Teen sex addiction: four signs your child needs treatment

By Matt Bulkley | Blog Education Series

STAR Guides Wilderness - Teen sex addiction - four signs your child needs treatment

There is a new breed of problems being seen in schools, mental health clinics and churches across the country—teen sexual addiction. Today’s teens are bombarded with sexual explicit content like no previous generation. In our increasingly sexualized society, parents are placed in the difficult position of seeking professional help for a child struggling with a sexual behavior issue. These issues can range from addiction to internet pornography, to attempts to “hook-up” with adults they met on-line, to illegal sexual outing out with a younger sibling. The accessibility and potency of internet pornography results in higher numbers of teens finding themselves addicted and unable to break free. Additionally, the ease of finding sexual “hook ups” via the internet has never been easier. Numerous apps now allow a teen to enter their location and find willing sexual partners wherever they are. Sexual curiosity and lack of impulse control lead some teens to act out sexually with a younger siblings leading to a sexual offense and legal problems.

Finding professional help for teen sexual behavior problems can be a challenge, namely because few programs currently exist. If you have concerns about your child’s sexual behaviors, don’t hesitate, but seek professional help immediately. Research suggests that problematic sexual behavior first manifests during the adolescent years, but most don’t get help until later in life after the problems have become severe. Do not ignore problematic sexual behavior in children and teens as the long-term consequences can be devastating.

Research also suggests that teens with problematic sexual behaviors who participate in treatment, learn to manage their problems and don’t re-offend. Early intervention is always the right move when it comes to teen sexual problems. The earlier in life that a young person can learn to manage sexual urges and behaviors, the greater the likelihood for their achieving a happy and fulfilling life.

Some parents ask, when does normal teen sexual curiosity cross the line into behavior that requires intensive treatment? Listed below are four examples.

1. When the addiction becomes a risk to the teen’s safety.

Example—15 year-old boy who has been viewing porn on a daily basis since age 11 moves into using a fake profile as an attractive adult woman in social media to solicit adult men into highly sexualized chats involving plans to begin hooking up in person. When confronted by parents, the youth consistently denies it, yet the behaviors continue leading to escalating family conflicts.

2. When the addiction becomes a risk to others’ safety.

Example—16 year-old boy who is addicted to porn compiles a collection of “explicit selfies” of girls who he has coerced to engage with him in sexting sessions. He begins placing the images on revenge porn websites and using the images to blackmail the girls.

3. When outpatient treatment fails.

Example—17 year-old addicted to pornography since the age 13 unable to break free from the addiction on his own and even with extended outpatient treatment his longest period of ten days of abstinence before falling back into the addiction. He is experiencing depression, feelings of failure and self-loathing which is leading to school failure and social isolation.

4. When the youth is resistant to treatment.

Example—14 year-old addicted to pornography who despite repeated efforts by his parents to limit has access to porn continues to find ways, including theft, to obtain electronic devices to access the internet to view porn. He is unwilling to discuss the issue with his parents and refuses to attend or participate in counseling services.

These four examples are based on true-to-life scenarios and similar situations occur daily in our highly sexualized, technology driven society and unfortunately will become more common place with the rising generation. If you have a child struggling with pornography addiction or compulsive on-line sexual behaviors, contact us today at 800.584.4629 for help!

About the Author

Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.

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(3) comments

Brodie Simmons May 1, 2018

I am the Dean of Students at a private school for 6-12 graders with social and learning differences. We are seeing an increase in young male compulsive sexual behaviors. I would love a few recommendations on programs that some of our students could attend over the summer to address these issues. Any additional information and guidance is greatly appreciated.
Thank you
Brodie Simmons, LPC, LCDC, NCC
Dean of Students, Gateway Academy Houston

Lucinda June 23, 2018

My ex husband was addicted to porn and watched it with our 12-13 year old in the room. I got full custody when we divorced and he got supervised visitation. My teen at 15 decided he no longer wanted to see his dad or talk to him. I have caught my teen watching porn yet again. What do I as a parent need to do. I am disabled and on a fixed income with no insurance for him so paying for a counselor isn’t an option.

Ann December 1, 2018

I am a desperate grandmother trying to find help for my 17 yr old grandson.
My grandson had many mental disorders, Bipolar, Anger, Anti-social, RAD, OCD, ASD, Sexual Adduction. He had been in 6 residential facilities since was 12, all for anger and aggression. I always brought up his sexual problems, but none of the therapists seemed interested.
He started out by stealing my underwear and cutting it up and tying knots in it. The he starting using my stored collection of Barbie Dolls, ripping their clothes, cutting their hair and moving and twisting their bodies. Now it is taking my collection of dolls, ripping their clothes off cutting their hair and TYING their arms together and / or using duct tape over their mouths.
He confessed to me that he exposed himself to a little girl, about 4, at the park and asked her to lick his penis.

He even entered the neighbors house across the street when they were not home and took a pair of fur underwear from the laundry basket. He had stolen my adult daughters underwear and cloths and shoes.
Needless to say, I am so scared that the next step will be with a real girl. He seems to be atttacted to “young girls”. 4-? I have called everywhere begging for help before it is too late.

Please, please if you can give me any advice, I would very much appreciate it. I am a widow on a fixed income and both of his parents are deceased. I do not have much money for treatment. Please help.

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