Pornography Addiction and Your Teen

What Is Teen Porn Addiction?

The American Psychiatric Association created The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This manual is used to diagnose mental health issues.

DSM-5 does not recognize the existence of sex addiction or porn addiction. There is an ongoing debate about how to define or even acknowledge these issues. Yet, for many people, sex and porn addiction is simply part of their lived reality.

Addiction to Internet pornography may not be significantly different from substance use addictions, such as addictions to alcohol and drugs.

Like other forms of addiction, addiction to Internet porn or inappropriate or unhealthy sexual behavior can have lifelong and devastating consequences.

This article will describe teen porn addiction. It will also address other forms of sexually-related addictions or at-risk behaviors. The article will describe the signs and symptoms of unhealthy behaviors. It will also explain the causes and effects of porn and sex addiction. In addition, the material will offer possible treatment options for sex-specific issues.

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    What Are The Signs of Porn Addiction in Teens?

    Signs and symptoms of porn addiction can be similar to other forms of addiction, such as addiction to alcohol or drugs. Addiction to a behavior rather than a substance is known as a process addiction. Gambling addiction is an example of a process addiction that is recognized by the DSM-5.

    Because of the similarities between process addictions and substance abuse, many of the warning signs are also similar.

    • The teen may demonstrate increased symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other mental health issues.
    • The teen may show signs of Internet addiction, such as increasing amounts of time online and become increasingly volatile and resistant to any attempt to limit Internet use.
    • The teen seeks out pornography for longer and longer periods of time.
    • The teen may look for increasingly explicit or violent pornography.
    • The teen wants to stop viewing pornography, or act out other forms of sexual behavior, but cannot stop.
    • The teen spends less and less time on other activities and focuses increasingly on viewing porn or acting out other inappropriate sexual behavior.
    • The teen continues to view pornography or take part in sexual activities despite its adverse effects on their schoolwork, social life, home life, or physical health.
    • The teen may demonstrate difficulty in understanding acceptable, age-appropriate, and consensual sexual behavior.

    Without appropriate treatment, porn addiction can have long-term and troubling consequences.

    What Causes Porn Addiction in Teens?

    Two naturally occurring chemicals are involved in pornography addiction.

    The first chemical is dopamine. Dopamine is naturally released when people engage in activities that promote human survival. For example, dopamine is released when we eat food or when we have sex. Dopamine creates positive feelings that encourage us to repeat these activities.

    While porn viewing is not helpful to our survival as a species, it does also often result in a rush of dopamine. This rush of dopamine may be higher than would be likely to occur naturally in other activities. The result of this excess of dopamine can create a behavioral addiction.

    Behavioral addiction follows a pattern that is similar to drug addiction.

    The porn viewer may develop a tolerance for pornography use. The viewer may need to watch porn more frequently or to watch more explicit, extreme, or violent types of pornography to achieve the same levels of arousal.

    One negative consequence of too much dopamine being released too quickly is that it could cause dopamine receptors to become less functional.

    The increasing tolerance of dopamine may result in the viewer taking less pleasure in other activities that they used to enjoy. Pornography becomes their primary focus.

    The need for a dopamine rush may become so great that their judgment becomes impaired. Their self-control is inhibited. They may experience decreased impulse control. The lack of restraint and problems with impulsivity may lead to increased risk-taking in seeking out pornography.

    Another chemical that is involved in addiction to pornography is oxytocin. Oxytocin is a chemical that promotes positive attachment in relationships. For some people with a habit of frequent porn use, pornography becomes a substitute for human relationships. Unfortunately, pornography is a counterfit for real-life human connection.

    However, for some individuals with mental disorders or autism spectrum disorders, viewing pornography can feel like a far safer option than attempting to navigate relationships with other people. They don’t have to be as vulnerable, read complicated social cues, and fear the risk of rejection. Pornography can be a path of least resistance for them. The time spent viewing pornography means less time interacting with real people. Viewing pornography creates a cycle where interacting with people becomes more of a challenge, so socially-challenged teens devote less time to real people, and more time consuming porn on the Internet.

    What Are The Effects Of Teen Porn Addiction?

    Teens who are addicted to porn may develop lifelong issues with healthy sexuality. When teens use porn, they can self-select images that they find increasingly arousing.

    They may find that when they have the opportunity to have an age-appropriate sexual experience with a partner, the porn viewer may experience less sexual satisfaction in their real-life experience than through their online fantasies.

    For some teens, the disparity between what they experience with a real-life partner and what they see on internet pornography can lead to sexual dysfunction, such as an inability to achieve or maintain an erection.

