Teen Sex Addiction
Teen sex addiction is difficult for parents to deal with -- and it is becoming more prevalent in today's teen culture. Kids are having sexual experiences at what seems to be an earlier age. ...
In this article, we begin by defining "Addiction." We then take a look at some criteria which suggest addictive disorder, examine the physiology of addiction and end by taking a look at what parents can do when faced with a problem teen.
Definition of "Addiction"
"Addiction" may be defined as any behavior that is used to produce gratification, escape from internal discomfort and/or can be engaged in compulsively. Another term for this is addictive disorder. Three characteristic findings of any addictive disorder are the following:
- Compulsivity, that is, loss of the ability to choose freely whether to stop or to continue.
- Continuation of the behavior despite adverse consequences, such as loss of health, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, poor school or job performance and compromised relationships.
- Obsession - the addict is obsessed with their addiction and generally places more importance on the addiction than they do on other areas of their lives.
Criteria for addictive disorder
Some experts suggest that if 3 or more of any of the following are concluded about your teen and this continues for more than 30 days, that they may be considered an addict.
- Frequent engaging in a behavior to a greater extent or over a longer period than intended
- Persistent desire for the behavior or one or more unsuccessful efforts to reduce or control the behavior
- Much time spent in activities necessary for the behavior, engaging in the behavior. or recovering from its effects
- Frequent preoccupation with the behavior or preparatory activities
- Frequent engaging in the behavior when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic, or social obligations
- Giving up or limiting important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of the behavior
- Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, financial, psychological, or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by the behavior
- Need to increase the intensity or frequency of the behavior to achieve the desired effect, or diminished effect with continued behavior of the same intensity
- Restlessness or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior
Physiology of Addiction (how addictive disorders develop and change the brain)
The "human will" resides in the neocortex tissue of the brain. Here lies a series of brain cells connected to each other by synapses. These connections disconnect and reconnect over time depending on one's experiences. With repetition, one's choices, behavior, and actions create links and defined routes (or "ruts") that become embedded in the tissues actually making the pathways easier and easier to follow. It's sort of like a hiking trail that gets worn through the woods and easier to follow the more times its used. Therefore, as stated by Satinover, "A specific behavior, whether good or bad, becomes increasingly strengthened through repetition. Physically altering the brain tissue to create new and better pathways is a difficult task and takes persistent repetitious new behavior."
HENCE, IF YOU CONTINUE TO DO WHAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS DONE, YOU'LL CONTINUE TO GET WHAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS GOT!
This is literally called the "Law of Facilitation."
When your children first begin to experience negative behavior, it occurs purely because they have chosen to, regardless of the influences of peer pressure, need to fit in, or whatever outside forces helped dictate that choice. However, once the behavior elicits instant gratification, it encourages repetition. Once the act becomes repetitious, it becomes facilitated by those ruts or pathways that begin to form in the brain. What began as psychological addiction has now grown into a physical addiction. Trying to make a positive change at this point is like trying to get a river to overflow its banks. It requires a flood of new positive stimuli on a 24 hour/ 7 day schedule in order to encourage some working choices which can create new brain signal pathways and let some grass grow over the old ones.
So perhaps what we really want is for our children to become addicted to better choices.
What can parents do to help prevent teen sex addictions?
Talk to your children about your values and beliefs related to sexuality before someone else does.
July 28 (CBSHealthWatch) -- Many mental health problems tend to develop in people during the teen and early adult years--around the same time that sexuality begins to emerge. And a new study now suggests that psychiatric problems at this tender age may lead to promiscuity and other risky sexual behavior.
To try and determine whether the two are linked, researchers in New Zealand followed a group of 992 people from the time they were three years old until age 21.
They found that when the group reached adolescence, young people with symptoms of depression, schizophrenia, antisocial disorders or substance abuse problems were most likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, such as early intercourse, multiple partners and having sex without condoms, and they were also more likely to acquire sexually transmitted diseases.
Do you know that sex education for most kids begins long before adolescence. But many teenagers now reach sexual maturity at a younger age than in previous generations and mixed sexual messages come from teachers, peers, and the media. You want to make sure your teen gets the right message, at the right time, from the right source--YOU.
Today's teens are exposed to more conflicting information about sex than ever before. Some schools offer counseling on birth control and sexual disease prevention. Others preach absolute abstinence. Magazines, movies, MTV, and the Internet provide a mind-numbing array of explicit sexual images. And who knows what lessons American teens learned about appropriate sexual behavior from the Clinton years in the Whitehouse?
