All posts by gabbert2013

About gabbert2013

I have been a psychotherapist for 20+ years. I specialize in Marriage & Family Therapy and addictions. My practice name is Interactions Therapy Center. I've learned a few things over the years and hope you'll find these blogs interesting.

What’s the Harm of Social Media on Our Youth?

My great-niece, Amanda, had what appeared to be a falling out with her friend. They had been best friends largely due to proximity. They were neighbors and could talk across the fence. Last year Amanda refused invitations for play. Upon searching for a cause, she admitted that her friend wasn’t fun anymore. Her friend ignored her when they were together because she was on social media or playing on touchscreen devices. It just wasn’t fun for Amanda.

It’s not that Amanda doesn’t have her own tablet for games. In fact, I gave her a Kindle Fire for her third birthday. And I recently gave her my old iPod at nine years old. These were well-intentioned gestures but I already have regrets. Research demonstrates both positive and negative aspects of touchscreen devices but some of the harmful effects cause me to worry.

Everyone knows that children’s use should be monitored and their viewing time should be limited. Computers and other devices should be kept in a public place and children shouldn’t be allowed to take them to bed with them. They shouldn’t even be used as an alarm clock. You should set restrictions so they can’t access adult content.

Psychologist Sue Palmer believes the IPad is a threat to our children. She points to excessive screen time as associated with obesity, sleep disorders, aggression, poor social skills, depression and academic underachievement. Although toddlers become adept at swiping a screen, children’s coordination may lag due to a sedentary lifestyle. Other research has demonstrated beneficial effects such as improving early literacy skills and improving academic engagement in students with autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a guideline of no screen time for children under two and a maximum of two hours a day thereafter.

There is compelling research that social media contributes to social isolation, rather than social engagement. More time on social media is linked to depression, jealousy, low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority. A study from the University of Pittsburgh found that people who used social media two hours or more a day had twice the odds of feeling socially isolated than people who spent less than half an hour a day. Theories about why this happens is that viewing social media takes away from person to person contact. Or, that we make comparisons to others’ posts and may feel jealous of what appears to be a happier life than ours. One study found that regardless of the number of friends we have on social media, we still only have a small circle of real friends. Some say that real friendships require actual person to person contact. And for children that means just hanging out.

Technology is a wonderful tool and social media itself is not bad. However, children do not have the ego strength to combat cyber-bullying. They take negativity to heart. Without a fully developed brain and maturity, they are vulnerable to aggressive or hurtful words and lack sufficient skills to cope. For children who are still developing social skills and have insecurities, social media may amplify their struggles of feeling left out. Those not invited to join their friend’s activity are keenly aware of it, if their friends post news of the event.

What worries me most for Amanda is research by Jean Twenge which states that teen depression and suicide has skyrocketed since 2011, when IPads and IPhones entered the scene. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an IPhone. Teens are frequently on their phones, in their room, alone and often may be depressed. “The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40% between the years 2000 to 2015. Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.”

My advice to Amanda is to use the IPod in moderation, limiting it to under two hours per day. Then put down the device and do something that does not involve a screen. I want her to fill her life with physical activities like sports, outdoor hobbies, or just hanging out with her friends, without a tablet or phone.

Obscenities: What’s the Point?

My nine-year-old great-niece, Amanda, was taught not to use swear words. There is socially acceptable language and then there are “bad words.” She told her grandmother that her four-year-old brother had watched a movie with bad words in it. When asked what the words were, Amanda said they were “S” words. Her grandmother asked what the “S” words were. To her surprise, Amanda said the movie had words like stupid and shut up in it. Her grandmother could think of a number of worse “S” words. Children are taught the difference between respectful language and words that can hurt. Young children haven’t mastered the concept of empathy or socially acceptable words.

What about adults that freely use obscenities? Some people believe that swearing is a sign of a limited vocabulary, a result of a lack of education, laziness or impulsiveness. This theory would believe that when people struggle to find the right words, they fill in the gaps with swear words. Research has demonstrated that this is not the case. Instead, people fill the gaps with “ers” and “ums,” not swear words. Interestingly, researchers found that fluency with taboo words might be a sign of overall verbal fluency or intelligence. They may be more sophisticated in the linguistic resources they can draw from to make their point.

There is a field of research that studies the reasons why we swear. There are distinctions between taboo words that express heightened emotional states (e.g., f*ck), person-directed words (e.g., f*cker) and slurs (e.g., sl*t). Verbally fluent people have the ability to use these words fluently, but they may choose not to. They may have a wider vocabulary to draw from and will express themselves in a socially acceptable way.

