two often go together. Some teens may just watch it because they’re obsessed with observing others having sex.  The need for compulsive sex may require a somewhat different approach to addiction treatment than the compulsion to watch porn.

Teens’ Exposure to Porn

When we talk about pornography these days, we’re often referring largely to online images and video. An Internet user can easily find graphic visual stimulation anytime, anyplace. Exposure to porn is high among teens; in one study, 93% of boys and 62% of girls said they were exposed to online porn as teenagers. Boys were more likely to seek out sexually graphic images and view more extreme images, like child pornography.

The same study found that girls reported their exposure was more often involuntary [1]. However, just because adolescent females report more involuntary exposure doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t become addicted. Addiction is not only a problem in male teenagers; many adolescent girls develop porn addiction as well.

The Danger of Porn Addiction

Like any addiction, compulsive viewing of porn can take over a person’s life. The need to watch or view puts other responsibilities, like work or school, on the backburner. For example, an addicted teen may spend time seeking porn instead of studying for tests or maintaining athletic eligibility.

Porn addiction can impact relationship, too. A teen who compulsively views porn might neglect important relationships with parents, siblings, and friends. Addiction can have a financial impact as well if a teen has progressed to paying subscription fees to watch sex acts online.

Some health experts are also becoming concerned about the rise in porn-induced sexual dysfunction in men. They believe that Internet porn is sensitizing the brain so that it no longer reacts in a healthy way to normal sexual stimulation. A large Italian study discovered that men who had started accessing online porn as teenagers reported a steady drop in libido that resulted in eventual erectile dysfunction [2].

Signs of Porn Addiction in Teens

  • Shows changes in behavior, mood, or sleep
  • Loses track of time while viewing pornography
  • Isolates him- or herself from family or friends
  • Shows declining academic or work performance
  • Seeks pornography when feeling stressed, anxious, or angry
  • Becomes angry or irritable when asked to stop
  • Continues the behavior despite attempts to stop or despite being punished for it

Porn Addiction Treatment       

The first step is to find an experienced therapist. Porn addiction, like sex addiction, can be humiliating to talk about with others, making it essential to find a compassionate mental health professional skilled at dealing with this type of behavior.

Behavioral addictions, like pornography, are often linked to other psychiatric conditions, such as depression. A good therapist will also screen your teen for additional disorders. Treatment for underlying conditions will raise the chances for successful addiction treatment.

Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for porn addiction. The goal of therapy will be to help your teen examine the reasons why he or she is compelled to use porn. In addiction treatment, your child will also learn strategies for coping with urges in a world in which pornographic material is never more than a click away. Additionally, since sex is part of a normal adult life, the therapist will teach your teen ways to deal with sexual matters in a healthy way.

Tips for Helping Teens Overcome Addiction

  • Reduce exposure.  When you have a porn-addicted teen at home, it’s important to limit their opportunities to view it. Keep conventional pornography, like magazines, out of the home. Reduce access to online porn by putting filters on computers and keeping computers and mobile devices in public areas of the home, like the family room.
  • Find teen-focused support groups. Seek out self-help groups focused on helping youth with an addiction to pornography. A support group is valuable in recovery from the addiction because it takes a behavior that is inherently private and places it in the open. By listening to similar stories of peers and sharing his or her own story, your teen can begin to heal.
  • Consider family therapy. Stress can cause relapse in an addicted teen. Reduce that risk by using family therapy to address challenges within your home. A therapist will help you identify conflicts and resolve them in a healthy way.

This doesn’t need to destroy your teenager’s life.  Working with a therapist who’s experienced in working with this type of addiction is often the best course of action.  By seeking addiction treatment today, you can help ensure that your teen has a much better future.

 

References:

[1] http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV169.pdf

[2] http://www.ansa.it/web/notizie/rubriche/english/2011/02/24/visualizza_new.html_1583160579.html

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