Change your child's life: Summer program for teen pornography addiction

Since its creation, The Youth Pornography Addiction Center has learned three important facts about teen pornography addiction as we have worked with youth and their families from all parts of the world who are battling porn addiction:


1. The pornography addiction almost always begins in the late child or early adolescent years.

 

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2. Pornography addiction leads to more developmental issues and is a gateway into a variety of serious sexual, legal, relational and mental health problems.


3. Most addicted children and teens can't beat the addiction without help.

 

We have also learned that sometimes outpatient counseling is not enough to break the addiction, particularly when the teen's behaviors begin to pose a safety risk to themselves our to others.  For situaitons such as these, we are excited to let you know about our newest program STAR Guides Wilderness.

www.starguideswilderness.com

 

This program provides parents with a life-changing treatment option when outpatient counseling is not sufficient to deal with the problems including:

 

-When the addiction becomes a risk to the teen’s safety.

-When the addiction becomes a risk to others’ safety.

-When outpatient treatment fails.

-When the youth is resistant to treatment.


Watch this short video clip to learn more about the Star Guides Wilderness Therapy Program or call us at 800.584.4629! 

Pornography Addiction: the impact on today's youth and families

As professional therapists working with youth, we are learning more each day about the impact that pornography use has on the rising generation.  The unfortunate and stark reality is that more teens than ever before are finding themselves addicted to internet pornography and are unable to break the addiction on their own.   Research indicates that 90% of eight to sixteen-year-olds have viewed porn and the average age for a child to first be exposed to pornography on the internet is 11-years-old.  It doesn’t stop with viewing pornography,  greater numbers of teens are becoming involved in cyber-sexual activities.  Cybersex addiction is the compulsive use of Internet pornography, on-line sexual dialogue, arranged hook-ups and on-line role playing that interferes with real life relationships.

According to data gathered at the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) 40 million Americans visit porn sites every month, and the gender prevalence of males versus females with cybersex issues is 60%-40% respectively. This data carries with it a heavy impact on families as increasing numbers of teens and young adults are among those regularly viewing pornography.

Some of these youth have been victims themselves of parental neglect as a result of one of their parent’s use of porn.   Some have become enlisted in parental and marital conflict as a result of their parents’ marital problems and custody conflicts resulting from porn, cyber-sexual affairs and infidelity.  Some have been exposed to pornography they first found on a parents laptop or smart phone which planted the seeds for the formation of their own addictions.

Listed below are two dangerous trends that we have increasingly noted in teen thinking which we believe are the result of chronic exposure to pornography in an over-sexualized culture:

1.       Many teens are being groomed to believe that being sexually active is normal, because of their exposure to cybersex.

2.       It's now common for oral sex to be seen as the new goodnight kiss and for girls to send sexual photos of themselves via cell phones to boys as special gifts.

Because of these and other alarming trends in teen thinking pertaining to sexuality, mental health clinicians are scrambling to develop programs and treatment methods for helping porn addicted teens overcome the addiction and re-align their distorted perception to healthy sexuality.  Among these programs include the Youth Pornography Addiction Center  and its affiliates STAR Guides Wilderness, STAR Guides outpatient network and Mending The Armor. 

Why is group therapy used to treat teen porn addiction?

This is a commonly asked question by parents who are considering seeking counseling services for their porn addicted teen. Some parents ask this question due to their worry about the ramifications of their child participating in a group setting.  Some worry about their child’s confidentiality being breached by other group members.  Others worry about their child being exposed to youth with more pervasive problems than their own.

 A recent CDC study has estimated that one in five children in America is suffering with a mental disorder of some type and the need for quality mental health treatment for youth has never been greater.  Because of the prohibitive cost of residential treatment, more and more youth are being seen in outpatient clinics and counseling offices as concerned parents seek help for their children.

A majority of mental health clinics and offices utilize individual therapy as the primary mode of treatment.   Finding counseling offices that utilize group therapy is more difficult, despite the known benefits of using group therapy with youth.  More especially, finding counseling offices that offer group therapy specific to pornography addiction is even more difficult.  The truth is that very few exist.

 Some therapists simply prefer to not work with teens because of the difficulties involved with engaging a teen in treatment.  Many therapists shy away from using group therapy because it can be extremely difficult to run effective group therapy with youth.  It takes a highly skilled therapist to run a good group session with resistant teens.

