Monday, December 2, 2013

Parent Seminar: Autism and Technology

The Toxic Relationship: Technology and Autism
Parent Education Seminar
Christopher Mulligan LCSW

The Relationship Between Technology and Autism
It is widely held computer literacy skills are critically important for children, teens, and young adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (hereafter ASD). Parents of young children are informed by a wide variety of autism specialists that school achievement and achievement in the 21st century workplace is dependent upon mastering computer skills.

Although it is undeniable 21st century education and employment requires some degree of competency in computer literacy, the importance of computer literacy in the lives of autistic children and teens has been vastly overstated. More importantly, the negative impact on cognitive, emotional, social development associated with the use of computers (and technology in general) is vastly understated or ignored altogether within the community of autism specialists.

Why Technology is Toxic for the ASD Brain
International research examining the relationship between technology and autism is showing that the enormous amounts of attention consumed through engagement with technology --  whether it be computer database searches, Facebook, watching YouTube videos, or video gaming – blocks the brain’s capacity to develop new mental processes which, in turn, exacerbates the core deficits of ASD: innovating, improvising, reflecting, anticipating, evaluating fuzzy logic, synthesizing contextual processing, insight, and empathy.

While some technologies promote higher level thinking, the majority of technology used by children and teens with ASD impedes cognitive and social development. Studies have shown that early exposure to TV, DVD/videos, video gaming, and the internet result in the brain “pruning” connections in the frontal cortex of the brain.

The ASD child’s brain develops increasingly complex and sophisticated mental processes in relationship to the environment and how they spend their time. If a child with ASD is repetitively exposed to the intense stimulation of technology, their brain efficiently “short circuits” or “prunes” neural connections in the frontal cortex of the brain  

Exposure to technology can result in the loss of executive functioning, impulse control, and critical thinking -- three necessary elements for learning. Technology exposure also results in the loss of imagination and creativity, two mental processes necessary for learning and integral for eventual success and survival in increasingly competitive work environments.

Termed “The Learning Paradox,” early use of technology by ASD children actually serves to increase deficits in joint attention, thereby decreasing the ability to be successful learners in adulthood. Research is also showing that early exposure to technology changes brain structure, chemistry, and function in areas associated with addiction. The younger the child is, and the more intense the exposure to technology, the more prone that child will be to addiction.

Research in the United States and Europe has found that youth with ASD are likely to prefer computer mediated communication over face-to-face communication due to the reduced complexity of screen-based social interaction. The absence of nonverbal communication simplifies the amount of information required to communicate. Unfortunately, youth with ASD show a much higher risk of developing compulsive Internet use than youth without ASD and report higher rates of loneliness and depression.

The correlation between computer and videogame use and depression is documented in multiple research studies in United States, Western Europe, Korea, and China. Although it is unclear whether compulsive use of the computer and/or video gaming produces depression or individuals suffering from depression are more likely to engage in compulsive use of the computer and/or video gaming, it is clear that there is a strong relationship between increased levels of depression and compulsive use of technology. At the very least, technology does not improve the mood and overall social functioning of teens with ASD and very likely exacerbates an underlying vulnerability to depression and loneliness.

Parents and educators who think that early exposure to technology is necessary for eventual success in our technological world need to take an informed and critical look at the real cost of exposure to technology. This seminar will review current research on the relationship between autism and technology and provide parents with a skills and strategies to protect their children from toxic exposure to technology.

For more information on this seminar contact Christopher Mulligan LCSW at 310-2871640.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Loss of Self-Reflection in a Networked Life

The Loss of Self-Reflection in a Networked Life

I can vividly recall lying in my bed at night, during middle school, thinking through the events of the day, scrolling through images and pieces of conversations. I recall enjoying this time alone, in the dark. I recall thinking, contemplating, remembering up until the point I drifted off into sleep. There was something deeply relaxing and fulfilling about this private time. It was in the quiet of the night that I could consider ideas, question feelings, let loose fantasies in complete privacy. I had the opportunity to work out and work through embarrassing encounters with friends, confusion about my feelings, wonder about a possible romantic partner, or fantasize about playing alongside Jerry West, wearing Laker purple and gold.