    For other teens, especailly those who struggle socially, they can experience serious negative consequences if they attempt to replicate the behavior that they have seen in online pornography in real life. If they are concrete in their thinking patterns, then they may assume that what they view from pornography is socially acceptable sexually. This may put them at high risk of acting out what they have viewed from pornography with others, although they may not be deviant in nature. They may struggle to understand the difference between the fantasy world of pornography, and what is socially consensual, and acceptable sexually. Their actions may have long-lasting, traumatic repercussions for all participants.

    What Kinds Of Treatment Is Available For Treatment for Teen Porn Addiction?

    Fortunately, for the many families who have a loved one who is struggling with some form of sex or pornography addiction, there are many treatment options. Because behavioral addictions such as porn or sex addiction are similar to substance use addictions, many of the addiction treatment options are similar as well.

    What Is Cognitive-behavioral Therapy?

    Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a goal-oriented form of talk therapy. The objective of CBT is to challenge unhealthy thought or behavioral patterns. Then, the therapist works with the client to develop new, healthier thoughts and behaviors.

    What Is Experiential Therapy?

    Experiential therapy has a greater opportunity for success than traditional talk therapy for two primary reasons. The first reason is that it does not feel like therapy.

    During experimental therapy, teens are not simply sitting in an office and talking to their therapist. They are actively taking part in activities such as horseback riding, skills training, or mountain climbing with their therapy group and their therapist. Experiential therapy allows them to experience challenging situations that creates a more hands on and concrete learning experience while applying what they have discussed in talk therapy.

    These memorable experiences connect to teens in a way that talk therapy does not. They may also be helpful for teens who have difficulty in putting their personal experiences into words.

    The second major asset of experiential therapy is that it focuses on building strong relationships. Healthy relationships are something that many teens with addictions to pornography or sexually inappropriate behavior are lacking. Learning how to develop healthy relationships with healthy boundaries can be an essential part of the recovery process.

    Where Can Families Find Support Groups And Other Therapeutic Treatments?

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) offers resources for helping parents find help with sexual addiction and other forms of addiction. The SAMHSA provides a helpline that can help put you in contact with an appropriate healthcare professional.

    Another resource available to families is the International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals (IITAP). This organization can help families to find a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) in their area.

    You Have Questions, We Have Answers. Your Call is Confidential.

    Oxbow Academy is fully operational during the COVID-19 crisis. Contact us if you need help with treatment for sexual addiction, sexual abuse, pornography abuse and other compulsive behavior issues.

    How Can I Find Specialized-Treatment For My Loved One?

    Alcohol abuse and substance use disorders require specialized treatment. Pornography addiction and sexual addiction are no different.

    At one time, families would hesitate to find treatment for their loved ones with substance abuse issues. They feared the stigma that these issues represented. Hesitation to ask for help when needed led to unnecessary pain and trauma for the addiction sufferer and their family.

    If you suspect that a loved one may experience porn or sex addiction, please seek help from a qualified professional.

    How Do I Know If My Loved One Needs Help?

    There are clinical evaluations that can help make that determine whether or not a teen’s sexual interest is healthy or potentially dangerous. One of the most respected evaluations is the Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST).

    SAST asks a series of simple yes or no questions. The questions are designed to be answered by a parent or guardian about their teen. The answers are completely confidential.

    When the SAST is complete, you will be taken to a new page that shows a score representing the level of risk. Your personal information will not be linked to the SAST score.

    After you get the SAST result, you will have the chance to request a call from someone who can help answer your questions. You will only be contacted if you make a request. Whether you request a call or not, your information will remain confidential. The use of the SAST does not put you under any obligation.

    Does My Son Need Residential Treatment?

    Oxbow Academy is a residential treatment program for boys between the ages of 13 and 17 who are suspected of having sex-specific issues. Every boy who comes to Oxbow is evaluated within the first 90-days to determine their level of risk, and if they need further sex-specific residential treatment.

    Before your loved one ever comes to Oxbow Academy, you will speak with a highly trained Admissions Counselor. The Admissions Counselor who will provide you with sufficient information to help you determine if your son needs a further evaluation and help at this time.

    When your son first enters Oxbow Academy, he will come to the Evaluation Center. All boys who come to the school spend their first 90-days at the Evaluation Center. There, the boys are observed by experienced staff members. They interact with counselors who have experience in treating sex-specific issues.

    Also, during the evaluation period, your son will be prepared to take a clinical polygraph. Far from being a traumatizing experience, the polygraph is designed to help your son honestly express his sexual history so that he can begin to heal. He can be freed from his past experiences so that he may have a more positive and healthy future.

    What About Loved Ones With Special Needs?

    Many of the young men who come to Oxbow Academy have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Issues or developmental delay disorders. The school has teachers and clinicians specialized in addressing these issues. If your son has one or more of these issues and is found to need treatment after a 90-day evaluation, then he will be part of a campus uniquely designed for young men with needs like his.