Listed below are five benefits for the utilization of group therapy for treating pornography addiction in teens:

1.       Participation in group therapy sessions provides young people with the realization that they are not alone in their addiction and that others experience similar problems.  Youth often feel alienated from others and experience a great deal of loneliness.  Group therapy provides the opportunity for youth to feel a sense of belonging and cohesiveness.  This allows for youth to develop the skill of learning to connect and bond with others.

2.       Participation in group therapy creates opportunities for interpersonal learning by receiving feedback from each other and experimenting with new ways of relating.  “Group think” can be a powerful tool for helping youth to find new ways of approaching their problems and learning to manage pornography addiction.  This is an opportunity that simply can’t be duplicated in an individual therapy setting.

3.       The treatment group setting provides a safe setting for accountability as the youth report their efforts to manage their unwanted behaviors such as relapse into porn.  This contradicts the self-talk of many youth who tend to keep their struggles secret because of the shame they often feel.  Participation in group reduces the shame and encourages honesty and openness.   As youth progress in their treatment, they are able to begin to give back and help newer group members.  This creates self-esteem and self-worth.   Group therapy teaches youth to turn to people instead of addictions and dependencies in their time of need.

4.       Participation in group therapy instills hope to young people that they can recover from their problems and addictions.  Senior group members share their successes with newer group members and group members encourage one another to work to achieve their goals.

5.       Participation in group therapy is a more cost-effective way to provide therapy.  Psychotherapy services can be expensive, particularly for those who are not able to offset the cost with health insurance.  Group therapy sessions can be a more affordable way for parents to assure their child is in treatment each week without having to pay out of pocket for more expensive individual therapy sessions.

The Youth Pornography Addiction Center is a mental health clinic located in St. George, Utah that specializes in the treatment of children, teens and young adults.  Group therapy is a preferred method of treatment for both our wilderness program and outpatient treatment programs.  The clinic provides group therapy treatment to teens and young adults and runs group therapy sessions for substance abuse, gaming addiction, adolescent girls’ issues, pornography/sexual addiction and sexual offenses.  

Does teen porn addiction disrupt normal adolescent development?

For many years, religious organizations were at the forefront of championing the cause of vilifying pornography and suggesting that its influence was immoral and destructive.  This has led to the erroneous belief among many, that pornography use is a “moral” or a “religious issue’.  While it is clear that pornography can be highly destructive to one’s spirituality and morality, increasing evidence suggests that pornography can be disruptive to child and teen development in a variety of areas.

The paradigm regarding pornography use, particularly its impact on children and teens, needs to shift toward the problem not simply being a moral issue, but rather a developmental issue with potential long-lasting negative consequences.

The following are noted characteristics that have been found in teens who have developed a habit of regularly viewing pornography:

• Viewing and/or masturbating to internet pornography on a daily basis.

Staying up late at night to be alone to view pornography and then having trouble waking up for school.

• Loss of interest in school and extracurricular activities.

• Diminished interest in socialization and outside activity with peers including dating.

• Secrecy with behavior, particularly with technology, and increased isolation including long periods of time alone in their bedroom with the door locked.

• Pattern of lying to parents and other adults about on-line activities including deleting browser history, viruses on computers, etc.

• A diminished empathy toward others and lack of interest in family activities.

• Development of hypersexual attitude, language and possible sexually inappropriate interests.

Each of these characteristics along with a host of other unmentioned characteristics impede the developmental process of youth who become addicted to pornography.  Those youth who become addicted to pornography are typically unable to break free from the addiction on their own.  In many cases, the addiction is kept secret and continues into adulthood and eventually becomes a contributor to depression, marital problems and legal problems.

The good news is that youth who become addicted and get help, are able to break free from the addiction.

Viewing the problem as a developmental issue, rather than simply a moral issue is an important first step.  Educating parents and professionals about the importance of screening for possible addiction comes next. Then, developing and implementing treatment options specific to children and teens who have become addicted becomes the focus.

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. 

 

Potency of today’s porn poses danger to teens

For those not familiar with today’s pornography that is now so easily accessible to children, teens and adults alike, it is important to note the extreme difference between current online porn and the porn found in magazines of just a few decades ago.  Certainly any exposure to pornography is harmful to children and teens, but the typical Playboy magazine of the eighties or nineties is relatively sexually benign compared to that available today on the internet.

