• Kolby Kolibas

I know my teen frequently views porn, but is this really a mental health issue requiring treatment?

In most cases, the answer is yes. This is a question that parents of today’s teens ask themselves upon discovering their child has developed a habit of viewing internet pornography. Increasing numbers of teens are regularly viewing porn because of easy access and the increasingly sexualized nature of our society.

As a result, some in society have concluded that teens viewing porn is a normal behavior. Certainly puberty in adolescence sparks curiosity and sexual feelings which can make porn attractive; however, the consequences stemming from the highly addictive nature of pornography should not be discounted or trivialized.

Teen porn addiction can develop very quickly and after only viewing for a short period of time. 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. In most cases, masturbation becomes integrated into this ritual that typically occurs in a secretive fashion. Once caught in its web, 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.

As the addiction progresses, the porn addicted adolescent becomes more sophisticated in creating a level of secrecy and dishonesty which damage important relationships. Beliefs and perceptions relating to sex and relationships become increasingly distorted, unrealistic and inaccurate leading to stagnation of social development and hyper-sexual thinking. 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.

In most cases, addiction to pornography initially develops during adolescence, but most don’t seek treatment until later in life. Rather than rationalizing or normalizing the behavior, a far better approach is to help your porn addicted teen overcome the problem now instead of allowing the addiction to persist into adulthood.

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