For many 21st century teens, the quiet of lying in bed is interrupted by the sound of a text coming through their smart phone or the sound of an instant message arriving on their laptop or desktop. Today's youth are “networked “at all times of the day and night. Many teens experience fear, even panic, if they are separated from their web of contacts/friends within their smart phone, Facebook page, or e-mail list.
The constant opportunity for communication seems to have the unfortunate consequence of decreasing opportunities to be alone and, in the experience of being alone, the expansion of self-awareness. The process of being in a contemplative state, a focused state of personal reflection about one's identity, is diminished by always being tethered electronically to one's peer group (and or family).
It is the expectation of today's youth (and adults, for that matter) they will be able to reach peers twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. The expectation of connection seems to have created an aversion to being alone, simply because being alone is so unfamiliar. Rather than see periods of quiet as opportunities for recharging, contemplation and reflection, quiet is experienced as alien and, because it is alien, as uncertain and frightening.

In William Deresiewicz’s essay “The End of Solitude,” he writes: “So we live exclusively in relation to others, and what disappears from our lives is solitude. Technology is taking away our privacy and our concentration, but it is also taking away our ability to be alone.”  He goes on to say: “Young people today seem to have no desire for solitude, have never heard of it, can't imagine why it would be worth having. In fact, their use of technology -- or, to be fair, our use of technology -- seems to involve a constant effort to stave off the possibility of solitude, a continuous attempt, as we sit alone at our computers, to maintain the imaginative presence of others.”
The implication of this essay is the more teens try to keep aloneness at a distance, the less they will be able to deal with being alone and the more terrifying aloneness will become. Because of this fear the “I generation” may lose the ability to be still or idle and, therefore, the capacity for solitude. And if solitude is gone, what exactly does this loss involve? What is at stake? Well, the ability for introspection, the capacity to examine the self, to discover hidden or nascent parts of the self. Deresiewicz writes: “But no real excellence, personal or social, artistic, philosophical, scientific or moral, can arise without solitude.”

As Sherry Turkle points out in her book Alone Together, in addition to the fear of being alone and the loss of the opportunity for contemplation, when today's youth experience an uncomfortable feeling, they can fire off multiple texts immediately to gain support and validation. According to Turkle, the teen of today has little time or patience to sift or sort through their feelings. As feelings emerge, their first response is to reach out and share the feeling, achieving clarification and validation through a peers’ “texted” response. Turkle says one can make the case that for today's youth a feeling isn't truly “real” until it is communicated – which means texted or posted.
Another important dimension of today's youth is the messages that are sent via text or Facebook, must be brief and tailored for the consumption of an audience --  not for one' private consumption or process of reflection. Through this type of writing, it seems fair to suggest the self is reduced and diminished. Whenever teens begin to write, they “size up” their thoughts in terms length of “text” or “post” and public perception. They do not have the luxury of time to first rehearse what they want to say, to investigate their own private ideas and feelings, precisely because technology requires immediate, synchronous, communication.

The “always on” and constantly networked youth has little need or capacity to contemplate their lives because they are never truly alone. And, when they do express themselves, they are focused on tailoring and revising their thoughts with an audience in mind. The reality is, this type of communication decreases and, perhaps erodes, the circuitry in the brain responsible for self-reflection and contemplation.

It has been noted by Gary Small, M.D., that the high-tech revolution places teens in what he calls a “state of continuous partial attention.” This means teens are constantly keeping tabs on multiple activities without fully focusing on any one subject/activity/person at a time. Small says continuous partial attention ultimately places teens’ brains in a heightened state of stress, precisely because they do not have the time to reflect, contemplate, or make thoughtful decisions. They exist in an “alert state,” always waiting for a new contact or new information to come in through whatever technological device they are using.

Small argues the teenager’s brain was not made to maintain this kind of connection for extended periods. He warns that after endless hours of digital connectivity, the brain begins to strain. In this stressed state, the brain secretes cortisol and adrenaline, which can eventually lead to impaired cognition and altered mood, such as depression. Small also suggests a much more disturbing possibility: the fully networked brain may be permanently rewired, thus ending the capacity for contemplation, reflection, solitary moments.

As I write this blog, I am conscious of the obvious nostalgia, perhaps even romanticizing, a time long gone by. Perhaps the networked teen will experience an evolution in thinking and communication, rather than a regression or loss. Perhaps my concern for the loss of time for quiet contemplation minimizes the extraordinary opportunities for connection afforded through the technological modes of communication. Perhaps so.

