Let’s take the stigma out of treatment for porn addiction

The ocean slaps against the bottom of your vessel. The blue green water beckons you to swim. It looks enticing; cool, especially on this hot summer day. You look around. No one on the ship will know you’re gone. A quick jump in the water, maybe a few underwater excursions, and you’ll be back on the ship in no time. Almost every ship passenger does it. In fact, diving off a ship is practically commonplace. There have been a few rumblings about possible dangers — getting left behind, or hitting the water too hard — but not enough to provide more safety nets for the crew.

Without another moment’s thought, perhaps even compulsively, you dive into the water headfirst. What fun! You splash around the water, allowing the liquid to cool you off. A quick dive underwater allows you to see things you’ve never seen before. So you do it again, and again. Each time you rise up out of the water you notice the ship moving farther and farther away.

After one last dive, during which you dove deeper than ever before, you find yourself getting tired struggling to reach the surface. The deeper you go, the darker the world becomes until all you can see is blackness. Your lungs grow tired, depleting your ability to hold your breath. Pain follows …

With one last desperate kick, you push yourself to the surface and see several crewmembers, including the captain, looking at you from the bow of the ship. They do nothing to help your situation; though you see them add security precautions so that others don’t follow your actions. You are left alone. Adrift in the sea with no help, and little more than slight council from passing ships, all of who proclaim, “You shouldn’t have fallen in.”

Why don’t they help me, you ask. How was I supposed to know how dangerous my actions were? What can I do to survive?

 

Unfortunately, the above story reflects the minds of those poor souls currently addicted to pornography. The helplessness one feels when trapped in the bonds created by this addiction mirror being stranded at sea, surrounded by lifeboats, none of whom it seems are keen to help you with your problem. Instead, an addict continually hears how pornography should be avoided at all costs.

What does one who has already become addicted to pornography do? Who do they talk to? Where do they go?

It’s for this reason that “Mending the Armor” and “Star Guides” was created by “Therapy Associates” — to help those souls already adrift, or weighed down by their addiction — not just pornography, but video games, technology, cell phones, internet, etc. — find a path back to dry land.

This does not negate what religious and civil leaders say about pornography. In fact, porn addiction is a disease. Those who have yet to partake of explicit material are best to steer clear, especially in this day and age where filth corrupts the world around us like a growing virus.

Yet, many often overlook the problem at hand: pornography is not simply a growing epidemic. In point of fact, it’s been a problem for quite a while. Rather than brush the problem away as though it were pesky fly, we need to promote treating this addiction for what it really is: a life-sucking disease that requires love, support and professional help to overcome.

At “Therapy Associates,” our aim is to help those trapped in an addictive cycle break free from their present path and find happiness down a new road. We are the ship that, rather than ignorantly demining you for your actions, floats out to give you a hand. We’ll pull you into our ship, sail you to safety and then do our best to keep you from making the same irrational decisions.

We’re here to help.   

 

 

Art of War: Pornography Addiction

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”— Sun Tzu, Art of War

How does one combat one’s self?

Therein lies the problem with pornography addiction, which “… activates the same addiction centres in the brain as alcohol and heroin,” according to a recent Cambridge University Study. Except, unlike drugs, alcohol, or heroin, which are typically harder to acquire, pornography exists everywhere — television, computers, and even phones. An individual can’t run from pornography, or even avoid it.

 What they can do is combat it.

 Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

 Before one attempts to battle their addiction, they must first understand what causes the addiction. Therapists and psychiatrists can help determine the underlining problems — stress, isolation, low self-esteem, etc. — that lead to an individual’s bad behaviors, and then develop a Treatment Plan based on their findings.

 So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.”

 A Treatment Plan provides the type of prolonged resistance needed to battle a disease such as pornography. Rather than merely attempt to stop an individual from viewing inappropriate material, a Treatment Plan sets up defenses that not only halt the addiction, but also keeps it from ever striking back.

 Would you rather go to battle with a few weeks worth of supplies — enough to win a small skirmish — or the type of arsenal needed to defeat an enemy soundly enough that it never returns?

