Parents, educators, and clinicians are often doing their best to know and understand teenagers as best they can in order to support them through the difficulties of adolescence. Because it’s challenging stage of life, what happens during the teenage years can affect later years in life.
However, one area that continues to need new research and is still new and emerging is the field of teen sex addiction. Nonetheless, every year The Wild Child Conference takes place in Marion, Ohio as a means for educators and organizations to discuss the important topics that impact the lives of teens.
A teen sex addiction might actually begin in childhood, particularly if that adolescent experienced a sexual or physical trauma. Even if a child or teen has a sexual experience that is pleasurable, but for some reason, was a violation of trust that too can create a sexual addiction. For instance, if a young boy of 11 years old is molested by his female, 17-year-old babysitter, there might be feelings of both pleasure and discomfort for that young boy as a result.
A sexual or porn addiction can easily develop as a result of such experiences because sex releases chemicals in the brain that lead to feelings of pleasure. These feelings can become the trigger point for wanting more and more of that activity. The American Psychological Association (APA) now recognizes almost any behavior that becomes compulsive and that initiates the cycle of the brain’s reward system as an addiction. According to the APA, certain behaviors, such as gambling and shopping and forms of sexual activity, can produce the same high or rush in the brain, which is similar to the use of drugs.
Furthermore, the forbidden nature of sexuality only feeds secretly becoming obsessed with 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. 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.
If you suspect your child having a sexual addiction, talk to him or her in a calm and mature tone so that you can meet them where they are in order to instill trust regarding this 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, such as the addiction cycle above. What happens is 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 at this year’s Wild Child Conference more about teen sex addiction will be revealed and discussed. It’s an issue that is hard to talk about among families, but by not talking about sex, the secrecy around sexual addiction only grows stronger.
Teen Librarian Toolbox. The Wild Child Conference: Teens and Sexual Addiction. Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2012/07/wild-child-conference-teens-and-sexual.html
Margolies, L. (2010). Teens and Internet Pornography. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 12, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/teens-and-internet-pornography/0002812
By Robert Hunt
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