But, I doubt it. One of the most important tasks of adolescents and young adulthood is the development of self-awareness. Self-awareness evolves through quiet moments of contemplation. Self-awareness grows through confusion and uncertainty about one's own thoughts, ideas, values, and feelings. If we can “text” a feeling before we are clear about what feeling we are having, we are deprived of the opportunity to deeply experience feelings, to turn them inside out, to connect our feelings and life choices.
So, what is the solution, if the networked teen is being deprived of the opportunity to develop self-awareness? Should parents step in and require teens to turn off their phones and computers? Should parents require teens to spend time journaling, reading, drawing, or having face-to-face conversations? Assuming parents did take on this responsibility, this mission to save the capacity for self-reflection and self-awareness, would any teen listen? Probably not.

Herein lies a fundamental decision in parenting today's “networked” youth: should the opportunity for deep reflection and contemplation be a requirement of family life? And, if so, what would this mean? What would it look like?
The 21st century, technologically savvy and connected teen, needs stewardship and guidance from his/her parent. Parents need to set firm and compassionate limits on access to technology. Reading, drawing, journaling, travel, exercise, outings, and face-to-face communication need to be priorities for the family.

Then the questions arises:  is today's “networked” parent, who is very likely as engaged and as distracted by technology as their teen, truly interested in preserving contemplation, reflection, self-awareness, and above all moments of solitude and quiet?
Sadly, it may very well be that the power of multiple technological connections through multiple types of media have overwhelmed parental priorities, and thus parents do not have the time, the patience, the endurance, to fight the good fight, to hold onto the value of contemplation, self-reflection, and above all, self-knowledge.

Perhaps the best course of action is for parents to unplug from their network life a day or two a week and, in so doing, invite their children into experiences of a contemplative, interconnected, quiet life.

I will give it a try and get back to you… Via another blog, of course.

Christopher Mulligan LCSW

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ten to Seventeen Years Olds Getting Addicted to Cyber Porn

Shocking facts have come up in the study of addiction of pornography in children. 
According to the studies, children of age group 10-17 years are addicted to online
pornography. In-fact, approximately one-third children are exchanging
their nude pictures. The startling fact is that boys start searching for porn material 
at the age of 10.

Earlier, video and DVD’s were the source of porn, but now, in this tech savvy
world, porn is easily available on the internet. According to the studies
 in Montreal University, researchers have come across the fact that
 internet websites provide with 90% of porn material and only
 10% is shared by video stores.

As per Gizmodo, a technological blog, currently, there are thousand
of websites with porn material. Such websites are 12% of the total websites.
 One can reach the porn sites by using some specific keywords for them.
Studies from Montreal University state that boys start searching
for pornography at the age of 10.

 New Hampshire University conducted
a survey on children of age group 10-17 years. According to the survey,
 42% of children committed that they have watched online porn
in the past year where as 66% of them said that they don’t really need it.
The habit of making porn themselves is increasing in the youngsters.
A study by medical branch of Texas University stated that 30% of
American youngsters are exchanging nude pictures by e-mail and multimedia services.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cyber Porn Addiction: My interview with Wendy Maltz LCSW

What’s Wrong with Porn?
My interview with Wendy Maltz LCSW

I recently had the opportunity to interview Wendy Maltz LCSW, co-author (with her husband Larry Maltz LCSW) of The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography, one of the most informative and thought-provoking books I have read on the topic of pornography. Over the past year, I have given considerable thought to creating a curriculum for teens that would provide an open and honest appraisal of the risks and rewards or cost and benefits of exposure to online or cyber pornography.

Since 2005 I have worked with adult sex addicts and through this work it is clear to me cyber pornography creates more problems than any other behavior, including sex with prostitutes, exhibitionism, voyeurism, and sex with multiple/anonymous partners. Cyber pornography is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week (home, work, or any place with Wi-Fi connection) and can be accessed without any financial cost. When combined with compulsive masturbation, cyber pornography can produce serious and long term problems in psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being. As would follow, the relapse rate with cyber porn addicts far exceeds the relapse rate related to any other sexually compulsive behavior.

In my clinical work with adult cyber porn addicts a consistent story emerged: exposure to pornography began as early as childhood and certainly by adolescence. The vast majority of my clients said they believe their addiction began with their first exposure to pornography, particularly if that first exposure was online. The intensity and variety of online pornography provides a degree of sexual stimulation that is simply impossible to match in any other sexual context.