Today’s porn includes virtually limitless websites and more free videos and images than a young user could ever find the time to watch….all in HD 1080 quality.  Free websites comprise between 70-80% of the adult material online and are used to “lure” users to eventually move to a pay site with more provocative porn.  Many sites allow the user to choose their favorite sexual activity template, actress hair color, breast size, nationality, etc. 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 instantly on a smartphone at any age. 

Because of this potency, increasing numbers of teens find themselves quickly becoming addicted and more and more secretive and deceitful in their efforts to maintain their habit.  Pornography has been around a long time, but the dopamine spike from the images of a Playboy magazine can’t come close to competing with the never ending supply of HD erotic stimulation that is found in today’s online porn. This is the reason why internet pornography can create such powerful addictions in teens. 

Children and teens are particularly vulnerable to porn addiction as the strength of the dopamine high is likely the strongest, most euphoric sensation they have ever experienced in their young lives. Skeptics and critics need to recognize this “high” created by porn rivals what drugs and alcohol do to a young brain.

Beyond the more erotic experience it creates, other aspects of today’s pornography are particularly damaging to children and teens involving the sexual violence depicted.  A common porn video scene often includes a casual sexual encounter that begin as non-consensual rape and then somehow ends in supposed mutual erotic consenting, pleasurable sex.  These video scenes give young male teens the idea that sex partners will eventually begin to enjoy sex if it is forced upon them.   Beyond this, the language used by men in pornographic videos is typically highly derogatory and reinforces the idea that the woman is merely an object that is to be used soley for sexual pleasure.  The viewing of porn by teen boys can easily lead a sense of male dominance and entitlement that diminishes their capacity for developing healthy relationships with females.

Pornography use by teens is an issue that we can not afford to ignore or trivialize.  We need to be proactive to educate teens and parents about the dangers posed by today’s porn.  We need to take the stigma out of treatment for pornography addiction and provide intervention early for porn addicted teens.

 

Pornography addiction functions like a whirlpool: Get help now while you can still swim.

The word “addiction” has a strong and scary sound to it for many people.  It is often associated with behaviors and people who are out of control.  Teens are especially concerned about having the term “addiction” associated with their behavior problems.  It is common for teens and their parents to avoid accepting the label of “addict” as it sounds so negative.  In some cases, both the teen and their parents can be in denial that a pornography addiction is present.  Instead, it is thought of as a “bad habit” or “typical teen behavior”.

Addiction can be defined as a state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.  To further add to the understanding of term addiction, consider this definition: any behavior or activity that is repeatedly engaged in and used to avoid having to deal with the reality of life.  As mentioned, addiction is often associated with people who use drugs or alcohol to alter their mood in an attempt to deal with their life problems.  Behaviors such as gambling, over-eating, shopping and even working can turn into addictions and, most certainly pornography use can spiral into an addiction.  People who repeatedly use these behaviors to avoid having to deal with their life responsibilities could be considered addicts. 

Using the analogy of comparing life to crossing a river, an addiction would be the equivalent of a whirlpool.  If you have ever seen a whirlpool, you will know that anything in the river that gets caught up in the current of the whirlpool gets sucked into it and pulled relentlessly downward.  Once in the whirlpool, any power or control that was once enjoyed is quickly lost and taken over the by the swift and strong pull of the whirlpool.  Getting out of a whirlpool can be nearly impossible without help, and many have lost their lives and drowned in the grasps of a whirlpool. People familiar with the power of a whirlpool go to extremes to avoid even getting close to a whirlpool or anything that even has the mere appearance of a whirlpool because they know how deadly it can be. 

 An addiction can have the very same effect.  People who get caught in an addiction quickly lose control and find themselves completely subjected to the addiction.  Any control or freedom they once enjoyed is quickly lost, and without help, it is nearly impossible to break free from the addiction.  People familiar with the strength of addictions know how powerful and dangerous they can be, and just as is the case with a whirlpool, know that simply becoming involved with anything close to or having the mere appearance of an addiction should be avoided at all costs. 

