A sex addiction can easily go unnoticed. It’s the kind of addiction that’s fueled by the patterns of Western society, a society that has a dysfunctional relationship with sexuality. It’s both obsessed with sex, as in being a theme in most commercials, movies, and television shows, and it’s afraid of sex, as in the taboo and stigma that comes with talking about sex openly and freely.
Actually, the forbidden nature of sexuality only feeds secretly becoming obsessed with it. A teen or young adult who is prone to sexual sensitivities might be at risk for developing a teen sex addiction, especially if sex is an unspoken topic in his or her family. When sex is off limits in a family, a teen might secretly engage in excessive sexual activity, porn, and/or fantasy. An addiction to sex and porn often develops when sex is regarded as shameful, secretive, or abusive. This sort of compulsion begins when there is a loss of control and an adolescent spends large amounts of time engaging in sexual-related activity to the point where he or she is neglecting social, academic, or familial responsibilities.
As a parent, you might find that an addiction is present if you see the following behavior in a teen:
- Obsessive thoughts about sex that disrupt functioning at school, home or at the work place.
- Inability to refrain from viewing pornography or engaging in sexual behavior
- Avoiding time with friends or other typical teen activities to instead spend time on the computer or have sexual encounters.
- Having multiple affairs with other teens or young adults
- Feeling obsessed about a particular relationship
- Compulsively watching porn
- Compulsively engaging in masturbation
- The existence of a cybersex addiction
- Sexual activity with partners that don’t know well
- Prostitution and sexual massage
- Having problems with personal boundaries
- Chronic relapse fueled by sexual behavior
If you suspect your child has a teen sex addiction, talk to him or her in a calm and mature tone so that you can meet him or her where they are in order. This can instill trust and a feeling of safety in the conversation. Avoid using your parental, authoritative voice. An adolescent might feel shameful about his or her activity. In order for him or her to open up and feel remotely comfortable about the topic, there must be a level of trust.
In your conversation, be honest and upfront. It’s important to explain the dangers of addiction, including its nature to continue to strengthen. For instance, viewing pornographic images can trick the mind into feeling pleasure and trigger the brain’s activation cycle, which contributes to the addiction. Once the addiction is in place, it becomes more and more challenging to break the cycle.
Perhaps you and your teen will arrive at the decision to seek mental health treatment. In treatment, a teen might participate in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a common form of therapy treatment for addiction. A therapist or psychologist will be sensitive to the shame that a teen might feel and work to address any unresolved traumas. In a supportive, nonjudgmental environment, teens can work through their sex addiction and find their way to health.
In fact, one of the most effective treatment methods for teen sex addiction is group therapy. In a program specific to his or her gender, a teen can find others who are struggling with the same issues and come out of the dark about the concerns they are having. Parents and caregivers of those with sex addictions might also find group therapy useful for them as well. Such a group can provide caregivers with the resources they need to support their children through the difficulties of addiction and breaking free of an addiction’s grasp.
By Robert Hunt
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