Talking About Sexual Addiction With Your Teen

October 8, 2019

Today’s teenagers face a multitude of pressures, among which include the need for good grades and the ability to get into a good college. But aside from academics, teens also experience several pressures that can be quite worrisome for parents, including pressures to try drugs or to have sex. With both drugs and sex, once a teen has started engaging in the behavior, it can be very difficult to stop as both are addictive and habit-forming. As sexual activity is a normal part of human development, it is natural that teens feel compelled to try it. However, teen sexual addiction is a real thing, and parents need to be on the lookout for signs that their teen may have a problem.

As youth develop, they need access to information about sex. Though it can be horrifying as a parent (and as for the teen) to have conversations about sexual activity, a parent can and should be a safe resource that a teen can go to if they have questions. On average, today’s teens have had sex for the first time around the age of 17, even though they might not enter a serious relationship for another five to ten years (or more). And during this young age, when conversations are taboo amongst parents and a teen struggles to find someone to talk to, the risk of pregnancy and contracting a sexually transmitted disease increase.

What is sexual addiction?

As with any addiction, the extreme need in the underlying behavior comes from both the physical and psychological pleasure that is tied to the activity. Whether it be the use of hallucinogens or participating in sexual activity, the result is a high, or a rush in the brain. And, it keeps the participant coming back and wanting more. An addiction to sex, however, combines the feelings of pleasure with feelings of unfulfillment, self-destruction, etc. This means that when a teen is feeling a lack of satisfaction in other areas of their life, sex helps to fill the void through the positive sensations that are experienced in the process.

Teenage sexual addiction often emerges when teens are made to feel shameful, or that they need to hide their thoughts and questions about sex from their parents. This type of addiction can also form as the result of physical or sexual abuse in the home. Either way, teenage sexual addiction is a compulsive behavior that leads the teen to engage in sexual activity frequently and to the point where familial, academic, and social responsibilities are set aside and no longer prioritized.

As is the case with any addictive behaviors, it creates a loss of control. Parents should be on the lookout for behaviors from their teen that can indicate the existence of sexual addiction. Such behaviors often include:

  • The teen demonstrates an obsession with sex that disrupts school, the home environment and relationships, or the teen’s ability to be successful at school.
  • The teen develops an obsession with pornography
  • The teen avoids spending time with friends or participating in normal teenage activities
  • The teen starts spending an excessive amount of time on the computer and deletes search history.

Sexual addictions often include:

  • Pornography
  • Prostitution
  • Sadistic or masochistic behavior
  • Indecent exposure
  • Excessive masturbation or fantasy
  • Exhibition/voyeurism
  • Other compulsive sexual pursuits

The causes of teenage sexual addiction

Sexual addiction in adults and teens can be created from a variety of factors. And for teens, in particular, it is natural to experience an increase in sexual desire in the later teenage years. As teens begin to date and to develop serious young relationships, they also begin to explore their bodies, which often leads to their first sexual encounter with another person. This said these normal sexual urges can quickly turn into something else and get out of control.

  • Genes – Those with family members who are prone to addiction are more likely to develop an addiction of their own.
  • Hormones – Those with high levels of testosterone or estrogen will experience a significant effect on their sex drive.
  • Environmental factors – Early exposure to sexual activities can contribute to an early onset of sexual urges.
  • Mental health – Those who suffer from anxiety or depression are more likely to take solace in a sexual relationship.
  • Social causes such as rejection as well as isolation from friends and loved ones.

Talking to your teen about sex

Sex education is an important part of your teen’s life. Though most schools across the United States include sex education as part of the common curriculum, it is not enough to leave this responsibility to educators. Students don’t always understand what they are taught in school, and with sex-related topics, in particular, your teen may not feel comfortable raising their hand to ask questions or seek clarification. Parents need to play an active role in educating their children about sex, its role in society, and how to make decisions that will keep them safe.

Even though talking about sex with your teen may feel a bit awkward, it is the parent’s responsibility. Parents who take the time to have open and honest conversations with their teen about sex will help to instill a lifetime of healthy sexuality.

To talk to your teen about sex, parents must have a way to break the ice and create an environment where the conversation will be comfortable. That said, the perfect moment to have the conversation will never come, so be sure that you are not waiting for something that will not happen. Not only that but by the time the moment feels perfect for the conversation, it may be too late. For these reasons, parents should look to make these conversations a natural part of the overall discussion, and it needs to be reinforced to the teen that they can always return to the conversation when they have questions or need advice. Parents that take the time to listen and hold back negative reactions are far more likely to have an open and honest dialogue with their teen, which will result in health behaviors, than those who respond with negative words and shut down their child.