As a result of my work with adult sex addicts, it became clear to me that there should be cyber porn education, prevention, and treatment for teens. With this topic in mind, I asked Wendy Maltz how she would construct a sex education curriculum for teens that specifically addressed cyber pornography. I began the interview by asking Wendy what parents should do to help protect children from the potential lifelong damage produced by cyber pornography.

Wendy first explained it is vitally important for parents to engage in an open and honest conversation with children about the way sex is presented in the media. She believes parents need to think about what type of sexual messages are being endorsed within the media, which includes television, music, film, and online pornography. Parents then need to talk to their children about what they are seeing in order to create critical thinking skills. For Wendy the central challenge for parents is to empower their children to take a critical stance towards sexual content in media rather than become passive consumers.

Wendy encourages parents to examine what type of sexual content (and stimulation) is being introduced into their child's psychological and biological “systems,” in the same way they discuss eating habits, the use of drugs and alcohol, and smoking. By beginning a process of sexual media  education within the family at an early age, children can develop a comfort level and sense of trust in talking about sexual behavior with their parents, which is crucial for providing parental guidance. If both child and parent feel unsure, anxious, and fearful about the discussion of healthy sexual behavior, more than likely they will have great difficulty addressing the complicated issues presented by cyber pornography.

When I asked Wendy what she would recommend parents regarding cyber porn specifically, she said the message that needs to be related is that porn, although exciting and entertaining, poses significant health risks. This conversation needs to happen in a way where the parent is not shaming their teen for looking at porn or attempting to provoke a guilt response. Parents need to explain, in a way that avoids lecturing and moralizing, that the sex presented isn’t healthy sex. The sex portrayed in pornography is distorted as it presents “good” sex as impersonal, cut off from values and feelings, and removes relationship dynamics and consequences. 

Again, the purpose of this conversation is inform and empower so that teens will be make positive choices with respect to their “consumption” of sexual content in the media and cyber pornography in particular.
I then asked whether she would recommend parents take the position of banning pornography within the household. Wendy began by saying that although she appreciates there are many different views of cyber pornography (e.g., it’s harmless fun, teens are only curious, porn shows a variety of forms of sexuality, censorship is wrong) and recognizes some teens can manage to engage with cyber porn without significant negative consequences, she  would nonetheless recommend parents take the position that porn will not be part of the family’s media diet--  in the same way that a parent would set a limit with respect to drug use, alcohol, smoking, or overeating.

I then turned our discussion to sex education for teens focusing on cyber pornography (middle and high school settings). I posed the question “If given the opportunity to speak to teens, what would you say about cyber pornography? Would you recommend moderation? Abstinence?” In response to this question, Wendy talked about her personal journey through pornography, which began with the perception of pornography as a risk-free source of pleasure and stimulation, to a positive influence on individuals and couples in the context of sex therapy, to a concern about how pornography was affecting individuals and couples, to the belief that pornography represents a true public health risk. Wendy’s journey is described in detail in an article on her website (Out of the Shadows on

Wendy explained teens need to be made aware that cyber pornography can have a destructive effect on the way their brains function that is very similar to the negative impact of drugs such as crack cocaine. Consistent exposure to cyber pornography, particularly when this exposure is combined with masturbation, dramatically increases the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which produces intense and sustained states of pleasure. The pursuit of this pleasurable/euphoric state can shape a teens’ sexual preferences and choices in a way that can permanently reduce (even eliminate) their capacity to experience healthy intimate and passionate sex.

Wendy made the important point that sex is a form of behavioral and emotional conditioning. Every time we have sex certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are reinforced by virtue of the pleasure or discomfort we experience during sex. Wendy explained that an orgasm is perhaps the most powerful re-award/reinforcer that exists in all of human experience. Wendy said teens need to understand that the thoughts and feelings they have at the point of orgasm are reinforced and ultimately become hardwired into their perception of sex  -- which in turn shapes their sexual needs and preferences. Hence, if a teen is looking at porn at the point of climax, it is the images and messages of pornography that become part of the teen’s understanding of what sex means.

