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Pornography addiction — reaching adolescents

Pornography is a hot topic these days in the world of sexual education and emotional health. The main question that people ask, “Is it a problem?” Cottle

Most adults, I believe, would not categorize it as something positive, but rather, a normal part of sexual curiosity, almost a necessary evil. And for adolescent males, it has become a rite of passage — a sexualizing induction on the pathway to manhood.

This is also becoming the case with adolescent females, as they look for answers to questions and sexual gratification. Sixty-seven percent of young men and 49 percent of young women say viewing porn is an acceptable way of expressing sexuality.

So again, the question, “Is it a problem?” When it is so “normal” for our adolescents and adults? In the year 2013, there have been almost 2 billion Internet searches for porn; nine out of 10 boys view pornography by the age of 18.

The answer: It can be. In the world of psychotherapy, the consensus is slowly moving toward the answer of yes, because of new research indicating the addictive abilities that pornography has. By studying the release of dopamine in the brains of those who habitually view pornography, clinicians discovered that pornography may in fact have the same addictive qualities of those of hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

Although pornography excites the same part of our brain, it is very different from substance abuse addiction. Substance abuse is often considered such a threat because of the potential to kill, and at the very least severely damage our physical health. So what is the real threat with pornography addiction? There are various affects that pornography addiction can have on us.

  • Can cause emotional harm — teaches us to deal with feelings in unhealthy ways
  • Creates low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy
  • Destroys relationships
  • Distorts the view of sex
  • With the onset of puberty and the increase in hormones, adolescents are seeking for not just gratification, but answers about sex. With the viewing of pornography, these questions are answered in a harmful way: Fifteen percent of boys and 10 percent of girls have viewed child pornography; 32 percent of boys and 18 percent of girls have viewed bestiality; and 39 percent of boys and 23 percent of girls have viewed sexual bondage.

    The harm with adolescents looking toward pornography for gratification and answers is that it leads to a misconception of sex, as well as the possibility of creating a lifelong battle with addiction.

    Taking a look at the brain can help us understand this crucial stage of adolescence. The brain’s reward system, which identifies and reinforces pleasurable activities is fully developed at adolescence, while the brain’s ability to reason is not (and won’t be until reaching the age of 25). Based on the development of the brain, the ability of an adolescent to be reasonable and realistic while viewing pornography is much less than that of an adult. It is not a coincidence then, that often adolescence is when the onset of pornography, sexual and substance addiction begins.

    As parents, we must be aware of what our children are viewing to prevent many of these lifelong struggles.

    Lexie Ainge Cottle, M.A., LPCI, is a Lake Oswego resident who grew up in Lake Oswego and now has a private practice in professional counseling as part of the Compassionate Counseling Center in Tigard. She can be reached at 503-400-1512 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


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