In recent years, there has been increased attention placed on different types of sexual addictions.  One of these types of sexual addictions is pornography addiction.  For many years, professionals who have worked with people addicted to pornography have known that the addiction is real.  In recent years, there has emerged scientific evidence of the reality of the power of a pornography addiction.  For many people with a pornography or sexual addiction, it is easy to justify the addiction by embracing the thought inside their head, “at least I am not addicted to drugs or alcohol.”  This thought occurs only because they either don’t yet realize the power of the addiction or they are in denial they are addicted.  Being in denial about pornography being an addiction is common because it can be so easy to view without getting caught and often, the consequences are not immediate.

Our message to both parents and teens: Don’t be fooled by being able to swim at the top of the whirlpool.  Now is the time to ask for help, before the whirlpool has pulled you under the water.  Treating a pornography addiction in its early stages is the best time to get help.  Don’t put if off and wait until later in life.  If you have a child struggling with pornography addiction, call us today at 435.862.8273.  

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.   

 

 

Programs for teen porn addictions

Are there programs for teen pornography addictions?

Treatment programs for teen sexual compulsive behaviors such as porn or masturbation addiction are designed to help the youth overcome compulsions that are very similar to drug and alcohol addictions. However, “process addictions” as they are often referred to, are treated differently as they involve processes that are normal for humans to participate in such as sexual activity.  The addiction emerges when the teen develops a compulsion to repeat the act until it begins to impede their emotional development as it becomes a form of coping with life stresses and begins to interfere with their relationships and day-to-day functioning.  Unfortunately, due to the abundance of internet pornography teens are beginning to develop sexual addictions at younger and younger ages wherein participation in sexual behaviors is harmful to their development. Treating process addictions such as pornography or cyber-sexual addiction requires a different approach than drug addiction recovery.  Programs for treating teen pornography addiction range from outpatient treatment such as the Mending The Armor program to intense wilderness therapy experiences such as STAR Guides wilderness

What is porn addiction?

Porn addiction is a sex addiction that is specific to viewing pornography.  It is the compulsion to view pornographic material and to masturbate to it with little regard to financial, social and other obligations. Like a true addiction, the pornography consumes a teens thoughts and acations.  Addicted youth will spend hours viewing and masturbating to porn usually in secret and hidden from the knowledge of their parents. The stimulation provides a pleasure that is similiar to the high that drug addicts experience.  Teen porn addicts feel driven to this compulsive behavior to obtain that pleasure again and again. However, each time, the pleasure becomes harder to achieve, leading to more masturbation and porn to achieve the desired euphoria.

How do you treat teen porn addiction?

For most teens addicted to porn, there is typically an underlying psychological issue that drives the porn addiction. In some cases, youth are victims of childhood abuses, in other cases youth were exposed to pornography at a very early age. Due to the ease of access to pornography, some youth simply become addicted out of curiosity.  

Treatment for porn addiction begins with a comprehensive psycho-sexual assessment to determine the underlying conditions driving the addiction.  This assessment provides parents with a guide for the treatment needs of the addicted teen.  Typically, the recommendations for treatment include participation in psychotherapy services in the form of individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy sessions. These sessions may take quite some time to complete. For many teens, learning to manage this addiction can take several months and a great deal of hard work.  The STAR Guides and Mending The Armor programs utilize a combination of these therapies with a particular focus on group therapy. Group therapy is especially helpful to the teen porn addict, as it reverses the solitary nature of that addiction. The compulsion to view porn and masturbate is a private, solo act. In group treatment, the act is no longer personal. This helps tremendously in healing.

Whether the youth is treated in a wilderness or outpatient setting, the mental health portion of porn addiction recovery is the most important and cannot be duplicated without the help of a professional.

The goal of pornography addiction recovery is to teach the teen to survive in a world where sex is a normal function, without developing a dependency on sexual behaviors for emotional coping. This means learning control and self-discipline over the addiction through lifestyle changes and development of healthy coping skills to help the young addict stay on the road to recovery.

STAR Guides Wilderness: Navigation to Healthy Sexuality

Therapy Associates is thrilled to announce that STAR Guides Wilderness has been officially licensed by the State of Utah as an Outdoor Youth Treatment program. 

The first of its kind nationally,  the program provides teens and young adults with a high impact, life-changing  therapeutic wilderness experience in the heart of the majestic red rock of the high desert of Southern Utah.  STAR Guides is the ideal intervention for individuals needing to learn to manage problematic sexual behaviors that they have been unable to manage previously.  The intervention includes a comprehensive psycho-sexual evaluation and a sexual-specific treatment orientation in a wilderness setting.