Wendy believes that as a society we are going through a period of experimentation with cyber pornography and this experiment has the potential to change our sexual values and needs and thereby alter our capacity for healthy sex. As we were concluding our, Wendy made the interesting and important observation that what is available to children and teens on the Internet has the potential to produce the type of trauma that we see in victims of sexual abuse. Wendy then wondered whether our society will ever take active and decisive steps to protect youth from online pornography, as we have with smoking and alcohol.
After our interview I began to think about how to frame a sex education for teens that that would include the topic of cyber pornography when Wendy forwarded me an outline of the type of content she would include in a cyber porn sex education curriculum.

Wendy's outline included the following topics:
1)      Sex basics and realities (bodies, brains, desires, functioning)
2)      How sexual interest begins and is developed and shaped
3)      Defining healthy sex
4)      The role of sexual pleasure in mating, bonding, love, self-esteem, and healthy communities
5)      Sexual rights (in contrast to sexual exploitation)
6)      Gender similarities and differences (what does it mean to “be a man” or “be a woman”?)
7)      Sexual harm (what are harmful influences and behaviors and why?)
8)      Pornography (defining pornography; traits of today's product; the effect of regular/heavy use on the brain; how porn differs from other sexually explicit materials; how content is often sexist/racist and becomes more violent/extreme; what pornography does not show/teach; the benefits/rewards of looking at porn; risks related to looking at porn; the lack of warning on pornography; the absence of informed consent and regulation; similarities to sexual perpetration/abuse; trickery; peer attitudes and pressure).
9)      Making wise sexual choices
10)  Understanding empathy and integrity (impact of your sexuality on others)
11)  How to create and maintain a healthy sexual relationships
12)  How to build a healthy sex life (with yourself)
13)  How to develop skills of being a good lover
14)  How to get help when needed

It is difficult to understand, 12 years in the 21st century, why the topic of teen use of cyber pornography has not been incorporated into mainstream of sex education at the middle and high school levels. The reasons for the absence of this discussion in school settings is obviously complex and would invite debate from many different groups, ranging from those who believe pornography is morally reprehensible, to those who see pornography as a First Amendment issue, to those who see pornography as a harmless form of sexual stimulation, to those who have worked with sex addicts and see the potential damage of a relationship with pornography. Notwithstanding the need to address the various concerns of these groups, it seems more than reasonable for adults, particularly those who are in a position to educate teens, to begin to at least take on the process of developing a sex education curriculum that candidly addresses the types of choices and experiences that teens have via the Internet.

Christopher Mulligan LCSW

Internet and Video Game Solutions

Three hour parent training session

Is your child/teen’s life controlled by the internet and electronic entertainment?

Is your child/teen showing signs of addiction to video gaming, the internet, texting, email, or YouTube?

Signs of Internet and Electronic Entertainment Addiction

1.       Does your child/teen dedicate the vast majority of his recreational time to the internet and electronic entertainment?

2.       Does your child/teen organize his schedule around specific internet events, gaming, or TV shows?

3.       Are your child/teen’s grades slipping? Is she failing to complete homework or hand in assignments?

4.       Does your child/teen refuse to leave the house because of his preoccupation with a particular video game or internet activity?

5.       Does your child/teen talk compulsively about electronic entertainment, including monologues about the minute details of a game or show?

6.       Does your child/teen avoid any type of physical activity in favor of sitting in front of a video/computer monitor ?

7.       Does your child/teen argue and complain whenever he is asked to turn off the computer, TV, or gaming console?

8.       Does your child/teen spend every weekend alone, playing video games, surfing the internet and watching television?

9.       Does your child/teen complain that all activities are boring and useless, except for the internet and electronic entertainment?

10.    Does your child/teen confuse internet acquaintances with true friends?

11.    Does your child/teen lack awareness of the amount of time he spends on electronic entertainment?

What Can You Do To Free Your Child/Teen From the Internet and Electronic Entertainment Addiction?

Attend a 3 hour parent training session

This session will teach you to:

Understand how the internet and video gaming can damage healthy brain development

Accurately measure your child/teen’s degree of dependence on video gaming, internet surfing, social media sites, texting, Youtube.

Accurately determine the affect of internet and video gaming  on your child/teen’s emotional, cognitive, and physical health.

Establish new boundaries and limits on the amount of time devoted to internet activities and electronic entertainment.

Teach your child/teen how to cope with the emotions that trigger compulsive use of technology.

