Teens and Porn: Addiction vs. Inappropriate Behavior

By Matt Bulkley | Addiction For Men

STAR Guides Wilderness - Teens and Porn Addiction vs. Inappropriate Behavior

The word “addiction” has a strong and scary sound to it for many youth and their parents 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. For others, the addiction begins to interfere with other areas of their life such as school, family life and social activities and it becomes apparent that a problem exists.

DEFINING ADDICTION

“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.

WE ARE OFTEN ASKED THE QUESTION: “IS MY SON ADDICTED OR IS HE SIMPLY ENGAGING IN INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR?”

Listed below are ear marks of addictive behavior to help differentiate between addiction and bad habit:

FREQUENCY

Frequency refers to how often the teen 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 teen 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 reflect the young person’s inability to stop viewing. A recurring problem may indicate that problem-solving skills by the teen 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 teen is willing to take risks to satisfy the addiction. Risk-taking activities in youth may include escalating sexual behaviors, skipping school, sexual abuse, lying to parents and church leaders and any unlawful or covert behavior.

HELP IS AVAILABLE

Help is available for teens addicted to pornography. STAR Guides Wilderness is a high-impact, life-changing therapeutic experience for teens struggling with pornography and cyber-sexual addiction. If your child needs help contact us today at 800.584.4629.

About the Author

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.

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