Timothy Jay, a professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts says we use taboo words at a rate of one taboo word per 200 words. This rate differs among age groups. Swearing peaks in adolescence; men swear more often and more offensively; and swearing differs from one individual to the next.

Profanity in some settings is considered inappropriate and unacceptable. It’s usually related to anger, frustration or surprise. But it can also be associated with honesty, being used to express unfiltered feelings and sincerity. Some people appreciate those who “tell it like it is” rather than filter their language to be more acceptable.

I have been known to use cuss words. And although I’m comfortable with taboo words, I am aware that words can hurt. Freedom of speech is a founding principle of a democratic society, but there is also “unprotected speech” where it can be restricted. Slander, libel, and “fighting words” are examples of unprotected speech that are deemed harmful to others.

I’m an advocate for respectful language. I want Amanda, and others, to choose their words carefully in a respectful and socially acceptable manner.

Moral Injury Can Cause PTSD

Most people who are familiar with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) tend to associate it with war veterans. However, war veterans are not the only ones with this disorder. PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. This event can be either experiencing it or witnessing it such as sexual assault, traffic collisions, or other threats on a person’s life. Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response.

Another term you may not be familiar with is “moral injury.” This occurs when one perpetuates, inflicts, or fails to prevent violence on others, or witness acts that transgress one’s deeply held moral beliefs. These may be either acts of omission and/or commission that lead to internal conflicts, shame, guilt and failure to forgive oneself.

Let me give you an example from a woman that I will call Kit. Kit’s roommate and best friend, Jane, developed cancer. Kit was an outgoing and highly social woman who enjoyed her job in the restaurant field as a server and bartender. She was a single mom, had many friends, and was a kind and giving person. When Jane became ill, Kit made the choice to be her primary caretaker in their home. She thought she could handle the responsibilities, with assistance from the hospice, and make Jane comfortable until the time came for her to die. It was her intention to provide quality, compassionate care for Jane. Her goal was for Jane to live as long as possible, and as well as possible.

Toward the end of Jane’s life she became restless and agitated. Kit administered a ‘comfort pack’ that hospice had provided to make Jane more comfortable. The comfort pack consists of medications to be used only when needed to relieve symptoms that arise in terminally ill patients. Jane was given two of these packs and her morphine drip was increased. Whereas Jane had been alert prior to the administration of the comfort packs, she became over sedated and could no longer speak. She died shortly afterward. Kit believed that she had mishandled these medications and caused her friend to die. She thought “It was not my role to administer the packs. We should’ve waited for more assistance. I didn’t understand what I was getting in to. I wish I had more education on what to expect.” Kit thought she had prevented Jane from communicating all that she may have wanted to say before she died. Instead of assisting Jane to live as long as possible, and as well as possible, she thought she had prevented Jane from her last words and had hastened her death. This was a moral injury.

Although she was a willing caretaker, she was unprepared for the reality of the dying process and she was not prepared for the emotional consequences to herself. Kit developed PTSD symptoms including depression and anxiety. She withdrew socially and rarely left the house. She was unable to work in situations that required social contact. She had intrusive memories of the process and could no longer tolerate the sight or description of blood; could not tolerate the sounds of labored breathing or slurping noises. She developed an aversion to certain smells and tastes.

I would like to say that Kit is now healthy and happy, but in spite of gains, remnants of this trauma persist. She still struggles with shame, guilt and failure to forgive herself as well as other PTSD symptoms. It is important to Kit that people understand that PTSD is not confined to war veterans. It can happen to anyone. If you are suffering from similar symptoms, get help from a mental health professional.

Gardening Is Good for the Body and Soul

I’m not much of a gardener. For the most part, I plant Hostas and hope for the best. I work in an office and sit all day. I’m either engaged with people, or sitting at the computer. When I’m home, I’m most often reading or on my IPad. It can’t be good for my body or spirit. But when I’m in the garden, I notice a lift in my mood and outlook. It turns out there are quite a few psychological and medical benefits of gardening.

Gardening can ease stress and improve your mood. A study in the Netherlands found that gardening lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, in comparison with a control group of people who read indoors for relaxation. A different study in Norway found that gardening helps improve depression. People who spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables had a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. Their mood continued to improve for three months after the gardening program ended.