Help your child/teen develop interests in interactive activities and outdoor activities (as an alternative to indoor/solitary activities).

Help your child/teen develop a social network of like-minded peers in order to decrease social isolation

Contact Christopher Mulligan LCSW for more information.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Associated Press Reports Washington Gunman Obsessed with Violent Video Games

Friends of the gunman in the deadly shooting spree Monday at a Washington Navy Yard remember him as a nice guy with flashes of a temper and an obsession with violent video games. Aaron Alexis, the gunman who killed 12 in the rampage, was liked by neighbors, but he was known to immerse himself in violent video games for hours on end, one of his neighbors told the Dallas Morning News.
Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, the owner of the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, recalled Alexis as skilled at these games. Alexis would play marathon sessions for hours, The Wall Street Journal reported. Another friend said that Alexis would play first-person shooting games online. These games would be so time consuming, that friends would bring Alexis food during these binges.
While some neighbors and acquaintances described him as "nice," his father once told detectives in Seattle that his son had anger management problems related to post-traumatic stress brought on by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He also complained about the Navy and being a victim of discrimination.
Several other mass killers, including Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, have been linked to violent video games. And some experts worry that as the games get more violent and more realistic, so does their power to blur the line between fantasy and reality in alienated gamers.
“More than any other media, these video games encourage active participation in violence," Bruce Bartholow, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri, who has studied the issue, told Fox News earlier this month. “From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An inpatient program at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Bradford, Pa., will begin next week for people who cannot control their online activity.

As growing numbers of us check our email compulsively, play computer games obsessively and have more friends on Facebook than in real life, the first hospital-based Internet addiction treatment center is preparing to open.
An inpatient program at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Bradford, Pa., will begin next week for people who cannot control their online activity.
Its founder, Kimberly Young, told that she has had nowhere to refer patients who, over the last 16 years through her private practice as a psychologist, have asked for inpatient rather than outpatient care.
"While there are a few retreat centers in the U.S., none offered inpatient medical and psychiatric care," Young said. "I also noted that the only hospitals offering treatment were not located in the States, making it difficult for Americans to use what might be available abroad."
In the United States, Internet addiction is not recognized as a diagnosable mental health disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and treatment is not generally covered by insurance. But there are treatment centers in such countries as China and South Korea, where it is viewed seriously.
Bradford's 10-day program will focus on patients with more serious cases of Internet addiction, and provide individual, group, and family therapy. The patients must first forgo the use of the Internet for at least 72 hours before entering.
Young is not sure how many patients to expect in her program. There are four places for each cycle of the program, and the hospital might make adjustments depending on demand, she said. The fee will be $14,000.
She determines whether someone is addicted by the consequences of their use, whether damage to relationships or careers. The typical addict is a young, intelligent man consumed with such games as "World of Warcraft," she added.
Her goal is to help addicts to achieve moderate or controlled use of the Internet rather than to go cold turkey as a typical addiction treatment would require.
"We are focused on a digital diet, similar to treating food addiction, where you can't give up food as the answer no more than you can entirely give up the Internet as the answer," she said.
Young developed her own brand of therapy for treating Internet addicts. She first uses behavior modification to gradually decrease the amount of time addicts spend online, then encourages her patients to confront any denial and rationalizations, and finally identifies and treats co-existing mental health issues.
"Internet gaming disorder" or addiction is not officially a diagnosable mental health disorder in the United States. It is listed in what's called "Section III" of the the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5. The DSM is sometimes referred to as the "psychiatrist's bible," because it lists all the criteria for diagnosable mental health conditions. But, conditions listed in Section III are ones the APA has only seen some evidence of, but not enough evidence to recommend criteria for diagnosis. Additional research is needed, an APA spokesperson told
2006 study from Stanford University found that more than one out of eight Americans exhibited at least one possible sign of problematic Internet use.
The lead author, Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, noted then that a small but growing number of Internet users were starting to visit their doctors for help. Their compulsive behavior, blogging or visiting Web sites or chat rooms, was similar to what sufferers of substance abuse or impulse-control disorders experience, he said. What he found most troubling was the number of people who hid their nonessential time on the Internet or used it as a way to escape a negative mood, much in the same way that alcoholics might.
Young defines Internet addiction separately from other addictions. She said that while the diagnosis was similar -- from a loss of control to compulsive and continued use despite consequences -- the reasons for the addiction vary, and treatments will differ.
Treatment for alcoholism, for instance, does not depend on the type of liquor consumed, whether beer, wine, or vodka, she said.
"Internet addiction treatment does vary depending on the type of online application one may use, so treating Internet gaming addiction may differ from treating Internet sex addiction versus someone addicted to social media," she said.
The first residential treatment center in the United States, reStart, opened in 2009 in Fall City, Washington. The 45 to 90-day retreat, for adults suffering from Internet and video game addiction, started with one 19-year-old, failed college student. Most of its participants, between the ages of 18 and 28, have had difficulty completing college or establishing and maintaining off-line relationships, according to its Web site.
The center, which has treated more than 100 adults, has added a second phase to it program since it opened. Participants move into apartments for six months or longer while they return to work or school as part of outpatient therapy.
"Now they're implementing the plans they developed for themselves while they were with us," Hilarie Cash, the program's co-founder, said to "They are still getting a lot of services but now they are living more independently and putting that plan into action."
At first they are not permitted unsupervised access to computers, but after at least three months, they may apply for the use of digital technology. The first request is usually for a smart phone, Cash said.
"As long as they're doing well with the new piece of technology, that's great," she said. "If they start to fall backwards, then they lose that technology again. We're trying to shepherd them along this path to normal living, health sustainable living with technology."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Signs of Teen Cybersex Addiction