 “If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.”

 Pornography addiction remains a volatile problem in today’s world. The only way to combat this ever-growing threat is to be prepared to battle all of its advances. By understanding one’s self, one’s needs, and one’s desires, and learning all they can about the problem, an addict can develop a sound strategy to combat and destroy their enemy once and for all. 

Treatment not just prevention efforts needed for teen pornography problem

 Over the past year, we have had the good fortune of visiting with parents, teens and professionals from around the country regarding the topic of pornography use among youth.  We have been encouraged by the level of concern expressed by many of those with whom we have interacted.  While most are greatly concerned about the issue and agree that prevention efforts among our youth are vital, those young people who are struggling with addiction issues relating to pornography continue to remain in the shadows.  While research is limited regarding the number of teens addicted to pornography, it does seem apparent to us that very few struggling with compulsive use of pornography are actually getting help.  The fact that so few youth are accessing treatment for this issue is a big concern to us.  Certainly the shame and embarrassment that so often accompanies a pornography addiction is a factor that prevents more from seeking help.  Additionally, the use of pornography becoming more widely accepted in society and its use being considered “normal teen behavior” is likely a factor as well. 

Too often, we minimize potential problems and simply hope they will somehow go away on their own.  As parents and professionals, we need to be more vigilant to assure that those teens who are struggling with pornography addiction are able to get help in breaking free from the addiction.  Failing to do so holds both short-term and long-term damaging ramifications for youth.  In most cases, individuals addicted to pornography are unable to break the addiction on their own.

According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, prolonged exposure to pornography leads to:

–– An exaggerated perception of sexual activity in society

–– Diminished trust between intimate couples

–– The abandonment of the hope of sexual monogamy

–– Belief that promiscuity is the natural state

–– Belief that abstinence and sexual inactivity are unhealthy

–– Cynicism about love or the need for affection between sexual partners

–– Belief that marriage is sexually confining

–– Lack of attraction to family and child-raising

Too many youth do not deal with this issue during their teen years and move into adulthood with an addiction.  As evidenced by the above mentioned study, the consequences lead to the destruction of families and healthy relationships.  In addition to prevention efforts and education about the dangers of pornography, we need to assure that teens struggling with pornography addiction have the chance to get help to break free from the addiction while they are still young.

TEENS AND PORNOGRAPHY: DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN ADDICTION AND BAD HABIT

We are often asked the question: is my child an addict or are they merely engaging in inappropriate behavior? In these modern times it’s hard to distinguish between the two.  Especially when it comes to pornography and masturbation.

The difficulty lies in society’s disagreement over what constitutes the needs of the “natural man.” For example, some people see masturbation as a purely healthy stress reliever, as noted by clinical sexologist Gloria Brame, who stated in a recent Men’s Health article,  "We are programmed, as best we know, to need orgasms. It's a fundamental aspect of men's health, right up there with brushing your teeth."

Just type “is masturbation okay” on Google and you’ll find a whole slew of pro-masturbation articles written by professionals. These same people often don’t see the danger of viewing a little pornography either. If it’s fun, why not do it? If it feels good, why not binge?

The argument against pornography continues to build steam, and is best summed up in this quote from LDS Church apostle Dallin H. Oaks:

“Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food. The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call a brain. The brain won’t vomit back filth. Once recorded, it will always remain subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind and drawing you away from the wholesome things in life.”

Herein lies the problem. One side claims pornography is perfectly natural. The other claims it’s a disease. So which side is right? More importantly, which side do you listen to? And how do you know if someone you love needs help?

Listed below are earmarks of addictive behavior to help differentiate between addiction and a bad habit. Keep in mind, sexual desires, thoughts, and actions are perfectly natural. It’s when we begin to lose control over those passions that a problem arises — a notion the “Eat drink and be merry” crowd doesn’t concern itself with. 

Frequency – refers to how often the young person engages in the behavior. If viewing pornography only occurs a few times per year, the behavior is not likely an addiction, although the behavior is clearly inappropriate. If the person views pornography three or four times per week, the presence of an addiction is much more likely.

