Internet Addiction & Sensory Issues

Ok, the real title of this Newsletter is  “Internet Porn & Sex Ed” but we knew SPAM filters would not allow that transmission. Well, at least book burning is behind us.

Part A:  Psychological issues related to Internet Porn

By Lois Prislovsky, Ph.D.

As a psychologist and sidekick to the amazing Barb Rentenbach on Loud Mute Radio, I get asked to help many teens with ADHD and Autism labels – one of the growing areas of concerns is their use of Internet porn.

Today, I am sharing some of my thoughts on the psychological issues related to the Internet Porn epidemic.

Due to impulsivity and social skill challenges, those with ADHD and ASD labels are more susceptible to the deleterious effects.

I will save the moral implications and chain of victimizations related to Internet Porn for others to comment on. A good resource for considering those issues is a touching TED talk by Ran Gavrieli called, “Why I stopped watching porn.”

Clinically, I usually work with boys. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the percentage of boys diagnosed with ADHD is 13.5% as compared to 5.4% in girls. The CDC also repots one in 68 children have been identified with ASD and it is five times more common in males (1 in 42).  Plus, while the percentage of female Internet porn users is growing most users are male.  The numbers are staggering…in fact, psychological research is stymied by trying to find a control group of young males who don’t watch Internet porn.

It’s the perfect storm.  Most boys seek porn by age 10.  And many have access to free high-speed Internet porn -which provides almost unlimited novelty.   Remember the adolescent brain is literally a construction zone and is experiencing a higher reactivity to dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for drive and reward.  Evolution has wired the male brain to seek sexual novelty to increase chances to spread man’s genetic footprint.  Our clients with ADHD typically have reduced dopamine levels and thus seek thrilling experiences and exhilarating sensations and novelty.  So you see the draw.  Problems enter when we consider that this construction zone period of adolescent mental development is also a time of pruning – meaning what they are NOT thinking about will atrophy.   For example, if social interactions and intimate communications and connections are not practiced, those skills will wane.   Making this even more counterproductive for those with ASD who struggle with social communications.

It is a cycle. That is why teens are so vulnerable to addiction – LIKE INTERNET PORN, or drug use – or fatty foods – or any other type of addiction.  Their brains are at the peak of dopamine receptivity and neuroplasticity; so heavily used circuits will strengthen – big time and quickly and unused ones will prune.

Like with any addiction, habituation happens over time. Young men become numb to the pleasure response and seek more novelty and faster.  Which explains why guys will report being “bored” with other less stimulating activities vital for a balanced life.

That novelty quest reminds me of Robin Williams great line, “I don’t understand all the fuss about same sex marriage because anyone whose been married long enough knows it’s the same sex all the time.”

This type of novelty addiction changes the structure and function of the brain.  The good news is that due to neuroplasticity, the brain can change back over time if porn exposure is significantly reduced.

I find the best way is to be straightforward with the guys and educate them on the neurological facts so they understand logically that if they keep over consuming Internet porn they will probably get ED – erectile dysfunction. And not the old man type Viagra can fix…because the problem is not in blood flow or circulation – but in their brain.  It is really happening.  Guys can use one of their multiple open Internet windows to look up the facts.  ED is increasingly a young man’s problem – due in large part to Internet porn – because the addicted brain becomes numb and sends weaker and weaker signals.

I hope this helps.  For a more detailed discussion and actionable steps toward healthy sexuality honoring neurological differences, please tune in to Loud Mute Radio Show 13, Titled = Internet Porn, Erectile Dysfunction, Autism, & Sexuality with Sex Therapist, Edy Nathan.

Part B:  Sex Education, sensory issues, obsessions and equality
By Barb Rentenbach

Thanks, Lois. Looks like I’m not the only one masturbating with my left hand.

These days I also get social media inquiries about sex – my sex. I should clarify these are not Anthony Weiner lewd but more Dr. Ruth kind of questions.