  • Use real-life situations as a springboard to start the discussion, especially the first time. For many parents, the right opportunity arises when watching television programming. Whether it be the news or a prime-time television show, sex is a part of the media. Look for these opportunities to create a natural door-opener to get the conversation started.
  • Practice honesty and transparency at all times. The best way to get your child to trust you is to demonstrate that honesty. If your child asks you a direct question about sex, don’t lie. Your teen will likely be able to read through you.
  • Being direct is also important. Parents who beat around the bush or take too long to get to the point can create confusion for the child. When it comes to sex education, clear guidance and simple words will create clarity, and will make it easier for the teen to participate in the discussion. Using big words or complicated ways of describing scenarios will likely turn the teen away.
  • As mentioned before, temper your response to whatever it is that your teen has to say. In these cases, parents who practice the “don’t react” philosophy. As parents, it is our natural reaction to want to discipline our children or inform them when they have made a decision that might have been made better another way. But when it comes to activities such as drugs, alcohol, or sexual behavior, teens are going to draw away when they feel that they are being looked down upon or punished as a result of their questions or actions. For these reasons, it is important to always consider your teen’s point of view (and respect their limited experience in life).
  • Though facts and statistics play a role, so too does the conversation about feelings, attitudes, and values. Teens know that sex is a natural part of adult life, and so many teens seem to be in a rush to dive into adulthood. Therefore, these conversations beyond the facts are just as important.
  • Don’t make it a one and done conversation. Your teen needs to know that it is acceptable to come to you with more questions down the road. They may need time to process what they have discovered and learned during this preliminary conversation. So, by no means should you create the feeling that the conversation is over and that the door can’t be reopened. When the conversation does come up again, be sure to remember the aforementioned tips as well so that your teen can understand that they will always be welcome with their questions and to share their concerns and fears.

Getting help for your teen’s sexual addiction

In some cases, you may find that you are unable to help your teen on your own. When it comes to sex, there can be so many negative outcomes, most notably being the contraction of a sexually transmitted disease or an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy. Either of these outcomes can be life-changing for both teen and parent. So, when your teen is showing no signs of working with you to address their addiction, it might be time to seek help.

Teenage sexual addiction is on the rise

Teen’s today are exposed to explicit and sexual content far more than was ever the case in previous generations. Even today’s prime-time programming shows far more than was ever shown in the past. Teens are exposed to internet pornography, televisions that show countless hook-ups between non-married (and even sometimes unconsenting adults), and more. The accessibility of internet pornography has resulted in a significantly high number of teens starting to experiment with their sexuality and then being unable to break free from the reigns that sex often creates.

So, when is it time to seek help for your teen’s sexual addiction?

  1. When the activity starts to pose a risk to your teen’s health and safety. Sexual experimentation is normal, and though as parents we may try to influence our children to wait for marriage, or until they are older, this is often easier said than done even in the most open and honest of parent-teen relationships. But, if you are finding that your teen is accessing pornography regularly, and if they deny it, this can be an indication of a larger problem lurking in the background.
  2. Occasionally, teens will start leveraging their own sexual interests as a lure to others. If you find that your teen is starting to cause pressure to other teens (or worse, children) this is a serious red flag that your teen needs an intervention.
  3. Though outpatient treatment can be extremely effective in helping a teen with sexual addiction, occasionally a more formalized program is needed. In some cases, a residential program can work best to help the teen get separation from the sexual stimulus that they have become addicted to, which has then led to alarming behaviors. If your teen seems to keep falling back to a life that involves pornography or sexual promiscuity, and they are also showing a declination of academic or work-related performance, it is likely your teen needs further support than what outpatient treatment can provide.
  4. If your teen is pushing back on accepting parental assistance or is refusing to have open discussions, this could be a sign as well that professional help, and an alternate living arrangement, may be needed to help the teen work through their concerns.

Hands | Sexual Addiction | Hillcrest

Sex addiction in teenagers is widely underestimated and is of growing concern across the United States and across the world. Today’s therapists acknowledge that there are both long term physical and psychological risks to teens that do not seek treatment that can help them understand appropriate sexual behaviors for their age group.  When teens do not receive the support and education that they need, it can lead to a lifetime of dangerous behaviors, of which many are difficult to recover from.

It’s important that you know that you have options. You can get your teen the help they need here at Hillcrest. Our facility is capable of working with teenagers to discover the underlying causes of this addiction and steer them towards behavior that is far less harmful to them. Reach out to Hillcrest today to find out how we can help you and your teen!