Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Time Magazine: The truth about sex addiction

Time Magazine has a detailed article on the current thinking about sex addiction and the sexual recovery industry. The article examines the legitimacy of sex addiction as a psychiatric category and looks at the various treatment options now available to address compulsive sexual behavior.

The article features a longtime sex addict who has been involved in one of the oldest 12 step programs available to men and women with sexually compulsive behavior: SAA/sex addicts anonymous.The trials and tribulations "Neil," the focus of the article, accurately represents individuals who cannot come to terms with the sacrifices and work required to reach sobriety. With this said, Neil represents a subgroup of men with sexually compulsive behavior who do not achieve meaningful sobriety even with nearly 2 1/2 decades of contact with Sex Addicts Anonymous.

The problem with Neil's story is that it makes for great reading but fails to spell out the way that sexual sobriety occurs. There are countless stories within various twelve-step programs devoted to sexually compulsive behavior that involve meaningful and lasting changes in sexual behavior and the capacity for human intimacy.

It is therefore unfortunate that Neil is the focus of this very important piece in a national magazine. The topic of sex addiction and recovery options is a crucial issue for thousands of men and women. It would have provided a more balanced and realistic picture of the recovery process had the magazine chosen to tell a less interesting but more accurate story of recovery from sexually compulsive behavior.

Whether or not sex addiction or hypersexual behavior is a legitimate category within the psychiatric nomenclature is a debate reasonable people can discuss. What is clear and lacking in controversy is the simple fact that  men and women from all walks of life, from San Diego to the tip of Maine, struggle with sexually compulsive behavior and need the support of trained mental health professionals, residential treatment centers, and 12 step programs in order to gain control over their lives and establish meaningful and lasting relationships.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Social media is reprogramming our children's brain. What's a parent to do?

In the 2/21/11 issue of Time Magazine there is a very interesting article by Dalton Conley on the effects of social media on developing brains. The constant amount of external stimuli from texting, facebooking, chatting, etc, is decreasing children/teen's capacity to maintain their focus. Each time children/teens get another message their pleasure receptors are activated which leads to increased focus on environmental stimuli at the expense of the capacity to attend to tasks the require sustained effort -- such as reading a book.

Dalton Conley also points out that 24/7 connectivity of social media deprives children/teens of much needed down time or alone time -- which is needed to develop a sense of self. What does Conley recommend? No Facebook during the school week and no electronics after 930pm -- the latter so that teens can get some sleep.

Check out the article. It really helps with understanding that all of the social media that is connecting our kids has a steep downside.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Victory: lifetime sex registration avoided

In my previous post I discussed a case I was working on in which an 18-year-oldwho viewed child pornography was facing lifetime registration as a sex offender. Fortunately, after the district attorney read my report that explained the way in which a typical teen can find their way into downloading child photography, the charges were modified and lifetime sex registration was taken off the table.

In this case the district attorney was willing to consider new research and data on the development of cyber addiction and, in particular, cyber pornography and cybersex. There are many dangerous perpetrators out they are in cyberspace who certainly need to be apprehended and placed in custody. However, there is also an increasingly large number of typical teens and adults who find their way into increasingly risky and ultimately illegal websites who are not sexual predators.

It is of crucial importance for those who work in the field of cyber and gaming addiction to educate the public, including parents, teachers, rabbis, Boy Scout leaders, etc. of the potential dangers of allowing a child or teen to explore cyberspace without restrictions. The case described above had a very positive outcome, however, it could have easily gone in a different direction and the district attorney could have pursued incarceration and sex registration status.

Parents and caregivers need to take seriously the importance of carefully monitoring where children and teens go as they click their way through cyberspace. Certainly, in an ideal world, we could allow our children and teenagers to feel that they can explore websites without being monitored. Unfortunately, this is not consistent with the dangers that are presented and need to be carefully avoided.

The bottom line is internet pornography is a very dangerous area of cyberspace because it is so easy to move from acceptable, mainstream, pornography sites into child pornography sites. The importance point to remember is that the children and teens who are currently online have access to a virtually unlimited supply of images, images that range from the acceptable and typical through the bizarre, obscene, and illegal.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lifetime sex registration for a teen?

I spent the better part of this week writing a report in connection with a criminal case involving an 18-year-old male. Without going into details of this case, suffice it to say that he was exploring different genres of pornography and decided to investigate child pornography. This young man has never shown any interest in sexually deviant behavior. In fact, he is a very typical adolescent, who takes honors classes, loves sports, and is a outdoor enthusiast. His family is intact, supportive, structured, and in charge of decision-making.

To make a long story short, the Los Angeles police department was monitoring this young man's use of the Internet and discovered that he was downloading images from child pornography sites. The Los Angeles police department came to his home dressed in SWAT gear and confiscated all of the computers in the house and arrested the young man.

Although the amount of child photography was minimal and all images were found in the trash bin of his personal computer, the police initially thought that he was involved in an international ring of child pornography distribution. They have subsequently come to understand that he was not part of any larger group that was in the business of trafficking child photography. Despite the fact that the DA has been made aware of this young man's considerable strengths, the absence of any prior criminal activity, and the absence of any indication that he is capable of sexually deviant behavior, they are remaining steadfast that he be registered as a sex offender on a lifetime basis.

In my report I attempted to educate the DA. about how typically developing teens can become involved in cyber pornography and spiral out of control, ending up looking at child pornography. I attempted to discuss the way in which pornography interacts with brain biochemistry, the euphoric states that pornography produces, and the problems that teens have in limiting their own access to pornography. The report was 15 pages, single spaced, at 12 font and was fully loaded with contemporary thinking about the biology of addiction, biology of pornography, and current statistics on teen access to the Internet and to cyber pornography.

Let us all hope that the DA. drops the demand for lifetime sex registration status and instead offers probation. It is my belief that if law enforcement is unable to differentiate the guppies from the sharks, so to speak, there will be literally hundreds of cases of typical males who have wandered into illegal and inappropriate websites who are then arrested and face criminal prosecution.

Due to the enormous risk associated with viewing cyber pornography it is crucial that parents monitor and regulate all access to the Internet, including reviewing histories, sorting through recycling bins, etc.

If you have questions regarding this post, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at 310/287-1640.