What Do Sex and Porn Addiction Look Like in Adolescents?

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Teens are often hyper-obsessed with sex. This is a normal part of their adolescent development. Because of this, it is sometimes difficult to separate “normal” teens and sex/porn addicted teens. Nevertheless, teens absolutely can become sex and porn addicted. In fact, there isn’t a week that goes by when we don’t get at least a few calls or emails from people seeking help for an adolescent who is sexually acting out in a compulsive or abusive way and experiencing negative consequences as a result.

Consider a boy who masturbates to pornography several nights per week before going to bed who is maintaining his grades, his social life, and other important aspects of life. This boy probably does not have a sex/porn addiction problem, even though his parents might be somewhat disturbed by his behavior. Now consider a boy who looks at and masturbates to pornography multiple hours nightly, whose grades have fallen off a cliff, and who has lost interest in normal teenaged social activities. In all likelihood, this boy does have a sex/porn related issue that needs to be addressed.

Common warning signs that an adolescent may be experiencing problems with compulsive sexual behavior (including compulsive porn use) include:

  • A demonstrated lack of empathy toward other individuals involved (either directly or indirectly) in the child’s sexual behavior
  • Viewing and/or masturbating to pornography or online chats (text or video) for multiple hours per day/night
  • Decreased interest in and/or declining performance in school and extracurricular activities
  • Diminished interest in and/or ability to socialize with peers
  • Excessive interest (or a total lack of interest) in typical adolescent dating activities
  • Secretiveness around computer and smartphone usage – wiping browser histories, clearing texts and phone logs, password protecting devices, owning and using devices in secret, etc.
  • Lying to parents or others about the nature or the amount of sexual/romantic activities
  • Sexual aggression, incest, age-inappropriate relationships, etc.
  • Secrecy in general, such as spending large amounts of time alone in a room with the door locked
  • Sexual behavior involving alcohol and/or drug use
  • Negative consequences related to sexual activity (including porn use)

Consequences

Kids who abuse pornography and other sexual fantasies and behaviors (virtual sex games, webcam sexual encounters, in-person sexual encounters, etc.) can suffer, over time, stunted emotional and psychological growth. (This is also true with adolescent substance abusers.) Without intervention and treatment, there is a good chance that these kids will struggle with dating, developing relationships, and experiencing vulnerability and intimacy later in life. Additionally, adolescent sex and porn addicts suffer many of the same consequences as adult sex addicts, such as:

  • Social isolation and loneliness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Relationship problems – with friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, etc.
  • Hours, sometimes days, lost to sexual fantasy, porn use, masturbation, and other sexual behaviors
  • Physical harm to genitalia (caused by excessive masturbation)
  • Drug and/or alcohol use/abuse/addiction in conjunction with sexual acting out
  • Sexually transmitted diseases

If you think an adolescent in your life may be suffering from sex or porn addiction, please contact us so we can direct you toward appropriate treatment.