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Teens, Pornography, and Sexual Addiction
by Dore Frances, M.A., founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLCOne by one, well known individuals are putting a face on the problem of sexual addiction.
Beginning with multiple politicians and religious leaders, to media personalities, the term "sex addict" conjures up a specific face for most people.
Far from new, this problem has only recently received clinical attention. Among the public faces shedding light on the condition, one group is conspicuously absent: adolescents. In general, sexual addiction is considered only an adult problem.
According to the Internet Filter Review, approximately 40 million U.S. adults regularly visit pornographic websites, and conservatively, one in eight visitors to an adult site is age 7 to 17. 29% of these children give out their home addresses. 14% give out their personal and private email addresses.
The average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is age 11.
15-17 year olds have the highest rate of multiple hard-core exposures. 90% of 8-16 year olds having viewed porn online while doing homework. This is both boys and girls. Despite the lack of an official DSM diagnosis category, addiction professionals generally agree on the definition of sexual addiction. Simply stated, sexual addiction is the lack of control of some sexual behavior or relationship. Perhaps the most helpful definition of sex addiction is a practical one: sexual behavior that creates distress and has a negative effect on one's life. Like with alcohol and drugs, sex addiction fits the classic four component model of what comprises an addiction:
Tolerance shows more of the same behavior or an escalation of progressive behaviors is required to get the same "high". An addict continues the behavior despite repeated attempts to stop.
- Compulsivity means the loss of control over a behavior.
- Continuation despite negative consequences.
- Preoccupation or obsession.
Enormous shame and public ridicule still surrounds sex addiction in general, and an even greater stigma is applied to adolescent addicts. Despite the jokes and leers, and the cultural double standard regarding sexual behavior - boys will be boys, girls are just more promiscuous - enormous shame surrounds families that have a a child with a sex addiction. One reason that children are often overlooked on a discussion about sexual addiction is because children themselves fail to tell anyone about their struggles.
Fear of being alone in their behavior keeps children silent about the disease. It is not until they are in recovery that they start to open up about their history. One young man who was in therapeutic treatment said, "For years I thought I was the only boy I knew who struggled like this. I can't believe I am in a room with a dozen other boys who admit to doing the same things I have done. For the first time in my life I don't feel all alone." ~ John, Ohio, age 16. Slowly, recovering adolescents tell their stories, which offers hope for others.
As more clinicians become aware of adolescent's experiences with sexual addiction, and as other adolescents hear stories of others their same age tell their stories, hopefully more children will get help before they become adults.
Sexual behavior treatment for youth is available.
Dore Frances, IM.A., is an educational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: www.guidingteens.com or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email at:Dore@DoreFrances.com.
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