Duration – Duration refers to how long the problem has persisted. Persistent use of pornography over extended periods of time often reflects the young person’s inability to stop viewing.   A recurring problem may indicate that problem-solving skills by the young person have been inadequate or insufficient. The longer a problem has continued, the more it may require professional assistance. Some problems require more time and expertise than family members and Church leaders can provide.

Intensity – Intensity refers to the nature of the material viewed. While all pornographic images and content are inappropriate, some types of material are significantly more intense. Media that depict sexual acts are more intense and graphic than media of individuals wearing little or no clothing. The viewing of hard-core, intense pornography increases the likelihood of an addiction.

Risk Taking – Another primary factor of addiction is the level of risk-taking behaviors presented by a young person. The stronger the addiction, the more the young person is willing to take risks to satisfy the addiction. Risk-taking activities in youth may include escalating immoral behavior, skipping school, sexual abuse, lying to parents and church leaders and any unlawful or covert behavior.

Three reasons today's teens are more vulnerable than past generations to develop a pornography addiction

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

Pornography Addiction Treatment Program for teens and young adults now available in Las Vegas

Jeremy Leavitt, MS, MFT-I, CADC-I has joined the network and is now offering the Mending The Armor and STAR Guides program in the Las Vegas area.  

Jeremy is a young and energetic therapist.  He possesses a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice and a Master of Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy degree.  He has training in addictions and has experience providing services as a substance abuse counselor for individuals of all ages.  He also provides services for a number of other issues including couples, families, dual-diagnosis, depression and anxiety.  Jeremy has been happily married for 10 years and has two wonderful boys.  He enjoys practicing and teaching Taekwondo in his off-time.  Jeremy has a 2nd degree black belt and has been teaching martial arts to troubled youth and adults for approximately 14 years.  He feels that this experience is what led him to become a therapist.

Jeremy's professional experience and personal qualities make him a great addition to the network.  Youth and Young Adults in the Las Vegas area who are struggling with pornography addiction will surely benefit from Jeremy's counseling services.

Teen Pornography Addiction and Mental Health

Despite being considered by the APA for inclusion in the DSM V, Hypersexual Disorder is not yet recognized as a diagnosis and treatment for the problem is not covered by insurance and still questioned by skeptics as a valid psychological disorder.

Many who develop Hypersexual Disorder, become addicted to pornography during their adolescence  While it is true that not all teens exposed to pornography become addicted, and while it is not certain that every teen addicted to pornography will experience significant impairment in day to day functioning, what does seem certain is that many youth addicted to porngoraphy experience mental health issues requiring professional help.  It also seems certain that by treating the addiction early, that significant future problems can be averted.

Among the clinical issues leading teens into treatment stemming from pornography addiction include depression, low self-esteem, school failure, chronic dishonesty, parent/child relationship problems, pattern of isolation from family and friends, risky on-line behaviors, sexual acting out, legal problems and stagnated coping skills.

Increasing numbers of teens find detachment from reality and escape into a fantasy world by using pornography.  Rather than participating in more traditional forms of entertainment and socialization, these youth rely on technology and the internet to tap into a world of cybersex to satisfy their need for entertainment and socialization.  Few teens or their parents realize how quickly they fall prey to the grasp of a powerful addictive compulsion that is then used for insulation from the demands of adolescent development in a similar fashion to those addicted to drugs.

Parents and professionals need to be mindful of the mental health issues that accompany a pornography addiction.  As teens unsuccessfully attempt to break their addiction, feelings of failure and discouragement further deepen depressive symptoms leaving some feeling discouraged and worthless.  These feelings create more need to “numb” from the pain of reality leading to more pornography use. As the addiction develops, youth become increasingly isolated and secretive in their behaviors which results in distorted thinking patterns.   The shame involved with being addicted makes it difficult for teens to talk about their problems and seek help.    Without treatment, the addiction becomes a major mental health issue that many teens carry into adulthood and can develop into a sex addiction causing devastating relationship and legal issues.

If you know a young person who is struggling with an addiction to pornography, help is available.  Contact us today and speak with a therapist.