Most are from parents or young people with autism labels genuinely wanting to know if sharing my thorny trail of tears and fears may help their paths be less painful.

I recently answered Mark’s voice mail from NYC because his question pretty much covers it all, besides he sounds cute.

“Yeah, Hi, this is Mark and I’m calling from New York City.   I know your guest this week is sex therapist, Edy Nathan so I know this a timely topic. Barb, do you have sexual urges? Also have you had sex and what do you think about it?”

Dear Mark,

I am glad you asked, because, if you want to know more about ASD, ask a person with an ASD label.

After years of toiling with all I am, I can now type with just one hand touching my back for support to help me initiate movement and overcome my apraxia. The National Institute of Health defines apraxia as a neurological disorder characterized by loss of the ability to execute or carry out learned movements despite having the desire and ability to perform them. This includes talking, typing and SEX. I also struggle with ataxia, which is characterized by imbalance, unsteady walk and tendency to stumble, problems with fine motor movements, and difficulty positioning in space.  This is why hugging makes me dizzy.  I lose track of where my body ends and the other’s begins – perhaps that is the point. I often politely ask my brain to please move my hand to do this or that only to be told, “We’re sorry due to high autism volume we are not able to answer your call at this time. Please try harder later.”

It is my hope you will be open to knowing that many of us who are disguised as poor thinkers are in fact more like you than you may choose to believe. We may have a variety of physical and mental challenges confounded by profound difficulties with communication, which shroud our humanity.

Please give our humanity the benefit of the doubt.

Take sex education for example.  The patronizing version my special ed class was given was stupid.  We all knew more from “Three’s Company” reruns. Consider the logic in that lack of teaching.  We were exposed to countless lessons about state capitals but next to nothing about sex. What is more important in your adult life – Des Moines or Mons Pubis?

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth Edition (DSM-5) gives criteria for ASD as: deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, non-verbal communicative behaviors, and in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships.

I contend, many times, autistics revert to isolation by default rather than preference.

Nobody wants to be alone all the time.

We all need to touch and be touched.  (Priests too, but I’ll save my Catholic Lie soapbox speech on that for another time.)

I long for passionate intimacy. Friends are great. But, like most humans, my body and mind throb for more.

I am used to developing out of the “normal sequence” – lets be honest, often later than most.

Eventually, I learned to better control my hypersensitivity.  With lasered focus, I am able to trace my sensory pattern routes and isolate – thus enjoying fleeting superpowers of perception.  At 42, I am still unable to talk but masturbation was checked off my IEP years ago.

Three years ago, I finally got a real life boyfriend, Jerry, whom I email almost daily and spend quality time with once or twice a week.

Being a late bloomer has distinct advantages.  I know what I want. I know what I don’t want.  I know who I am.  And what I don’t know, no longer gives me anxiety, as it will come in time.   As will more titillating details about my relationship with Jerry. So Mark and others please be patient and look for those kiss and type answers my new book coming out this Spring.

Meanwhile here are a few Practical Implications found on page 69 (not even kidding here) of “I Might Be You: An Exploration of Autism and Connection”, Plus I added some new ones – happy 2015:

  1. Just because nobody talks about it does not mean it is not a real issue. Think about it. Talk about it. Type about it.
  2. Give private masturbation a green light.
  3. Check out the fine products and people at  (I hope you will find their online education specialists as helpful as I did in dealing with the your special needs. They understand communication challenges and neurodiversity.)
  4. Sensory issues can make sex and masturbation difficult.  For practical tips, I recommend this 9 minute video on YouTube called, “Autistic Sex Advice: Episode One” by a man on the spectrum who goes by “thAutcast”.
  5. For ideas on how a sexual storyboard can help you understand and communicate your needs as well as practical solutions for dealing with obsessive thoughts, please listen to sex therapist Edy Nathan on this podcast:

Thanks. Passionate B

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