Signs of Teen Cybersex Addiction

Bookmarks sexual online sites.

Spends more than 5 hours per week using the computer and/or cell phone for sexual purposes.

Searches for sexual material through an Internet search tool.

Internet sex has interfered with important parts of life (peer relationships, family relationships, homework, etc).

Participates in sexually related chats.

Has a sexualized username or screen name.

Masturbates while on the Internet.

Accesses sexual sites from computers at school or friend’s house.

Conceals the sexual use of the computer from family and friends.

Lies about the use of technology for cybersex when confronted by a friend, parent or other adult.

Intentionally seeks out and views pornography on the Internet.

Stays up after midnight to access sexual material online.

Uses the Internet to experiment with different aspects of sexuality (e.g., bondage, fetishes, anal sex, etc.).

Promises to stop using the Internet for sexual purposes.

Uses cybersex as a reward for accomplishing a task (e.g., finishing a project, homework, stressful day, etc.).

Feels anxious, angry, or disappointed when unable to access sexual
content online.

Engages in increasingly risky behaviors when online (has given out name and phone number to strangers, has met strangers offline, views child pornography, etc.).

Meets face to face with strangers met online for romantic/sexual purposes.

Uses sexual humor and innuendo with others while online.

Has seen sexual images/videos of other teens online.

Posts and views sexual photos and/or messages on Facebook or other social media sites.

Stores sexualized photos obtained online.

Posts and views sexualized videos online (YouTube, Google Video, etc.).

Treatment for cybersex addiction includes a combination of:

 Individual therapy
 Family therapy
 Group therapy
Recreational/Outdoor Therapy

For more information contact Christopher Mulligan: 310-287-1640 or email
Office Address:11140 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232

Cybersex Addiction Treatment for Teens


Solutions for Teen Cybersex Addiction

The combination of a LGTBQ teen’s emerging curiosity and confusion about sex, their increasing sex drive, together with the accessibility and aggressive marketing of sex on the internet, has resulted in online sex or “cybersex” becoming a regular part of their sexual development.  Unfortunately, research suggests between 10 and 15 percent of teens (straight and LGTBQ) cannot manage moderate behavior when they engage in sexual activity online and quickly develop compulsive behaviors that can result in addiction.

The term cybersex is a catchall phrase used to describe a wide variety of computer and cell phone based sexual behaviors. These behaviors include accessing online pornography (audio, video, text), engaging in sexual chats, creating an avatar to engage in sexual acts or chats, using WebCams to engage in “live” interactive sexual behavior, using social media sites or email to arrange offline sexual encounters, using sex toys designed for the online world, or a combination of all of the above.

For the majority of teens - straight and LGTBQ - the preferred form of cybersex is “sexting.” The term “sexting” refers to communication with content that includes sexually explicit pictures and/or text messages sent using cell phones or other electronic devices.

