Mental health counselors and psychotherapists are seeing a pattern of increasing numbers of teens and young adults seeking treatment for problems related to pornography addiction and its accompanying behaviors. This pattern suggests a need for further analysis as to why this is occurring and what the long-term ramifications of this may be. Studies already suggest that most adults struggling with sexual addiction first developed the addiction during adolescence. Does this pattern predict an epidemic of future sexual addiction as these teens move into adulthood?
The Youth Pornography Addiction Center was founded in 2010 and has been studying this trend and providing treatment to teens and young adults in this area since that time. Based on its experience, listed below are three reasons why this trend is occurring:
1.Access—Pornography has always been available, but until the age of the internet, had to be accessed in magazines, video tapes and often required entry into adult books stores and was difficult for teens to obtain. Never before has sexually explicit material been so readily available and easily accessed. A majority of teens and young adults have laptops, smart phones, I-pads and are constantly connected to the internet. In a matter of seconds and virtually anywhere, pornography can viewed. Internet porn is the medium by which most youth view pornography and most of it free of charge and without accountability for age of the viewer.
2.Potency of today’s Porn—There is a drastic difference between today’s online porn and the porn of just a few decades ago. Now, youth can go to countless websites and find more free porn than they could ever find the time to watch….all in high definition video. They can even pick their favorite template, hair color, sexual activity, and just watch video after video of it. It’s all free, easy to access, available within seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be viewed on phones at any age. Addicted teens find themselves driven to view more and more pornography and becoming more and more secretive and deceitful in their efforts to do so. It is true that erotic photos and videos have been around a long time, but the dopamine arousal from turning the pages of a Playboy magazine can’t hold a candle to the steady stream of ever changing erotic stimulation that is so easily obtained from searching for and viewing online porn. This is why online erotica can create such powerful addictions in teens. Today’s porn doesn’t satisfy teens’ needs; it distorts them. Teens are particularly vulnerable as the strength of the dopamine high is likely the strongest, most euphoric sensation they have ever experienced in their young lives. Skeptics need to understand this “high” rivals anything that could be achieved with drugs.
3.Diminished authentic relationships—The rising generation has been using technology on a daily basis for their entire lives and it is interfering with their ability to connect with others in a face to face and intimate manner. Many teens text far more than they talk. Some send more than 1000 texts a day. Many teens spend hours and hours playing video games and interacting with “virtual friends” on Facebook while sitting at home alone and isolated from “real friends”. Intimacy and connectedness can not occur in virtually or in cyberspace. The National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health, which surveyed more than 12,000 high school students throughout the country, has noted that feelings of “connectedness” (feeling close to people at school, fairly treated by teachers, and loved and wanted at home) helped significantly to lower an individual’s likelihood of emotional distress, early sexual activity, substance abuse, violence, and suicide. Another recent study found in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine has suggested that the more screen (computer, video game, cell phone) exposure teenagers get, the more detached they are from those round them. There appears to be a relationship between adolescent screen time and the diminished social involvement with parents and peers. Sexual addiction experts suggest that among the core issues driving the addiction is the lack of intimacy and fear of connectedness.
STAR Guides and Mending The Armor are outpatient treatment program that have been specifically designed to provide youth and young adults with a formal approach for learning to manage and overcome an addiction to pornography and other unwanted sexual behaviors. These programs are currently being offered in eighteen locations in the United States and Canada. See the Locations page on the website to find an office near you. If you are therapist interested in providing this service in your office, see the Become A Provider page for information on how to join the network