What may at first seem like normal sexual interest expressed by a teenager can actually be a sign of a much more serious condition, such as sexual addiction or sexual compulsivity. As internet sex sites rise into the millions and sexual material on television and other media forms hits all-time highs, teenagers are showing more signs of developing sexual addictions at an early age.
Research also indicates that teenagers in the U.S. are experimenting sexually sooner than before, which may be a consequence of heightened exposure to sexually-themed materials online and in music and television. For some teens, this activity can lead to obsessive thoughts about sex that interfere with daily living. For others, it can be the starting point for a sexual addiction, which can have lifelong emotional and physical consequences.
Similar to other addictions, a sexual addiction may lead to a loss of control for a teenager. They may be unable to control unwanted sexual thoughts and may spend hours viewing sexual materials online. They may also lose social connections and suffer in school.
Sex addiction treatment for teens
Many teens are too ashamed of the problem to seek help, and many adults may consider the obsessive behavior a normal part of adolescence. Few sexual addiction treatment options exist that are tailored toward adolescents, but more inpatient and outpatient programs are becoming available as research broadens toward teens and sex addiction.
Some treatment centers focus solely on teens with sexual addictions and offer custom treatment strategies that involve several areas, such as learning new ways of coping with triggers or new techniques for handling stress. New skills for working through social situations may also be offered, as well as treatment through outdoor or physical activities.
Many teens may use sexual behaviors as a way to escape negative feelings, so learning new coping tools can be effective. New strategies for returning to their normal environment are also part of the treatment for teens with sexual addiction.
Signs of teen sex addiction
Parents should look for changes in their teen’s behavior, such as more time alone in their room or secrecy about their internet searches. Some teens may begin a sexual addiction through sexting, so parents are also encouraged to know what messages their teens are sending and to whom.
Internet filters can help prevent a teen from viewing sexual material online, but no filters are perfect. Experts recommend not allowing a teen to browse the internet alone in a private room, but rather in a common room of the home.
Having an upfront conversation about sexual addiction and sexual materials online can be helpful preventative strategies for helping teens avoid the dangers of sexual addiction. Professional counselors can help parents approach the subject effectively and to learn ways to maintain the conversation throughout their child’s teen years. Research indicates repeating the conversation is more effective than only discussing it on a limited basis.