Despite being considered by the APA for inclusion in the DSM V, Hypersexual Disorder is not yet recognized as a diagnosis and therefore, treatment for the problem is not covered by insurance and still questioned by skeptics as a valid psychological disorder.
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 a growing number of youth 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.
Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.