Dr. Patrick Carnes, PhD, is an internationally noted psychologist, researcher and author in the area of addictions and recovery - especially sexual addiction which he has been studying for the past 30 years. Carnes’ research findings are alarming to say the least: two thirds of kids in Junior High School are watching pornography online while doing their homework and 34% of these children will become addicted. Carnes further states that a combined research study of 100 University studies asked the question of college students: when did they begin to look at internet pornography? The answer - most of them began looking before the age of 10 years old. If this is true, and I think it is – get ready – we have a tsunami coming! What can we do to stop it? Read on.
The Jewish people’s covenant with G-d is centered on sexual purity. It is the foundation of our faith and requires a high standard of moral behavior in thought, speech and behavior. Joseph is the personification of this “guarding” of the covenant because, while he was a slave in Egypt, he withstood the advances of his master’s wife and remained steadfast in his refusal to sin sexually (Genesis 39).
In the history of man, there has never been a greater test of his ability to withstand immorality than the internet. Cybersex, writes Dr. Carnes, so overwhelmingly stimulates the brain that people are driven deeper and deeper into perversity and violence. Twenty-five years of neuroscience research on this tells us that the brains of addicted people have been damaged – their brains no longer look like those of non-addicted people and they process differently. Once addicted, the person will repeatedly bargain with himself. He will promise himself that this is the last time – but even when the risks are high and there’s so much to lose – he just cannot stop. Carnes writes: “Addiction is an illness of escape. Its goal is to obliterate, medicate, or ignore reality. It is an alternative to letting oneself feel hurt, betrayed, worried or lonely. The hardest challenge for most addicts is acknowledging that they have a problem. Addiction cripples the core ability to know what is real – an essential skill.” Throughout the ages, it has been a challenge for man to maintain sexual purity, but cybersex has changed everything - there has never been anything like it before and the problem seems to be soaring beyond our ability to cope with it.
As a psychotherapist in the Jewish community I can testify to the devastating effects that this addiction has had on families. Children are growing up with an abnormally twisted concept of how men and women treat each other. Their young nervous systems have been so over-stimulated that what is normal will never be enough – one faithful marital relationship becomes impossible and is actually perceived as abnormal. In defense of his behavior one newly married young man protested: “Didn’t Jacob, our father, have four wives (Rachel, Leah, and their maidservants Bilhah, and Zilpah)?” If we don’t take action now, this young man’s ominous assertion foreshadows a multitude of casualties to come. Teenagers are being sucked deeper and deeper into a dark world of images and stimulation that is leading them to dangerous and even fatal encounters with disturbed adults. Many parents are not aware of what their kids are doing online, and for them, we need to create that awareness. Other parents may be aware of the problem, but they don’t realize that the right kind of help is closer than they think. I’ll come back to this and make some suggestions soon.
Dr. Carnes claims to have studied more than 100,000 cases of sexual addiction. His data base is drawn from online assessments, impatient assessments and 1000 therapists who contribute to his data pool. Please slow down while you read this.
* 38 percent of sex-addicts went to an emergency room or emergency physician because of some physical problem related to sexual acting out.
* 38 percent of the men and 45 percent of the women contracted venereal disease through their addictive behavior.
* 64 percent of addicts continued their sexual behavior despite the risk of disease or infection.
* 16 percent of the men and 60 percent of the women were victims of physical abuse during sex.
* 19 percent of the men and 21 percent of the women were involved in vehicle accidents while acting out.
* Almost a third of the study participants had serious health problems such as ulcers or high blood pressure, which they attributed to the stress of their sexual activities.
* 65 percent reported some type of sleep disorder (trouble going to sleep, staying asleep, or waking early)
Yes the challenge is great, but Rebbe Nachman of Breslev fortifies and uplifts our Spirits: “Never despair! Never give up! There is always hope!” and “If you believe that you can spoil, believe that you can repair!” We don’t believe that the brains of addicted people have been permanently damaged. We know that the problem can be completely corrected and that the “fall” was only for the sake of a much greater spiritual elevation. Here is what we need to do:
1. Create an awareness and discussion about the problem amongst parents, Rabbi’s, physicians, and educators. Parents need to know where in their communities they can find help. Rabbi’s and physicians need to know what to look for and what questions to ask. Although the subject is not easy to talk about, it is becoming easier. Just as it took time for public opinion to change about drug and alcohol addiction, with time and patience we can come to understand this addiction as well.
2. The following organizations, with Hashem’s loving help, can provide everything that is needed to combat this problem:
* Sexaholics Anonymous, an anonymous fellowship for men and women who suffer from sexual addiction based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. They have had great success and also offer community education on what works. Sa.org
* Guard Your Eyes, is a powerful website that offers many different forums for support, help and information regarding sexual addiction. It has the endorsements of prominent Orthodox Rabbi’s including Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, M.D. guardyour eyes.org.
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Zev Ballen, LCSW has been a practicing psychotherapist for 32 years. He is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita. He resides with his family in Jerusalem where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time practice. You can write to Zev Ballen at: email@example.com or call him at: 845-362-8600 (US line) or 054-840-9499 (Israeli line).