Although sexting may be the preferred form of cybersex, increasing numbers of LGBTQ and straight teens are engaging in sexual interaction in chat rooms (with friends, acquaintances, and strangers), using WebCams to engage in interactive sexual behavior with a “live” partner (friends, acquaintances, and strangers), and using the Internet to locate and “hook up” with anonymous sexual partners .

LGBTQ and straight teens are also growing increasingly focused on online pornography and are developing significant problems controlling their behavior. Material with explicit sexual content exists in cyberspace at a total of 400 million pages and counting! Some pornography is found on professional sites, but much of it is found on amateur sites. Parents are generally unaware chat rooms and popular websites that allow instant messaging can easily lead to images from WebCams that are sexual in nature.

Research shows that when sexual arousal occurs after viewing a sexual image, the neurotransmitter epinephrine is released. Epinephrine makes its way to the brain which serves to “lock” the image in to the brain’s capacity for recall. The teen can then recall the image at any time, triggering the same feelings of excitement and arousal. Other neurotransmitters are also released such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and adrenaline which create euphoric states, causing the teen to search for images that will create the same experience.  For many teens, the accessibility and anonymity of cyberspace make it very difficult to resist pornographic sites, which can lead to addiction.

Getting Help for Compulsive Cybersex

If you believe your LGBTQ teen has developed compulsive online sexual behaviors, it is crucial to confront this problem directly in order provide appropriate help.  

The focus of our treatment program is to assist the sexually compulsive LGBTQ teen in decreasing destructive online sexual behaviors while simultaneously increasing healthy offline sexual behaviors.

As would follow, our treatment program has two primary goals:

1)   Reduce the teen's immediate short-term destructive behaviors. Achieving this goal includes 1) helping the teen understand sexual compulsivity by learning to differentiate high risk behaviors from healthy sexual behaviors 2) learning to identify emotional triggers and thinking errors that lead to compulsive sexual behaviors, and 3) learning how to reduce high risk sexual behaviors by developing social and therapeutic support.
2)   Develop healthy sexual behaviors. Achieving this goal includes 1) understanding the function/purpose of sexual compulsivity 2) understanding the cost/risks of maintaining sexually compulsive behaviors 3) learning what constitutes healthy sexuality, and 4) learning how to cope with relapse/desire to re-engage in sexually compulsive behaviors.

Our program is designed to help LGTBQ teens understand the function of their sexually compulsive behavior while simultaneously providing information that encourages healthy sexual choices. Additionally, our program helps LGTBQ teens learn to negotiate barriers to achieving long-term sexual well-being.

Our treatment program progresses through three stages:

1)   Stage I: Problem identification (taking an off-line and online sexual history, defining problematic sexual behavior, defining different types of online sexual behaviors, tracking behavior through an Internet activity log, identifying emotional and cognitive triggers, identifying high-risk situations, understanding how compulsive sexual behavior is maintained despite negative consequences, defining the process of change, and creating an immediate short-term harm reduction plan).
2)   Stage II: Primary treatment (defining sexual identity and sexual orientation, defining the role of body image in healthy sexuality, defining the role of fantasy in healthy sexuality, defining intimacy in the context of sexual relationships, defining spirituality/values in the context of healthy sexuality, defining sexual functioning, defining health sexuality, and defining barriers to sexual health,).
3)   Stage III: Continuing care plan (creating a long-term sexual health plan, reviewing the role of healthy sexuality in psychological well-being, reviewing social and emotional triggers, understanding the role of relapse in developing sexual health, and creating an ongoing support system).

LGBTQ Orientation

Our treatment program is tailored to the unique strengths and challenges of each teen and his/her family and focuses on helping the LGBTQ teen understand and develop a lifelong healthy sexuality.

In the context of helping the sexually compulsive LGBTQ teen understand how to create a life-long pattern of healthy sexuality, our program incorporates the following material:

1)   Understanding the biology/science of LGTBQ sexuality.
2)   Myths, generalizations and distortions about sex within the LGTBQ community.
3)   Confronting homophobia in society and school.
4)   Deciding to “come out” (with family, community, and school).
5)   Making social connections within LGTBQ community.
6)   Dating and relationships within the LGTBQ community (LGTBQ dating basics).
7)   Sex and sexuality (making sound decisions about sex, avoiding abusive relationships, identifying myths and truths about LGTBQ sex).
8)   Transgender teens (what it means to be transgender and dating and sexual options for transgender teens).