Saturday, July 27, 2013
Solutions to Teen Cybersex Addiction
CHRISTOPHER MULLIGAN LCSW
The combination of a teen’s emerging curiosity 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 adolescent sexuality. Unfortunately, there are teens -- as many at 15 percent -- that 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 sex-related 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.
Research shows that the preferred form of cybersex for teens is “sexting.” The term “sexting” refers to sexual communication with content that includes sexually explicit pictures and/or text messages, sent using cell phones or other electronic devices.
Although sexting is the preferred form of cybersex, increasing numbers of 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 .
Teens are also growing increasingly focused on online pornography and are developing significant problems controlling their behavior. Material with explicit sexual content abounds in cyberspace at a grand 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 has shown that when excitement 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.
If you believe your teen has developed a compulsive or addictive relationship to cyber pornography or cybersex, it is crucial to confront this problem directly and provide appropriate intervention.
The focus of our treatment program is to assist the sexually compulsive 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 unhealthy behaviors. Achieving this goal begins with helping the teen understand his/her acting out cycle by identifying primary high risk situations, emotional triggers, and thinking errors. Through this process, the teen can reduce the total number of sexually compulsive behaviors they are engaging in on a daily basis.
2) Develop healthy sexual behaviors. Eliminating unhealthy behaviors creates a void. In order to maintain a long-term sexual health, the teen needs to fill this void by practicing healthy sexual behaviors. Our program helps teens understand the function of their sexually compulsive behavior while simultaneously providing extensive information that encourages healthy sexual choices. Additionally, our program helps the teen become familiar with barriers that get in the way of achieving long-term sexual health.
Our treatment program progresses through three stages:
1) Stage I: Problem identification (defining problematic sexual behavior, creating an immediate short-term harm reduction plan, taking an off-line and online sexual history, defining different types of online sexual behavior, tracking behavior through an Internet activity log, identifying emotional triggers, identifying high-risk situations, understanding how compulsive sexual behavior is maintained despite negative consequences, and defining the process of change).
2) Stage II: Primary treatment (defining sexual identity and sexual orientation, defining sexual functioning, defining health sexuality, defining barriers to sexual health, discussing the role of body image in sexual health, discussing the role of fantasy in healthy sexuality, defining intimacy in the context of sexual relationships, defining spirituality/values in the context of healthy sexuality).
3) Stage III: Continuing care plan (creating a sexual health plan, reviewing the role of healthy sexuality in psychosocial well-being, reviewing triggers, understanding the role of relapse, learning to ask for help, and creating an ongoing support system).
Our treatment program is tailored to the unique strengths and challenges of each teen and his/her family.
Warning Signs of Teen Cybersex Addiction
Bookmarks sexual sites online.
Spends more than 5 hours per week using the computer 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, 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 others.
Lies about the use of technology for cybersex when confronted by a 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
Engages in increasingly risky behaviors when online (given out name and phone number, met people 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 pictures of other teens online.
Posts and views sexual photos or information on Facebook or other social media sites.
Stores sexualized photos online.
Posts and views sexualized videos online (YouTube, Google Video, etc.).
Treatment for cybersex addiction includes a combination of:
For more information contact Christopher Mulligan: 310-287-1640 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Address:11140 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232