The program founders Dan Sanderson, Matt Bulkley and Kena Frey share a strong belief that the wilderness is the ideal venue for treating sexual behavior problems and creates an impact on young lives far greater than what other forms of treatment can provide.  The program provides families with navigation through these challenges.  Regardless of past behaviors, the founders believe that all youth can learn to achieve healthy sexuality.

Research suggests that for many, sexual problematic behavior first begins during the adolescent years.  The STAR Guides program helps youth to deal with these problems while they are still young.  

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. 

Is pornography as destructive to adolescent development as drug abuse?

The abuse of drugs and alcohol during by teens has been an area of concern among parents, teachers and mental health experts for many years. Prevention and treatment efforts are found in virtually every community in the nation and most agree that teen drug abuse is a societal issue that needs continued focus due to its damaging effects.

In recent years, due to the ease of access to pornography and the increased sexualization of our culture, increasing numbers of teens are viewing pornography on a regular basis, and in many cases becoming addicted.  Unfortunately, the same level of concern that accompanies teen drug abuse seems to be lacking with the new phenomena of teens and porn.  There are a variety of explanations for why there is not more being done including the mistaken belief held by some that “boys will boys” while normalizing the behavior and accepting the idea that it is simply part of adolescent sexuality to be curious and to explore porn.  Another is the incorrect idea that it is a moral issue that should be left to parents and churches to deal with, rather than viewing it as a developmental issue that impacts a teen’s emotional, psychological, neurological and social development. 

According to sociologist Jill Manning, the research indicates pornography consumption is associated with the following six trends:

1. Increased marital distress, and risk of separation and divorce

2. Decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction

3. Infidelity

4. Increased appetite for more graphic types of pornography and sexual activity

associated with abusive, illegal or unsafe practices

5. Devaluation of monogamy, marriage and child rearing

6. An increasing number of people struggling with compulsive and addictive sexual Behavior

Too often, we minimize potential problems with teen pornography use 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 and as outlined above, the potential trends lead to the destruction of future families and the decay of society.

Does your teen’s smart phone have more influence than you?

An increasingly common frustration we hear from parents is the competition that exists between them and their teen’s smart phone. Parent complaints cover a wide variety of concerns including trouble listening/focusing, obsessive game playing, viewing porn, sexting, cyber-bullying and staying up all night watching videos to name just a few. We all are aware of just how consumed we can become in our phones and of course, teens are no exception. While it is a fact that most teens are now packing smart phones, our belief is that there should not be a competition for a teen’s attention.  Parents should always trump a smart phone. If you are losing this competition and your teen’s smart phone has more influence than you do, then we have eight suggestions for you to take control of the situation:

1. You as the Parent owns the phone—The teen needs to know you bought it, you pay the bill and you are simply “loaning” it to them.  You set the password and you have the right to take the phone whenever you want.

2.  The primary purpose of the teen having the phone is for YOU to contact THEM.  The teen needs to understand that whenever the Caller ID says MOM or DAD that the call NEVER goes to voicemail. 

3.  You as the parent set the curfew for possession of the phone, and yes, there needs to be a curfew.  The teen should not have possession of the phone beyond the time you set in the evening.   You as the parent charge the phone in your safe keeping overnight and then assign to the teen’s possession again in the morning.

4. It is the teen’s responsibility to care for the phone.  Lost or damaged phones are on him/her, not you as the parent. 

5.  There is a zero tolerance policy for dishonesty, deceit or manipulation of others.  Any involvement in cyber-bullying or conversations that are hurtful to others are not tolerated.  Parents are to be accepted as followers on all social networks. Message to the teen: Do not text, email, or say anything using the smartphone you would not say in person or with me as the parent in the room.

6.  No porn and no sexting.  Message to the teen: Search the web for information you would openly share with me.  If you have a question about anything, ask me as the parent.  Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts.  Do not send or receive pictures that in any way are revealing or sexual in nature.   The development of a cyber-sex addiction will not occur on my watch.

7.  Face to Face conversation always takes precedence. Message to teen: Never allow your smart phone to interfere with a face to face conversation with someone else.  Do not text or browse while speaking with another human being or while you are supposed to be listening or paying attention to adults.  You are not a rude person; do not allow the smart phone to change that.

