Unfortunately, the use of pornography is becoming more widely accepted in society and for some its use by teens is now considered “normal” adolescent behavior. Because of our experience in working with teens affected by pornography addiction, we hold a strong believe to the contrary–pornography use by teens can be potentially devastating. 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.
Below are typical behaviors of youth who are struggling with an addiction to pornography:
Many youth are able to keep their addiction secret and hidden from others without outward evidence of the problem. For these youth, because problems don’t immediately manifest in their life functioning, they develop a denial that a problem exists and become experts is self-deception believing that the problem will somehow just go away when they get older.
For some, it is not until they have repeatedly attempted to stop viewing pornography on their own without success, that the realization sets in that an addiction has developed.
Neurological research has found that pornography is particularly addictive because of the neuro-chemical release in the brain that occurs while viewing pornography. For many youth, the euphoric “high” that occurs in this process quickly develops into a coping style for escaping emotional distress.
The word “addiction” has a strong and scary sound to it for many youth as it is often associated with behaviors and people who are out of control. Young people are especially concerned about having the term “addiction” associated with their problems and for many struggling with habitual use of pornography, the addiction has been hidden with no outward signs of the problem.
“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 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. People who repeatedly use these behaviors to avoid having to deal with their life responsibilities could be considered addicts.
For young people struggling with the use of pornography, we are less concerned about debating whether it is simply a bad habit or if it is a true addiction, and far more concerned about helping to eliminate the problem whether the pattern has been in place for several years or whether is has just recently formed.