Adolescence is the time when many start dating, exploring their bodies, and experiencing an increased sexual desire. This is a normal part of growing up, however, at what point does this turn into a sexual addiction and become out of control?
What is Sexual Addiction?
Sexual addiction – also called hyper-sexuality – is a condition where a person experiences excessive sexual thoughts, urges, desires, or behaviors that cannot be controlled. A person with a sex addiction will commonly reorder their life to perform multiple sexual acts in a day. This uncontrollable urge can have serious mental and physical health consequences. Compulsive sexual behavior can interfere with many more aspects of life, such as safety, relationships, work, study, or finances.
Addiction – whether that be to do with sex or alcohol – is a powerful disease that takes over the decision-making and reward centers of the brain. The dopamine released from carrying out the addictive activity reprograms your brain to wanting more and more, causing the person repeats their destructive behavior on a compulsive loop.
Sex Addiction in Adolescents
Teens are commonly curious about sex, so it can be difficult to distinguish between a normal amount of sexual interest and what crosses the line into addiction territory. Since the birth of the internet, teens have had easy access to a range of intense sexual content that generations before have not. This phenomenon is likely to have increased the number of teenagers dealing with sex addiction over time. Although an individual of any sex can develop a sex or digital porn addiction, studies have shown that males have a higher chance of developing the condition than females.
If you are trying to tell the difference between a teen with a healthy sex drive and one with a sex addiction, it can be helpful to consider if their sexual activity has any negative consequences on their lives.
Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction
There are some general warning signs that adolescent sex addicts commonly display. These include:
- Increasing amounts of time spent with porn or sexual online chats (often multiple hours per day)
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities and hobbies
- Problems at school, such as falling grades or bad behavior
- Emotional and social isolation
- Secretive use of digital devices – wiping browser histories, clearing text and call logs, hiding social media accounts, etc.
- Lying and/or secrecy about where/when/how they spend their time
- Inappropriate sexual or romantic activity such as aggression, age-inappropriate, or incestuous
- Excessive (e.g. having multiple partners at once or moving from relationship to relationship) or lack of interest in dating
Some of these symptoms can be put to normal teenage behavior, though sex addicts will display them over prolonged periods. They will also not have the ability to control or stop their interest in sex, which from the outside, could look more like an unwillingness.
Causes of Sex Addiction
Adolescents who are sex addicts can develop long-term problems if their issue is not confronted. It is important to state that many teens watch pornography and do not become addicted to it. However, due to its hyper-sexual intense nature, too much exposure to porn can divert young people’s social development.
There are multiple causes of sex addiction, this can include:
- Hormones: having high levels of estrogen or testosterone has a great impact on libido. Individuals with more of these hormones in their system are more likely to take part in sexual activities.
- Genes: traits such as impulsivity, sensation seeking, and emotional dysregulation are thought to be passed down through genetics and increase a person’s chance of the condition.
- Mental health: having a mental illness increases the chances of developing a sex addiction; including depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and bipolar disorder.
- Environmental factors: this includes sexual abuse or exposure to sexual content at a young age.
- Social causes: this could include rejection, having a friend that is addicted to sex, or social isolation.
Effects of Teenage Sex Addiction
Teens exposing themselves to too much porn sets unrealistic and unhealthy expectations about relationships and sex. This may manifest itself as:
- Low self-esteem
- Poor social skills
- Poor impulse control
- Trouble with intimacy
- An inability to have healthy connections
If the route of these issues is never confronted, these traits may also continue later in life. This is why sex addiction in teens absolutely needs to be addressed. When the person becomes sexually active, having a sex addiction increases their chances of unwanted pregnancies and contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
How to Help a Teen Sex Addict
As a parent, you may be wondering what you can do to help your child. Filtering or monitoring software may seem like a quick fix for the problem, however, they are not full-proof and come with many downsides. These include the child not feeling as though they have privacy and a breakdown of trust in the relationship.
The first parents can do to help a teen with a sex addiction is to talk to them about their sexual activity and what they have been going through. The topic will likely bring up a lot of feelings of shame and guilt, so it is vital that parents approach it from a loving and non-judgemental stance. This talk is likely to be a little uncomfortable for both adults and children, though it may be vital for their present and future.
Alternatively, a specialist treatment facility can help with bridging the gap in communication and allow the teen with a sex addiction to receive advice from a medical professional. Clearfork is a residential mental health facility, offering programs specifically designed for the recovery of teens.
The center offers a faith-based, therapeutic environment for youth struggling with a range of mental illnesses and conditions. Our staff approaches clients with understanding and empathy, offering only the best evidence-based techniques. Clearfork provides around-the-clock staff and nursing support in a scenic location with tons of outdoor activities to take part in.
Experiencing a sex addiction can be confusing and scary, however, you are not alone. Please contact us today to find out more information about our programs to help you or your loved one live a happier, healthier life.