There are benefits to getting your hands dirty and being in the sun. Christopher Lowry, PhD at the University of Colorado at Boulder says that Mycobacterium, a harmless bacterium commonly found in soil, increases the release and metabolism of serotonin in the brain. This is similar to what antidepressant medications do. And the lack of certain bacteria in our environment throws our immune system out of whack which can lead to inflammation and illness. Gardening can also keep you limber and get your blood moving. Regular gardening cuts stroke and heart attack risk by up to 30% for people over 60. Exposure to the sun will increase vitamin D and reduce the risks of heart disease, osteoporosis and various cancers.

It keeps your mind sharp. The physical activity with gardening can lower the risk of developing dementia. Two studies followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years, found that those who gardened regularly had a 36% to 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners. As we age, we lose dexterity and strength in our hands. Gardening keeps the hand muscles agile.

Just walking in nature may be therapeutic. Or, simply looking at nature. A study compared two groups of patients recovering after surgery. One group looked out their windows at green trees, and the other looked out their window to a brick wall. The patients who had a view of trees healed significantly faster, needed less pain medication, and had fewer complications.

A garden, as simple or as complex as it can be, provides a sense of pride and accomplishment. So get out there and reap the benefits of nature.

Altruism

Altruism is the opposite of selfishness. It is the practice of concern for the welfare of others. Not everyone is capable of altruism. Some people lack empathy toward others, and would only offer assistance if it benefitted them. Others will help people in distress even when helping could easily be avoided. Even toddlers can be observed to have a desire to help others. Animals have been seen to exhibit compassionate behavior at their own expense. Examples of altruistic behaviors are helping, sharing, cooperation, philanthropy, and community service such as volunteerism.

Research shows that people are more likely to help if they see a person in need and they feel personal responsibility for reducing their distress. Studies also have shown that the number of bystanders witnessing suffering affects the likelihood of helping. Too many bystanders may decrease individual feelings of responsibility. You may think someone else will respond.

There are benefits to looking out for others. Volunteering has a positive effect on happiness and current and future health and well-being. It improves mental and physical health and longevity. Interestingly, it works in the other direction. Happy people are also kinder.

Perhaps you are concerned about injustices, poverty, the environment, or any other social issue. You may think “I’m just one person, how can I make a difference?” It is said that your individual efforts may not change the world, but it could change the world of one person. You don’t have to do it alone. And in fact, studies have shown that feeling over-taxed and overwhelmed by the needs of others can have a negative effect on health and happiness.

I am a member of Rotary International. Last year, our local Rotary Club had a membership of fifty-one people. At a recent meeting, I asked our committee chairs to estimate how many people their efforts benefitted. Our club recognized 24 high school students who were nominated by their teachers as having made considerable improvements. We hosted an outing for 85 senior citizens. Approximately 300 people benefitted from our international service program, this year focusing on needs in Chili. Between 150-200 people have benefitted from a free furniture program. Our club distributed 350 dictionaries to 3rd grade children. Approximately 400 people were involved in an educational “roundtable discussion” focused on water. Additionally, 45 high school students received financial scholarships. We hosted a foreign exchange student from Spain, and sent out a student to Finland. We began a new project to fund GED’s and citizenship fees for people who need them. The Galena Rotary Club counted 1892 people served by fifty-one members last year. That is an amazing figure, particularly in this small rural town. We have changed the world for individuals, our community, and the world.

If you begin to feel apathetic, overwhelmed, depressed or burned out in your attempts to make a difference, I recommend that you join clubs or groups with other like-minded people. Each and every one of us, doing small things together, really can change the world.

Domestic Violence: Pit Bulls and Cobras

I read with interest a news story that took place in Sycamore, IL, the place of my birth. Sycamore is a small rural town with a population of 17,519. It is a lovely place that was named after the Sycamore tree. Crime is 56% lower than the national average and has actually decreased. So you can imagine my surprise to learn of a homicide this month.

On June 9th Lidia Juarez was killed by her estranged husband by gunshot while in her car. Upon returning from lunch, she was found in the parking lot of her employer located in Sycamore. She worked in the social services field as a caseworker for the IL Department of Human Services.

She had filed an order of protection which her husband, Antonio Juarez, violated on March 10. He was also wanted on another warrant, issued March 24, for failing to appear in court for a domestic battery charge. He was found about an hour from where she was killed. He was shot and killed by police after he opened fire on the officers in Lyons, IL.

