Friday, August 24, 2012

Adolescent Online Porn Addiction

Some of the many emails that enter my inbox daily--and some I actually look forward to are from the professional Listserve I belong to through the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine or SAHM.

Today there is a lively and provocative discussion about adolescent pornography access and even addiction to pornography.  It was generated by a first email sent by a professional colleague who wrote of a young man in his early 20's who recently told her "on-line porn is the scourge of my generation of young men."

He described his addiction with online porn and the ensuing isolation and loneliness he felt and the impact it has on his "expectations of relationships."

The professional feedback bemoans the fact that there is really no good research into this growing phenomenon much less sound or tested advice on how to advise parents or patients on this and many of the other issues that arise from "growing up online."  How do we even ask the questions in the right way in order to get at the answers?  What constitutes addiction anyway?  How do we measure that?  What can we do if we uncover it?

There were some answers from the world of research into gaming addiction which is already being considered for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the bible of psychiatric diagnosis).  Some warning signs might be:

  • Preoccupation with Internet gaming/porn
  • Withdrawal symptoms when Internet is taken away
  • Development of tolerance. This means the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in gaming/porn to get the same effect/pleasure
  • Unable to control gaming/porn habits
  • Continued use despite knowledge of negative impact
  • Loss of previous interest in hobbies, entertainment, sports
  • Use of gaming/sports to escape unpleasant moods
  • Deception toward family, therapists and others regarding amount of time spent gaming/on porn sites
  • Loss of job, relationship, career opportunity because of gaming/porn use
The exchange between professionals called for more research among institutions to begin to understand this problem.  The Center on Media and Child Health at the Harvard School of Public Health has begun to collect data and explore positive and negative effects of media on child health.  In addition they maintain a website, AskTheMediatrician which may be helpful if parents are concerned about their child's activities.  It's a place to start taking suspicious behavior seriously and stop looking the other way.
image from www.youthspecialties.com via Google

10 comments:

  1. Ann, great topic. There's actually a lot more information and research out there than you mention. What about the many Internet addiction studies (http://yourbrainonporn.com/internet-addiction-studies-summaries), most of which include Internet porn use, and are finding the same fundamental brain changes seen in substance addicts' brains? Also see "Toss Your Textbooks: Docs Redefine Sexual Behavior Addictions" http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201109/toss-your-textbooks-docs-redefine-sexual-behavior-addictions and
    And this TEDx talk, "The Great Porn Experiment" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSF82AwSDiU&feature=youtu.be
    Young people clearly do not know the risks of overstimulating their brains with highspeed, novelty-on-demand - and this is because their experts don't seem to be up to speed either. See this recent research: "Emerging Adults' Expectations for Pornography Use in the Context of Future Committed Romantic Relationships: A Qualitative Study" http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22886349 Parents are also extremely naive, and under informed about the sensitivity of the adolescent brain: "Why Shouldn’t Johnny Watch Porn If He Likes?" http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201110/why-shouldn-t-johnny-watch-porn-if-he-likes
    So glad you're writing about this important topic. The really exciting news is that heavy users are figuring out the science for themselves and supporting each other in recovery by the thousands. See these forums, for example: http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/ and http://www.yourbrainrebalanced.com/, which are only two of many.

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