Parents should limit adolescent exposure to porn

I just read a rather large article on the cover the Sunday New York Times Review section about pornography and adolescents that basically summarized multiple studies as inconclusive at best. I have a first hand perspective having seen the effects of premature exposure to porn first hand in clinical practice with sex addiction. Pornography is addictive and harmful, especially to adolescents and young adults. I say this because I have listened to countless stories of desensitization and trouble with intimacy. Desensitization basically means that normal, healthy sex is boring and sometimes nearly impossible for people whose neurology has changed as a result of overexposure to porn. Watching more and more porn leads some people to view harder, stranger, and rougher material as their dopamine system seeks greater stimulation.

As a Dutch study does suggest, “when teens watch porn they tend to be more dissatisfied with their sexual lives. This effect is not really a strong effect though. And teens with more sexual experience didn’t show this effect at all.” In my experience, this effect is strong in some, especially those prone to addiction. And it’s harder to study this effect in the U.S because Universities are loath to sanction studies with dubious ethics and also because we tend to be less liberal around teenage sexuality creating a propensity to study if pornography causes kids to have sex earlier as opposed to the quality of their relationship experiences.

Parents: please limit adolescent exposure to porn if at all possible. I strongly agree with researchers arguments to talk about sex, sexuality, and porn with your children. The more comfortable you are as an adult around sex and sexuality, the easier it will be for your children to navigate these increasingly challenging waters in the 21st century!

Toxic Wealth

The New York Times Sunday Review section has a cover article on toxic wealth or addiction to money as the author, Sam Polk, a former Wall Street Trader puts it. For years, he felt lousy about seven figure bonuses because colleagues made even more. The money, though outrageous by Main Street standards, was never enough. I have lived and worked in Fairfield County, Connecticut on and off for decades. I have seen this phenomenon many times firsthand as a psychologist and business coach – not having enough. A women I saw recently was bitter at her husband because they went thru several million dollars of her savings, which she got in a divorce to a Wall Street guy,  over the course of a ten year marriage and she only had ten million left and it wasn’t nearly enough because even her “poor friends” had more. This not enough mentality is pervasive in our culture, Hollywood and Wall Street being extreme examples. What we don’t have enough of is kindness, creativity, and compassion from my perspective. As Mr. Polk points out, “only a wealth addict would feel justified in receiving $14 million in compensation – as the C.E.O of McDonalds did in 2012 while his company then published a brochure for its work force on how to survive on  their low wages.”  This is not an easy issue to address in a culture that idolizes the super-rich. It’s a good article to raise awareness, the first step to change!

Some thoughts on addiction

As I read this article in the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition, I noticed one particular sentence that inspired me to write these thoughts: the . Underneath every addiction are emotions like anger, fear, loneliness, boredom, and anxiety that are being avoided or temporarily covered up by compulsive behaviors. I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of “addicts” in my lifetime and not one didn’t have some underlying pain that he or she was trying to avoid or hide. To be successful in life and overcome addictions in particular, we must face our emotions and not avoid them. With awareness, which means identifying the cues that trigger deleterious behavior, we can learn to substitute more positive behaviors for lousy ones like gambling, porn, alcohol, drugs, good, sex and so on!