What causes domestic abuse? No one knows precisely what causes it, and there is no one reason. It is unpredictable. The victim can’t predict when the batterer will strike.

So what kind of a person commits domestic violence? Neil Jacobson and John Gottman did a study on men who commit domestic violence and found two profiles of men who engage in this behavior: pit bulls and cobras. This finding comes from studying physiological arousal during aggression. 20% of batterers can be described as cobras. They exhibited a decrease in heart rate as they became verbally aggressive. They looked, sounded and acted aggressively, yet internally they were calm. “Like the cobra who becomes still and focused just before striking its victim, these men were calming themselves internally and focusing their attention, while striking swiftly at their wives with vicious verbal aggression.” Cobras were more likely to use or threaten to use a knife or gun than the pit bulls. The Jacobson and Gottman study found that 9 percent had either stabbed or shot their partners. In general, cobras were more severely violent than the other batterers. They tend to be more antisocial, have criminal traits, and are highly sadistic in their aggression.

Pit bulls, on the other hand, had increased heart rates as they became verbally aggressive. They exhibited anger as a slow burn, gradually increasing it but never giving up. Pit bulls were much more insecure. They were fearful of being abandoned and perceived betrayal in their partners every move. They lock onto their partners much like a pit bull who refuses to give up a bone. They apply constant scrutiny and attempts at isolation.

Cobras were not particularly clingy, jealous or emotionally dependent. They may push their partners away, unless they need something and someone to give it to them. Their intense and severe violence will elicit fear and prohibit their partners from leaving.

It is a myth that victims stay in abusive relationships. It is much easier to enter an abusive relationship than leave it. The point at which victims begin to plan their escape is when they change from fearful and sad to disgusted and contemptuous toward their mate. This, with increased awareness of dangerousness, allows them to gather their courage and leave. The attempt to escape is a heroic journey. The risk of severe assault and homicide increases when the victim tries to leave. There is insufficient information to determine if Antonio Juarez was a pit bull or a cobra. There are aspects of both in his behavior. But Lidia had the courage to leave him and seek help. Sadly, the judicial system could not protect her.

This tragedy raises awareness of the dangers surrounding domestic violence. If you need help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233). For additional information, go to www.thehotline.org.

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Can Words Also Break Me?

The Sticks and Stones children’s rhyme encourages victims of bullying to ignore the words, to refrain from retaliation, and to remain calm. This is sound advice for the most part. But it also implies that words are harmless. But the wrong words, at the wrong time, to a vulnerable person can cause unspeakable harm.

For example, this week I read about a 17-year-old girl, Michelle Carter. She is facing a manslaughter charge for encouraging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, aged 18, to kill himself. She used text messages and phone calls to tell him to follow through with his suicide plan. Roy was sitting in his vehicle as the truck filled with carbon monoxide. He became nervous and got out. Michelle told him to ‘get back in’ and ‘it’s time to do it today’. He did in fact get back in the vehicle and die. This is a tragic story on several different levels.

Conrad had a difficult life. It was alleged that Conrad had become depressed after his parents’ divorce. He was physically and verbally abused by family members, and had done research on suicide methods. Michelle also had mental health struggles and was taking medications. I assume that they were for a psychiatric condition. It was implied that the medications could have impaired her judgment. Neither of these adolescents was in stable mental health.

Studies show that the rational part of a human’s brain isn’t fully developed until he or she is about 25 years old. That’s true for both Conrad and Michelle, who was one year younger than Conrad. As much as people would like to villainize Michelle for what appears to be a deliberate act, it is important to realize that they both have poor reasoning skills.

When people voice suicidal thoughts and intentions, it is believed that their pain, along with their mental illness may impair judgment, and an intervention to stop a suicide is ethically warranted. The suicidal person has lost the ability to carefully weigh the benefits and burdens of continued life. Therefore, health care providers intervene to provide life-sustaining treatments. Conrad lacked the wisdom of an adult or professional while struggling with life and death issues. He was not able to make a rational, autonomous decision to end his life. He sought support and advise from someone who was too young to be in that role.

Some believe Michelle did it to play the role of grieving girlfriend and to get attention. Perhaps, but she may have also believed she was being helpful. She also said ‘You’re finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain. No more bad thoughts and worries. You’ll be free. It’s okay to be scared and it’s normal. I mean, you’re about to die.’ She knew of his depression and may have wanted to help him find happiness through death. Many people support assisted death as a viable option for people who experience chronic pain. But assisted death, where legal, is performed by physicians for qualified terminally ill people who are going to die anyway. These people request and obtain medication to hasten their deaths. The decision is voluntary and cannot be coerced. Michelle’s irresponsible words can be seen as coercing Conrad’s death. Therefore, she faces a manslaughter charge.

