Why “good kids” can struggle with pornography addiction

As one of just a few programs in the country specializing in teen pornography addiction treatment, we are often asked what type of youth seek treatment for addiction to pornography.  The answer is quite simple—“good kids.”  This response can be perplexing for some, so let us expound with three main points to support our answer.

1.       Most youth don’t acknowledge the problem and even fewer are willing to seek help.  Far more youth than we realize are regularly viewing porn.  However many of these teens and even their parents simply refuse to recognize the dangers of porn use and “normalize” the behavior.  Many teens who do recognize the problems associated with viewing porn have been raised with strong moral values and taught to avoid using porn. For these youth, the formation of a pornography addiction creates serious internal conflict because pornography use contradicts the moral values that have been a part of their upbringing.  In turn, this creates a sense of shame, guilt, fear, self-loathing, anxiety and depression as they find themselves unable to break free from porn addiction.

2.       Addiction to pornography can develop very quickly and after only viewing for a short period of time.  This can create significant problems for responsible teens who have been able to exhibit high levels of self-discipline and control throughout their lives. The euphoric “high” from the plethora of neurochemicals in the brain released while viewing porn is for many teens the strongest emotional sensation they have encountered in their young lives.  The subsequent behavior patterns to re-experience this “high” leads to the formation of an addiction.  Many porn addicted teens never envisioned themselves being addicted to anything, let alone pornography. 

3.       Most are unable to break free from the addiction on their own.  This can be incredibly frustrating for responsible teens who have been successful in staying clear of other vices and problems throughout their childhood and adolescence.  When they have encountered problems, they have been able to successfully resolve issues on their own without outside assistance. Many porn addicted teens remain in denial, believing once they decide to do so, they can stop viewing.  However, most are unable to break free from a pornography addiction on their own despite repeated efforts to do so.  Additionally, The “porn high” becomes a coping style for dealing with uncomfortable emotions, similar to the way that drugs and alcohol are used as it becomes a temporary escape from reality.  Instead of dealing with life challenges, it becomes easier for porn addicted youth to log into a virtual erotic fantasyland.  After repeated failed attempts to stop viewing, addicted youth who want to eliminate the behavior from their lives often experience symptoms of depression, emptiness, shame, self-loathing and isolation.