8.  The smart phone is an earned privilege.  Message to teen: You will mess up.  I will take away your phone.  We will sit down and talk about it.  We will start over again.  You may lose internet access on the phone or you may lose the privilege entirely.  You must show me you can be trusted to possess a smart phone.  Post the rules in plain sight and draft an agreement. Once you’ve set the ground rules, make sure the rules for your teen’s smart phone usage are crystal clear.

 

Warning to parents: cyber-sex addiction is a teen issue

Cybersex addiction is the compulsive use of internet pornography, sexually-oriented chat rooms, sexual- fantasy role-play sites, use of social media, smart phones and other handheld devices for sexual pleasure which  in turn, negatively impact an individual’s functioning.  As much as we would like to conclude that these issues only impact adults in our society, we must begin to accept the fact that children and teens develop cybersex addition as well—and more often than many realize.  Unfortunately most don’t seek help until later in life after the addiction has resulted in significant disruption to their lives.

Experts are predicting that cybersex addiction is the next tsunami of mental health, and yes, this includes among teens.   The impact is far-reaching and its effects are yet to be fully realized as cyber-sexual activities is such a new issue and we have yet to see the outcomes on the current generation.  Consider just a few of the statistics regarding teens and porn:

93 % of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to internet pornography before the age of 18.

70% of boys have spent at least 30 consecutive minutes looking at on-line porn on at least one occasion.

35% of boys have done this on at least ten occasions.

83% of boys have seen group sex on the internet.

67% of children admit to clearing their internet history to hide their online activity.

0% of pornography users report being addicted.

The average age a child first sees internet pornography is 11.

70% of young men ages 18-24 visit pornographic websites on at least a monthly basis.

Internet porn and cyber-sexual activities supplies an immediate, private, and easily accessed "hit," thus changing the erotic template of the brain.  Its use has a drug-like effect on the body and mind.  It stimulates reward and pleasure centers of the brain instantly and dramatically, increasing the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with both sexual arousal and drug highs.  Pornography and cybersex can also lead to "process addiction" in which the person becomes addicted to a set of behaviors that in turn powerfully alter brain chemistry.   In time, the user can't control his or her use, is aroused only by images and interactions on the screen, and natural sexual responsiveness is reduced.  Cyber-sexual addiction has the potential of harming the emotional, psychological neurological sexual, and relational well-being of an entire generation of youth.

Additionally, chronic exposure to cyber-sexual activities has led many teens to believe that being sexually active is normal.  It is now common for oral sex to be seen as the new kissing and for girls to send nude/partially nude photos of themselves via smart phones to boys as a way to communicate their interest.  

These new issues create some major challenges for parents which leads many to ask, “What can we do to protect our kids?”  We offer three important ideas for parents:

1. Supervise your kids when they're on the internet.  Use internet filters, but do not assume that filters will eliminate exposure to sexually explicit material.   Just as important--Be wise in the decisions you make about allowing your kids to have smart phones.  Be willing to take a strong stance if your child is not ready.  Some kids simply are not ready to have possession of a smartphone.  Allow them to have a phone, but do not provide a data package or internet access.  Your child must prove to you they are capable of using it responsibly.  When you do provide a child with a smart phone, you as the parent must retain ultimate control over the device which means you can take it and look through it at any time and without warning.  It also means if you suspect misuse in any way, that you have the ability to take away the privilege. 

2. Talk to your children about sexual issues—not just once or twice, but make it a regular on-going communication.  Too many parents “have the talk” once and then assume their child(ren) will be fine.  An open line of communication with parents about sexual issues throughout the adolescent years is vital to help teens navigate these challenges.

3. If one of your teen has become dependent on internet porn, get him or her professional help.  Most individuals who become addicted to pornography can’t break the addiction on their own.  Don’t trivialize or minimize the problems and somehow hope that the problem with go away on its own.  Helping your child to manage the addiction now, rather than later in life will save them having to deal with the negative consequences as an adult.

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.

Why are today's teens so vulnerable to pornography addiction?

Mental health professionals are seeing a pattern of more and more teens and young adults seeking treatment for problems related to pornography addiction and its accompanying behaviors.   This pattern leads to the 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?

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 around 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.