Vulnerable people who lack access to appropriate care and support, may be greatly harmed by words. Conrad could have been helped, rather than harmed, if he had talked to the right person.

If you are approached by someone for support when they are contemplating suicide, help them get appropriate care. Explore the reasons for the request and discuss various ways of addressing their suffering. In the case of an adolescent, inform their family and get professional help. It is our ethical duty to intervene for life, not death. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Blind Spots

I’m impressed with advances in safety features on new cars. The days of looking over your shoulder before changing lanes are over. Side view mirrors don’t see everything. Technology can provide alerts when cars are in your blind spot or alongside you. A flashing light or a vibrating steering wheel will tell you not to proceed. If only we had such a device to detect our personality blind spots and issue a warning to proceed carefully.

Humans have a tremendous capacity for self-deception. Examples of this can be found among addictions – “I can stop anytime I want to”; or persons with anorexia nervosa – they truly perceive themselves as fat; or narcissists – they lack empathy and the ability to be self-critical.

As it turns out, we are not good judges of ourselves. We have some amount of blindness to our own traits.

Humans are capable of unthinkable acts. And yet, many consider themselves to be acting within the realm of normal behavior. Let me give you two examples. First, you may or may not remember Ariel Castro. In October of 2013 he was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for kidnaping and physically, sexually and emotionally abusing three women over an eleven-year period. In spite of evidence of extreme abuse, he took no accountability for his actions. He said he was “a normal guy.” He is clearly and without a doubt, out of the range of normal. His behavior is abnormal.

And then there’s a Brazilian soccer player who had his mistress murdered and fed to dogs. After serving 6.5 years, he claims he is “starting over.” 32-year-old Bruno Fernandes de Souza said: “What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happen in life. I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude.” I get the sense that he truly believes he is not a bad guy. But make no mistake, he is a bad guy. He is a sociopath.

So how does this kind of self-deception work? It works through denial, justification and minimization. People who commit harm have justified their actions to themselves in some way. They minimize or disregard the pain they create for others, thereby reducing their feelings of guilt. Rather than taking responsibility for harming others, they blame others. For example, “She deserved it.” Or, “Other people have done worse, what’s so wrong with it?” Or, in Fernandes de Souza’s case “Why can’t you get over it? I did.”

What can we do? Check our own blind spots through self-reflection. In what way are our beliefs at odds with our actions? Ask other’s for feedback on what they see as our blind spots.

And hold others accountable for their actions. Don’t let them deny, minimize or justify their hurtful actions. If we normalize bad behavior, we unleash more of it in the world. We want to inspire the best in ourselves, not the worse.

Quirks, Flaws and Fatal Flaws

There’s one in every crowd. They are the difficult people who have no idea that they are annoying. They may be unaware that others want to avoid them, or make excuses to get away from them. No one is perfect, but some people are less perfect than others. Let’s sort out quirks, flaws and fatal flaws.

My brother, who is a really great guy, has a quirk. He has been going to Subway Restaurant and ordering the same exact sandwich for eleven years. Since 2006 he has ordered a 6″ ham and turkey sandwich on wheat bread with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, jalapeno, light mayonnaise, mustard, oil, vinegar, seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano. Being quirky is “weird” in an endearing way. My brother is just weird enough to be interesting and intriguing but not weird enough to repel. We all have quirks. You can ask him what mine are.

Flaws on the other hand are deficiencies in a person that are perceived as negative. Examples of a flaw may be frequently interrupting someone, chronic tardiness, or having a hot temper. Some people are flawed with personality disorders. A personality disorder is a “deeply ingrained and maladaptive pattern of behavior of a specified kind, typically manifest by the time one reaches adolescence and causing long-term difficulties in personal relationships or functioning in society.” Many people with personality disorders seek and benefit from treatment.

According to Stuart C. Yudofsky, MD, fatal flaws come from people who are unwilling to acknowledge their personality problems or are unable to change their damaging behaviors. These people may have other attractive qualities and may be in our lives. They may even hold positions of power and influence.

