Irish children as young as seven are being exposed to porn. Dr Fergal Rooney (2017)

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By Sylvia Pownall (link to original article)

Ireland is in the grip of a porn addiction epidemic with children as young as SEVEN being exposed to x-rated material online. We now rank fourth in the world for per capita porn use behind the UK, Canada and the US – and our obsession with it is driving couples apart and wrecking lives.

Therapists and support groups have reported a stark rise over the past year in the numbers seeking help for their obsession with it. A spokesperson for Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous Ireland said: “There seems to be an enormous increase in the use of cyber sex including porn.

“Now kids as young as seven or eight are getting involved with it, inadvertently in most cases, but it can lead to huge problems.

“We’ve had someone seeking help at the age of 25 who first started using porn at the age of 10.”

He said the emergence of laptops, tablets and smartphones had made online sex more accessible for people to view in secrecy.

The spokesman added: “The increase is frightening. This ruins lives. Many people are at rock bottom when they come to us. In most cases it’s destroyed their marriage and their families.

“Suicide could often be the next step because they are feeling so low.

“The problem is there’s no regulations around it. It’s just like a gambler who can walk into a shop and feed their addiction, it’s the same with porn, there seems to be no barriers to accessing it.”

Psychotherapist and author Trish Murphy says she has seen a huge rise in the numbers seeking help for their obsession.

She said: “It is fairly prevalent. I see a lot of people who are unable to stop porn use, who extend it and feel disgusted that it takes over their whole life, who can’t function with another person as a result of it.”

She said most users had a healthy relationship with porn – but for some what starts out as curiosity can lead to years of deceit, guilt and shame as they get more and more hooked.

“Not everybody has problems,” said Trish. “Most people grow out of it, but people who are particularly socially anxious seem to get sucked in because porn facilitates that and it’s solitary.

“At first it can seem harmless enough, but it can move into live webcam and escort stuff, which can mess up relationships.

“It’s very easy to get into that dark area where you’re disgusted because what you’re getting off on is appalling. You’re frightened that someone will discover that about you.

“Some people keep going further and further to get a bigger hit. They find themselves getting excited by and involved in stuff that disgusts them afterwards.

“I know people who would spend eight hours a day watching porn and be very socially isolated as a result.

“We have people in relationships where one partner goes to bed and the other partner goes online for a couple of hours. There is a sense of betrayal and of an intimate part of their lives not being shared.

“Or perhaps the person has sexual fantasies which are not acceptable to the other person and so intimacy gets less and less over the years.”

Trish warned of the dangers of sexting and said young people were becoming exposed to x-rated material before they were ready to cope with it.

She said: “It’s very dangerous stuff, but it’s everywhere and we need to be conscious of it. Parents need to start a conversation with their children around the whole issue of sex and porn.”

A specialist mental health service was set up at St John of God’s Hospital in Dublin three years ago aimed at addressing porn addiction and extreme sexual urges.

The issues covered include erectile dysfunction, excessive use of porn and paraphilic behaviours - when someone is aroused by fantasising about and engaging in extreme sexual behaviours which can involve an object, animals or inflicting pain.

Dr Fergal Rooney, the psychologist who co-ordinates the service, said: “We’ve found an increasing number of people in difficulties because of porn use.

“Occasionally their use of it moves into illegal territory where they would be looking at images of child abuse, but that would be the extreme.

“Mostly they are using porn to the extent that it disrupts their daily lives and they can’t connect sexually with their partner.

“Porn is not benign. It’s not a pleasant thing for somebody to be sitting for hours on end viewing porn. It’s not fun at that stage and has become a compulsion.

“The more people use porn the more extreme types of sexual behaviour they encounter, and that skews their own sexuality.

“They can find themselves interested in all sorts of behaviour that normally wouldn’t interest them, such as the obsession with anal sex which is driven by porn.

“This leads to intimacy issues and we would see a good proportion of younger men who have issues around erectile dysfunction.”

According to Pornhub the average Irish user spends nine minutes and 48 seconds per visit viewing porn. Kim Kardashian’s sex tape with Ray Jay remains the most viewed worldwide racking up 150million views.

The most common search words used in Ireland include MILF, mammy, tractor, gay, shift and lesbian, and one quarter of visitors to the site are women.