Three reasons to not ignore teen pornography use

In our technology-driven modern culture where pornographic media is increasingly common place, it can be easy to downplay the use of pornography among today’s teens as “normal curiosity”, “just a phase” or “part of exploring one’s sexuality”.  Additionally, given the deterioration of morality in society, the use of pornography is not even viewed as a problem by some and the idea of its use being pathological is mocked and ridiculed. 

Because porn is so abundant, easy to access and regularly viewed, increasing numbers of teens do not hold the belief that viewing pornography is harmful, but rather believe that “everyone is doing it” and view the behavior as normal and acceptable.

Don’t fool yourself and keep your head buried in the sand about this growing problem in our society.  Pornography use among teens can have devastating consequences.

1.       Pornography is addictive.  Neuroscience findings show that pornography addiction impacts the brain the same way that drug and alcohol addiction does.  Teen brains are particularly susceptible to pornography addiction as the neurochemicals released while viewing pornography create a euphoria not previously experienced and quickly train the brain to crave the “high” that accompanies viewing.   Easier to access and conceal than drugs or alcohol and with a virtually endless supply of free material, pornography can rapidly become an addiction and nobody but the young addict is even aware.  Breaking the addiction can be incredibly difficult.  Individuals addicted to both drugs and porn share that breaking a porn addiction can be more difficult.

2.       Pornography distorts a teen’s view of sexuality.   Unfortunately, increasing numbers of children gain their knowledge about sexuality from pornography and the internet, rather than from their parents. More cases are being seen in juvenile courts involving young children and teens exposed to pornography “acting out” activities they have viewed in pornographic media leading to problems such as sexual abuse and reckless sexual behavior.  Additionally, regular porn use leads to the “objectification of people for their bodies” rather than viewing them as individuals such as somebody’s sister or somebody’s daughter.  Young men who regularly view pornography become trained to view women as mere sex objects and young women come to believe that they must strive to have the body of a porn star to be valued by society.  Ultimately the act of sex becomes so devalued and distorted that it serves no purpose beyond a tool for selfish pleasure, rather than the cherished and respected act that is the ultimate form of expression of love and bonding between a couple and the source of creating new life.

3.       Pornography destroys relationships.  Marriage counselors have seen a dramatic rise in the number of couples experiencing marital problems as a result of pornography.  Though hard for youth to comprehend, teens addicted to pornography have trained their brains to arouse to porn, which can interfere with their ability to effectively engage in a healthy marital relationship later in life.  A recent phenomena noted by therapists and physicians is erectile dysfunction in young men who can arouse to pornography, but not to regular healthy sex with their partner.   Additionally, most spouses do not approve of their partner viewing porn.  This leads the addict to keeping the addiction secret which creates trust issues and conflict in a young marriage.  Lastly, teens that develop an addiction to pornography often do so at the expense of participation in socialization and relationships with peers.  The formation of addiction and the inability to quit viewing creates unwanted emotions of shame, guilt, embarrassment, increased secrecy, depression and self-loathing which make it more difficult in young adulthood to work toward intimacy with a partner.


​ Minimizing and Denial: Fatal Flaws in how Pornography Addiction Develops

The problem with any addiction is that most people don’t know just how far down the rabbit hole they’ve traveled until it’s too late. An addict will justify their situation, or trivialize it. “It’s just a little alcohol. It’s not like I need it every second!” “Everyone does it. No need to worry.” “I can stop when I want to.”

In the case of pornography, most addicts get stuck in a cycle, and can’t begin the process of recovery until they realize the severity of their problem. Indeed, with pornography so prevalent in today’s media culture, one can easily slip into a vast pit of darkness without realizing they ever fell away from the light.

Part of the problem arises from a misguided sense of denial, or an unwillingness to recognize the full extent of the problem. Denying that the problem exists allows addicts to avoid the discomfort of the shame and embarrassment that are involved with admitting to a pornography addiction.

In actuality, modern society makes it difficult to recognize the dangers of pornography addiction. Online websites and even health care and psychology professionals continue to claim the viewing of adult material as perfectly normal, while motion pictures and television shows make light of sexual addiction, creating a sense that pornography is merely a part of our culture, thus making it difficult for an addict to recognize his or her problem — the notion that “everyone does it” remains a misguided justification.

