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Let’s Talk About Porn: Part 2

teen struggles with porn

(This is Part 2 of our Let’s Talk About Porn series. Read Part 1 of the series right here. )

Feel Good Moments

I love cheese dip! I could eat it every day. You put a bowl of cheese dip and chips in front of me, and I’m a happy man. And no, I don’t care what kind of cheese dip it is: white or yellow, homemade or store-bought, restaurant or gas station (ok, maybe not gas station…but only maybe). Cheese dip is my super yummy and totally unhealthy addiction.

What’s your food idol? What’s the one thing you always look forward to eating? Whatever it is, you probably have similar thoughts like mine about cheese dip.

What does this have to do with porn?

Well, when a teen struggles with porn, similar symptoms and feelings occur. It makes them feel good at the moment. But porn is porn no matter what “kind” it is, and it can quickly become addicting. Now, we can all agree this is not a good thing, but why are our teenagers becoming addicted to porn? Why does porn feel so good on the front end, but so bad on the back end?

I think the answer lies somewhere between the head and the heart.

So let’s start with the head…specifically the teenage brain.

The Teenage Brain

“Our brains react to pornography the same way an alcoholic might react to seeing a drink advertisement.”

enough.org

What happens in the developing adolescent brain when they look at porn? 

Between the ages of 10 and 13, the brain experiences an enormous amount of growth causing it to form new neuron pathways quickly. This is important to note because as new habits form, the brain carves out new rhythms and ways of experiencing life. The areas of the brain dealing with emotion, pleasure, and reward are widespread during this phase. This is probably why teenagers are so emotionally unstable at times!

In these pleasure and reward areas of the brain, a fun little neurotransmitter named Dopamine is being highly released when porn is viewed. The brain really likes this and thinks the more dopamine, the better. So it will note those pleasurable experiences (porn) that caused big dopamine hits and make you crave those experiences even more (addiction).

This is why porn addiction is extremely difficult to break during the adolescent years. Their brain is rewiring itself to long for these pleasurable experiences.

There’s also another area of the adolescent brain that is greatly affected…

Prefrontal Region: The Judgement Zone

“Studies have shown that the prefrontal part of the brain that controls common sense, judgment, and emotion is not mature until approximately 21 years of age. Exposure to healthy sexual norms and attitudes during this critical period can result in the child developing a healthy sexual orientation. In contrast, if there is exposure to pornography during this period, thoughts of sexual deviance may become imprinted on the child’s “hard drive” and become a permanent part of his or her sexual orientation.”

Closing the Window

Adolescent brains are not to the point yet where they can see future consequences, control feelings, or always make well thought out decisions. Throw in porn with high hormone levels during this phase that skyrockets your sex drive, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster among our teens.

When a teen struggles with porn, their brain is rewiring itself to crave more of it. This forms an addiction that is very difficult to stop, without fully understanding the adverse effects that come along with it.

The Teenage Heart

“Porn is an external expression of an inward issue.”

Closing the Window

Not only is porn affecting the brain, but also the heart (the inner you). Teenagers are driven individuals that feel their emotions strongly. They long for adventure, connection, belonging, pleasure, and to find their purpose or identity.

So when porn enters their life, their heart enters somewhat of a battle. It makes them feel good, but also terrible.

Porn pulls at the heartstrings. It’s pleasurable and creates a virtual connection where you experience “acceptance” from the person on the other side of the screen. But it can also cause the heart to experience guilt, shame and secretive living. It’s also proven to cause stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and feelings of not being good enough.

The “Why” When A Teen Struggles With Porn

Besides what we learned about the brain, porn becomes an answer for a deeper issue within. Teens often long for acceptance and belonging, and porn gives them an outlet to temporarily fulfill these longings. While viewing pornography, teens may feel valued, wanted and accepted. But as we all know, these feelings are false solutions to heart issues.

Porn doesn’t actually give us our heart’s desire. It never satisfies. It only leaves us feeling lonely and incapable of self-control. Porn makes you feel never good enough.

Spiritually speaking, porn causes you to do the exact thing that Adam and Eve did when they sinned: hide from God.

A Spiritual Issue

“Porn weakens or switches off your conscious…you block your ears and heart from hearing God…then the voice of truth becomes a dull echo in my heart.”

Closing the Window

God told those who love Him that He would never leave them nor forsake them and that we are counted righteous because of Jesus. However, viewing porn can make a Christian feel just the opposite. Talk about a struggle within, especially for a teenager!

So when you take the teenage head and heart and throw pornography in the mix, lots of current and long-term issues will arise. And when a teen struggles with porn, it can become a seemingly endless cycle of feeling good and feeling shame and guilt (not good).

The only thing their heart wants is to feel good again, so the brain tells them, “I know how to make you feel good” and they go back to looking at porn. And so goes the struggle cycle.

The question now is, how do you help your teen break this struggle cycle? How can they move forward in a healthy way?

Stay tuned for part 3 where we’ll discuss different ways to help your kid conquer their struggles with pornography.

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