No one can tell parents what to tell their children about sex. But whatever a family's sexual values and attitudes, the important thing is that they be shared. Experts advise that when parents do the teaching, children are much better able to make responsible, informed choices about sex when the time comes.
It's Never Too Soon
Dr. Harris Faigel, a Boston-based pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine, explains, "Children start having sexual feelings around the age of 4 . Those feelings don't go away and suddenly reappear at puberty. It's important for parents to treat ongoing questions about sex as they would any other part of their child's education."
Debra Haffner, president and CEO of SIECUS (Sex Information and Education Council of the United States), advises: "Don't wait for your teens to ask you about sex -- they may not. We don't wait to talk to our kids about other important matters of health and safety. Why should the subject of sex be any different?"
Haffner recommends looking for "teachable moments" at mealtimes or when watching TV together--times when parents and teens can exchange ideas on issues like safe sex, dating, pregnancy, or homosexuality. For example, a parent might ask if a child has seen a newspaper article on the spread of AIDS and then discuss it. Or during a commercial break, ask the child how she feels about a particular character or situation in the program. "Listen, and then present your values," Haffner advises. "Help set limits for behavior by letting your child know how you feel."
As with many other parenting issues, it's important to establish house rules. "Parents are not policemen," says Dr. Faigel. "Nor are they out to win a popularity contest." By letting your child know what is expected, you put the responsibility for making good choices on the teen, and he or she is much less likely to just follow the crowd.
When Parents Feel Awkward
Parents are often the primary source of information about sex, both in what they say and how they behave in front of their children. Still, some parents may feel uncomfortable discussing matters of intimacy, especially for the first time or with opposite-sex children. Dr. Faigel suggests these parents role play with each other first, practicing ways to present sensitive subjects honestly and openly to their teens.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should answer their teenager's questions based on their own value system--even if they think their values are old-fashioned by today's standards.
Some parents feel that if they bring up the subject of birth control, they may be encouraging the child to have sexual intercourse. But offering information isn't the same as offering the tools themselves. And according to SIECUS, "with open communication, young people are more likely to turn to their parents in times of trouble. Without it, they will not."
If you feel you can't discuss certain aspects of sex or sexuality with your child, you may consider enlisting the help of a close relative such as an aunt or uncle. And there are many excellent books, pamphlets, and videos available for parents and teens, including a comprehensive and very readable report from the National Commission on Adolescent Sexual Health entitled Facing Facts.
Whether parents are ready for it or not, the teen years are a time of sexual exploration-- one natural, healthy step at a time. The point of discussing sexual health with your child is to provide accurate information and to help set values for responsible sexual decision-making at each step.
Developmental psychologists divide adolescence into three stages. The age ranges differ for boys and girls. Early adolescence is 9-13 for girls and 11-15 for boys. The middle stage is 13-16 for girls, 14-17 for boys. The late stage is 16 and older for girls, 17 and older for boys.
Of course each child matures differently, and many factors, including physical, emotional, psychological, cultural, and spiritual, play roles in the process becoming a sexually healthy adult. Degrees of sexual experimentation are natural and appropriate at each stage. However, some experts say that having sexual intercourse too soon may be damaging to other areas of development.
While some studies estimate that more than 80% of Americans have intercourse for the first time in their teens, parents may be relieved to know that the average age at first experience has only dropped 1 year in the last 30. The current average age is 16 for males and 17 for females. Reports also show that the majority of teens who are having sex do so with someone they love or are seriously dating, and they are using contraceptives as consistently and effectively as most adults.
Both Faigel and Haffner stress the importance of keeping involved in your child's life. If you've had a discussion about a particular sexual topic in the past, check back in and find out what's happening now. Meet your child's friends, male and female. Know who's phoning your house. And if your child is invited to a party, don't be afraid to speak to the other parents and ask about adult supervision. It's your right and your responsibility, and the message is you care.
Haffner says, "Teens need a good listening to." Listen for opportunities to share your values about sex, to describe what we do with our bodies, to explore what sexuality is, to talk about how we define ourselves as men and women. Help your teenager learn that being in an intimate relationship is a wonderful and pleasurable part of being an adult.
IF, AFTER READING THESE PAGES, YOU BELIEVE YOUR CHILD IS SUFFERING FROM SOME FORM OF SEX ADDICTION, HELP MAY BE AVAILABLE THROUGH ONE OF THE SCHOOLS/RESIDENTIAL FACILITIES ADVOCATED BY TEENPATHS.
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| Page Modified Tue Oct 27 21:05:23 CST 2009