Once an addict finally recognizes the severity of the problem, it’s important for them to seek help. Unfortunately, denial can limit progression and lead to more years of abuse. “I used to look at pornography, but I don’t do it very often anymore, so it’s not really an addiction.” The correct thinking should be, “I know I am vulnerable to viewing pornography and could easily relapse, so I have to be constantly careful to avoid being in situations where I am exposed to it.”

What many people don’t understand is that breaking the shackles of pornography addiction often requires a lifetime of management to overcome. The temptation to view pornography never subsides, meaning an addict must work on controlling their desires on a daily basis — without minimizing the overall problem.

Minimizing can be just as dangerous as denial. By making a harmful action seem less significant, we hope to lessen the consequences that may result. Often times an addict uses the words “only” or “just” while minimizing in order to lessen the blow of his or her actions.

In the television series “Breaking Bad,” the main character Walter White, who transforms from timid chemistry teacher to criminal mastermind, continually minimizes his actions. Even when said actions lead to death and the destruction of his loved ones. He claims his actions are done “only for the love of his family,” and never fully comprehends just how far he’s fallen until it’s too late.

If we deceive ourselves that our hurtful or irresponsible behaviors are no big deal, then we won’t work on changing them.  Young people struggling with pornography addiction will often minimize the problem, and say, “I only look at pornography on occasion-it’s not like I’m doing it all the time-I’m not addicted.”                   

It is possible to become addicted to pornography after only viewing it once. Even the occasional viewing is highly dangerous as it warps the mind’s overall understanding of sex, turning one of God’s greatest gifts into a vile and repulsive act that results in shame and guilt. 

The correct thought for all men and women (no matter their age) should be, “Any viewing of pornography is a serious issue and only increases my chances of forming an addiction.”

As Gordon B. Hinkley once said, “Stay away from pornography as you would avoid a serious disease. It is as destructive. It can become habitual, and those who indulge in it get so they cannot leave it alone. It is addictive.”

If you are struggling with a pornography addiction, or know someone who is, don’t trivialize it. Seek help immediately so you may enjoy a life free of guilt and shame, full of happiness, friends, and love. 

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.

Q & A: What is the typical profile of a youth who seeks treatment for pornography addiction?

While each youth who seeks treatment for pornography addiction is unique, generally speaking we can characterize these young people in the three following ways:

 

1.       Most youth we work with are raised with strong moral and family values.  They have been taught to avoid pornography and have been raised with a belief that sexual activity should not occur during adolescence, but rather later in life as a married adult.   Because of this belief system, the formation of a pornography addiction during adolescence creates 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, anxiety and depression.  The reality is that there are many young people who regularly use pornography, but simply do not view it as a problem or issue, and as a result, see no need to get help or even stop viewing.  Many of these youth do not adhere to the same moral standards as the youth who seek treatment.  While pornography is obviously a moral issue, the more that we learn about the impact of pornography on the brain, human behavior and development, the more it becomes apparent that pornography addiction among youth is a developmental issue and not simply a moral issue.  We also are finding that even those who don’t adhere to high standards of morality also experience significant negative ramifications later in their adult years from pornography addiction including divorce, depression and sexual dysfunction.

2.       Most youth we work with have unsuccessfully attempted to stop viewing pornography multiple times on their own and have come to realize that they can’t break the addiction on their own and need help.  It is rare when we have a youth seek treatment who hasn’t already tried to break the addiction on their own.  The youth who seek treatment for pornography addiction have come to fully realize that it a real addiction and that left on their own, they are simply unable to kick the habit.  This realization becomes a primary motivator for their seeking help to overcome the addiction.

3.       Most youth we work with are highly motivated to be successful in their lives and view their habitual use of pornography as an impediment to achieving their goals and personal potential.  Pornography addiction treatment tends to be a service that only those who are truly concerned about self-actualization pursue.  As a result, many of the youth we work with in our pornography addiction treatment programs are actually functioning fairly well in most areas of their lives.  Most are law abiding citizens, respectful, kind and thoughtful, excellent students with good grades and actively striving to improve themselves.  Were it not for their pornography addiction, we would not likely see these youth in our treatment clinic.  We encounter youth who seek treatment for other issues such as substance abuse or mental health issues that are also regularly using pornography; however, these youth are not concerned about their use of pornography and don’t believe that the use of pornography is an issue that needs to be addressed in a treatment setting.