Bill, whose real name is confidential, picked up his phone and typed in the URL for an X-rated porn movie. He had been to that site before. That night he viewed one video after another. When he looked at his watch, he was surprised that it was 4 a.m. He would have to get up for school in two hours.
An increasing number of teens like Bill are finding themselves hooked on pornography. There are a number of reasons for this upward trend. One reason, in my view, is the problem of depression. Statistics from a 2014 study by the National Institute of Mental Health show the following numbers for teens that had at least one major depressive episode in the previous 12 months:
- 17.3% of adolescents that had a major depressive episode in 2014 were female.
- 5.7% of adolescents that had a major depressive episode in 2014 were male.
- 5.7% were 12 years old.
- 8.7% were 13 years old.
- 10.7% were 14 years old.
- 13.0% were 15 years old.
- 14.1% were 16 years old.
- 15.1 % were 17 years old.
Teens who are depressed are more likely to get hooked on pornography. They get an escalation in the levels of Dopamine and other feel-good chemicals. They get trapped unwittingly by the Limbic system reward-circuitry and it can be difficult to stop.
Conversely, teens who are addicted to the Internet and/or pornography are more likely to develop depression or other psychiatric issues. One study reported in WebMD states that teens who use “the Internet pathologically may be about 2.5 times more likely to develop depression than teens who are not addicted to the Internet.”
How do you know if your teen is struggling with depression? Here are 10 common signs to look for:
- Irritability or anger
- Poor school performance
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Lack of energy
- Lack of motivation or enthusiasm
- Restless or agitation
- Suicidal ideation
Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that worrisome symptoms will go away. If you suspect your teen is depressed, bring up your concerns in a loving, non-judgmental way. Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing are signs of a problem that should be addressed.
There likely are signs that Internet usage may be the culprit. One of the first signs is a decline in school performance. Other signs might include: repeated surfing or e-mailing, hours of night-time use, changes in mood, pulling away from family and peer relationships, and increasing signs of disrespect and dishonesty. A telltale sign is defiance and angry outbursts when trying to limit computer or phone use.