Warning Signs that You May Need Help with Troubling Online Activity

Did you get a “wake-up call”?

Maybe you are looking for help now because you accessed something online that scared you. Perhaps something that happened recently is a “wake-up call” that your online activity is getting out of control. You may have reached a limit in your ability to tolerate the shame or stress of leading a “double life”. Maybe someone in your life found the courage to let you know they are concerned about what you do online. The online world via computers, other devices and networks offers a sense of anonymity which increases the chance that we will take risks and experiment with behavior we might never attempt in “real life”.

If you want to quit, but feel you can’t do it alone, there is help.

Perhaps some bad things have happened recently as a result of your online sexual behavior. Sometimes more concrete results of our behavior help break down our denial and motivate change. Denial is a powerful force and you rely on it to allow for ongoing risky or illegal sexual behavior. The first step is to admit that you have a problem and that you need help to stop. Most adults who struggle with addictive behaviors need help from someone else to stop. Once you find the support and professional guidance you need, you’ll learn ways to replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones.

There are clear warning signs that your online behavior is dangerous or out of control.

Although you may be skilled at hiding problematic behaviors from others, if you take an honest look at yourself, you might notice some clear signals that something is not right. You may be justifying to yourself that using child pornography “keeps you” from committing a in-person offense. Maybe you find yourself blaming your use of pornography on other people or events.

Take a look at the warning signs below. Some of them may not be directly related to problems with online behavior, and could be a result of other factors in your life. But if you feel that your use of pornography is becoming distracting, unmanageable, or if you have violated your own ethical standards, these are good reasons to seek help so you can learn ways to get back on track. Bottom line -- if you find yourself attracted to sexual images of children, now is the time to seek help.

Have you changed the way you use the Internet?

  • Needing to be online so frequently that it creates problems for family or work life.
  • Always wondering “when is the next time I can get online?”
  • Increasing your viewing of adult pornography.
  • Breaking promises to yourself or others that you won’t go online so frequently.
  • Hiding traces of online activity and storing files secretly.
  • Using new technologies with children while excluding other adults.
  • Showing or exposing questionable sexual material to children or teens.
  • Meeting in “real life” with young people or adults who you initially met online.

Are you isolating yourself?

  • Becoming emotionally “checked-out” or less available.
  • Not participating in usual family and social activities.
  • Shutting the door while using the computer or changing the screen if someone walks in.
  • Neglecting or withdrawing from intimacy with an adult partner.

Have you suffered losses as a result of your sexual behaviors?

  • Losing needed sleep
  • Neglecting professional responsibilities, or losing a job
  • Losing a spouse or friend
  • Losing the trust of others
  • Getting in legal trouble

Are you noticing sexual changes in yourself?

  • Changing your sexual attitudes and preferences
  • Having fantasies of those underage
  • Increase in your “need” to look at pornography
  • Shame, regret, or self-hatred in connection to your own arousal

Five things you can do if you are troubled by your own online activity:

  1. Get connected to professional help
  2. Review an internet addiction screening 
  3. Tell a trusted friend that you are feeling troubled and ask for their support
  4. Read more about Internet addiction and recovery on any of the resource sites below
  5.  “unplug”.

Adapted with permission from Stop It Now! UK & Ireland, The Internet and Children – What’s the Problem,