Teenagers who watch porn risk sex addiction: expert

Kimberly Gillan
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
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Almost half of sex addicts first experience problems as teenagers, according to a leading sex therapist who blames easy access to online pornography and poor sex education for the problem.

US sex addiction therapist Paula Hall surveyed 350 people who described themselves as sex addicts, a quarter of whom were women, for her new book Understanding and Treating Sex Addiction.

Hall's research also found 40 percent of teenagers had accessed pornography before they turned 12 and that 90 percent of sex addicts blamed it for their addiction.

"What surprised me was the number who are using porn –– 90 per cent of the men I surveyed, and 74 per cent of the women, said they were heavy porn-users," she told the UK's The Independent.

"We have this idea that women are into relationship sex while men are more visually stimulated, so this seemed to fly in the face of that."

Almost half of the sex addicts Hall surveyed had experienced childhood abuse or assault and many believed single sex schooling, inadequate sex education and parental separation had contributed to their problem.

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Hall defines sex addiction as "a pattern of out-of-control sexual behaviour that causes problems in someone's life", and she was interested to discover what factors contributed to its development and what impact it has on addicts' lives.

One interesting finding was that men are more likely to seek help for sex addiction, with almost 57 percent seeking help, compared with just 38 percent of women.

When asked what they craved, women said it was "affirmation and feeling wanted", while men were more likely to cite excitement as the biggest "reward".

Almost half of those surveyed said they experienced mental health problems and 65 percent of participants admitted having a low self-esteem.

"The reality of the Western world today is that 'opportunity' is everywhere and people, with or without a background of trauma and/or attachment difficulties, can now indulge their sexual desires and run the risk of becoming addicted," Hall said.

Almost half of the participants' behaviour had caused a relationship breakdown and 63 percent said they had wasted time as a result of it.

"Porn is like the gateway drug. Just as with cannabis and cocaine, many people will use the gateway drug and never become addicted; but others most definitely will," Hall said.

"And unlike drugs or alcohol, users don't even realise they're dealing with something that might prove to be addictive."


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