Yudofsky addresses personality disorders in his book Fatal Flaws. He says fatal flaws are brain-based dysfunctions of thinking and impulse that lead to persistent patterns of personality and behavior that betray trust and destroy relationships. His book examines eight personality disorders that often lead to violated trust, broken commitments, dangerous behaviors, and destructive relationships. These disorders are histrionic, narcissistic, antisocial, obsessive-compulsive, paranoid, borderline, schizotypal, and addictive personality disorders. These traits can leave a trail of wreckage. Some of these flaws, like narcissism and antisocial types, will never respond to treatment. They don’t perceive themselves as having flaws.

He states that what makes a flaw “fatal” is if one or more of the following is true (taken from Yudofsky’s book):

1. The person with the flaw does not perceive that he or she has a problem.

2. The person with the flaw does not want to change.

3. The nature of the flaw is such that it is not amenable to correction.

4. The nature of the flaw is such that there is the probability of future physical harm occurring to you, to your child, or to others.

5. The nature of the flaw is such that there is the probability of violations of the law by the individual with the flaw.

6. The nature of the flaw is such that there is the probability that the person with the flaw will involve you in the breaking of the law.

It is important to understand the difference between quirks, flaws and fatal flaws. If you notice someone has a quirk, enjoy it. If you notice someone’s flaws, be forgiving. If there is a threat of serious injury from someone with a fatal flaw, protect yourself.

 

Can You Be Addicted to Sex?

You’ve probably heard the saying “too much of a good thing can kill you.” In many cases, too much of certain behaviors can lead to an addiction. My favorite definition of addiction is a compulsive use of a substance, or behavior, in spite of negative consequences. There are four different stages of addiction; use, misuse, abuse, and dependency.

Most people are well aware of addiction to substances, but don’t know about process addictions. Process addictions are addictions to activities or processes such as gambling, spending, and sex as opposed to drugs or alcohol. They are also known as behavioral addictions. They are defined as a compulsion to engage in behaviors despite the negative impact on one’s life.

Let’s use the example of sex. Healthy sexual expression varies widely. Addiction does not identify certain behaviors as normal and others as abnormal. But it creates a label for problematic behavior gone wild. Some clinicians disagree about whether sex addiction should be considered an addiction. They prefer to call it OCSB, Out of Control Sexual Behavior. Whatever you call it, it comes with risk.

I recently read an article entitled Your Belief in Porn Addiction Makes Things Worse by David J. Ley, PhD. This article addresses the use of porn. He refers to the work of Joshua Grubbs which demonstrates that identifying oneself as a porn addict, creates emotional distress such as depression, anxiety, anger and stress. Moral or religious prohibition against porn can create distress, regardless of the frequency or extent of its use. The author goes so far as to say that porn addiction treatment does more harm than good. He states that “people who believe themselves to be porn addicts need to understand how and why porn use is not an addiction, and how viewing themselves as a porn addict may affect their self-image and emotional health.”

I hear his point that labeling oneself as a porn addict, will likely make you feel bad about yourself. But let’s be clear. It’s not only the label, but the actions associated with porn addition that will make you feel bad about yourself. This is true whether you view porn with religious or moral prohibitions or not.

For example, the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health lists potential negative outcomes. Sexual addiction and compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors (such as porn) lead to increasingly serious consequences, both in the mind of the addict and in his or her life. Research shows that 70 to 75 percent of sexual addicts report having had suicidal thoughts related to their sexual behavior patterns. Often, sex addicts suffer from broken and distant relationships. Forty percent of sex addicts report severe marital and other relationship problems. Health consequences of sex addiction may include HIV infection, genital herpes, HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sex addicts have a highly increased risk of contracting a STD and of passing it along to unknowing spouses or loved ones. Some sex addicts go to jail, lose their jobs, get sued, or have other financial and legal consequences because of their compulsive sexual behavior. Financial difficulties from the purchase of porn, use of prostitutes, and travel for the purpose of a sexual hookup and related activities can tax the addict’s financial resources and those of his or her family, as do the expenses of legal representation in divorce cases.

Therefore, I respectfully disagree with Dr. Ley’s position that treatment for porn addiction does more harm than good. It seems to me that he confuses the use of porn, with the abuse and dependency of viewing porn. He is minimizing the potential negative consequences of Out of Control Sexual Behavior.  If you wonder if your behavior (whether it is eating, spending, gambling, or some other behavior) is out of control, ask yourself if it is compulsive and if there are negative consequences. Has your use of this behavior crossed over into abuse or dependency? If so, treatment is warranted.