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I’m 16, and Porn Is Affecting My Studies

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

I am 16 years old and in my last year of high school. This year is extremely important for me because it is going to determine my future. I have been a very bright student, in the top 0.5% of students in my country. The problem is that in the past year I've become addicted to porn and cannot focus on my studies. I used to watch it earlier. Since it did not affect my studies at school, I was OK with it, but now it is really troubling me. I know I can do very well at school, but I am just not able to keep focus on my books. Please help me. Thank you. - Distracted

Dear Distracted,

Thank you so much for your question, Distracted. First of all, for the purposes of grammar and keeping it simple I’m going to assume you are male, while understanding you could just as easily be female (since this problem affects more women than previously thought). Second, I know you’re very bright because you are doing something to address this serious issue at a relatively young age. Most people I treat in my practice ignore the problem until it reaches a breaking point, and even then they struggle and resist really making any changes (i.e. even after their divorce or business falls apart). So congratulations for having the smarts and courage to address it now!

The first thing I would do, and this probably will not shock you coming from a therapist, is to see a therapist, at least for a consultation. (If possible, you could do so without telling your parents first; if money is an issue, see if a local therapist who specializes in addictions will see you for a low-cost consultation or a phone conversation, since most therapists will do 15 to 20 minutes on the phone for free; you can do so with the understanding that you may become a client if parental support is given, etc. The first topic could be how to pay for the treatment or break the news to your parents. This of course may not be an issue, but often is.)

Addiction is interrelated with all kinds of other issues, including anxiety, stress, relationships with peers and opposite sex, sexuality (of course), and even family relationships. In a way, the behavior itself is but a symptom of issues lurking beneath the surface. Stopping the “symptom” behavior is much easier once you are getting emotional support and guidance for internal conflicts. You’ll probably want to put a strong filter on your computer, and allow a good friend or family member to set the password. (Try not to expect total success the first time you try to stop; it usually takes time and numerous tries, just don’t give up.) I also recommend finding nondestructive ways to relax, such as meditation, exercise, yoga, socializing with friends, some way to relax and distract your mind from cravings to “act out” with porn. Remember that every craving has a beginning, middle, and end. Each time you have a craving and don’t look at porn, you get a little bit stronger over your addiction.

I encourage you to find some kind of group support. Sometimes religious or civic centers (church or synagogue, YMCA, boys clubs, etc.) have support groups for teens struggling with a variety of things, including addictions. You can probably even find some online support, but the point is to try and take the shame out of the problem by relating to others with the same problem, since you are not alone. There have been scores of media stories lately about the epidemic of online addiction of one type or another, porn addiction being one. (Just look on YouTube for some recent ABC News stories on this.) Again, I think it’s great you’re facing the problem now. Because it really doesn’t just “go away” unless you address it.

You could also check online for local sex-addiction-recovery meetings (Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex/Love Addicts Anonymous) and call the meeting chairman (or chairwoman) to see if they know of any local support for folks your age. Some cities are now offering at least one weekly meeting for teens struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors; alternately, you could check with whichever therapist you speak with if there are therapy groups for teens which address this issue. Group therapy can be even more helpful than individual therapy for certain issues (like addiction) and is cheaper than one-on-one treatment. You could even start your own group or meeting somewhere, advertising it anonymously. I recommend a couple of good books: In the Shadows of the Net by Patrick Carnes and The Porn Trap by Wendy & Larry Maltz, both of which offer insight and practical advice on facing this addiction.

Finally, I know of several residential-treatment centers that work with teens and behavioral addictions. You can e-mail me via this website if you want more information on that. It may sound extreme, but sometimes an intensive approach really jump-starts one’s recovery and results in a new “toolkit” to fight such an insidious malady. Plus, it allows you to develop friendships with those with whom you can relate and identify, which can be invaluable in terms of support and encouragement.

Again, thank you so much for writing, and I commend you for taking that scary but necessary first step, which is saying, “I need help, now what?” Too many people with this problem never do.

 
Comments
  • dane November 30th, 2012 at 3:09 PM #1

    Dude if this is a problem now, then you gotta get this kid some help. 16?!? Geez, the world has come so far since I was that age. Yeah we used to hide girly mags under the bed, but now it can be 24/7 if you want it, and apparently he does and I am tellin you, this will ruin your life this kind of addiction at such an early age.

  • CAIN November 30th, 2012 at 5:07 PM #2

    You say you used to watch porn earlier too and it didn’t affect your studies.But now it does.Think of what change actually resulted in this problem cropping up.If you can identify and eliminate that I think it could help.

    And hey,I am not suggesting continuing porn without an issue like before, completely quitting it is definitely the best thing to do!

  • A Hayden December 1st, 2012 at 1:51 AM #3

    When I was in my teens I was pretty much addicted to porn too.I then signed up on a forum that discussed such issues and although I did not attend any formal therapy,virtually interacting with people with a similar problem and the methods adopted by former addicts actually helped me.What could also have helped me is the mental maturing.I was quickly out of the porn trap,and let me tell you life is much better when you are no more addicted.I hope this sounds like a good reward to motivate you.All the best in your fight against porn addiction.

  • george December 1st, 2012 at 11:58 PM #4

    there is so much you can do to overcome this habit,this addiction.some wonderful advice has already been given here.but all that can be fruitful only if you decide to follow through and stick with it.if you slip while you’re on the recovery path it will only make it that much harder.so stay focused to getting away from it and I hope it works out for you.I commend you for identifying and coming out with the problem at an early stage before it has done any real damage.

  • Leila December 2nd, 2012 at 5:12 AM #5

    Find this to be a very poor excuse

    You are 16 and it is time to grow up

    Want to spend the erst of your life addicted to something so unattainable and ultimately meaningless?

    I encourage you to tell your parents, get rid of the computer, and get back to the books like and 16 year old should be doing

  • Jaques December 2nd, 2012 at 11:01 PM #6

    Leila, please be kind. This young man is trying to correct a problem in his life. I applaud him for his efforts and pray for a successful outcome for him. He is brave for reaching out and asking for help.

  • martha w December 2nd, 2012 at 11:24 PM #7

    well you know it’s wrong and is affecting you. thats a good start no doubt. just install filters and seek help as destined here.

    and I like how the response says you grow staring everyone you choose to say no to your addiction. I think that holds true for any form of addiction and negative habit. I might implement that myself. Thanks!

  • Edie R December 3rd, 2012 at 4:04 AM #8

    I really hope that this child can find a way to talk to his parents or some adult and get the help that he needs. I am so torn because I think that what probably started out as a very benign interest in porn has turned into something that he now feels like he can’t shake. I have so much sympathy because I find this to be so young to be so dependednt and needy on an external factor in life that really starts out as harmless experimentation and curiosity.

  • Darren Haber, MFT February 12th, 2013 at 8:05 AM #9

    Thanks all for your responses. I like the encouragement to get help because in all likelihood this will get worse, not better. Also I myself am surprised at how widespread this problem is becoming with male teens especially.

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