Teen Behavioral Addictions Treatment
Teen Behavioral Addictions, as the name implies, are addictions to behaviors, rather than substances. Behavioral scientists believe that anything “stimulating” can become addictive to a person, and people become addicted when specific habits become obligations. Another attribute that characterizes a Behavioral Addiction is when teens persist in the given behavior, despite knowing that negative consequences are possible. That is to say, in the same way that teens might become users of a substance in a frequency and manner that is beyond their control, and to the extent of providing potential risk, they can also become addicted to behaviors, because of the positive effects and/or feelings that the behavior brings about. Some examples of common behavioral addictions include activities such as: gambling, pornography, internet browsing, and gaming. It’s common for Behavioral Addictions to exist in combination with other Addictions and/or as Co-Occurring Disorders.
What Behavioral Addictions Look Like
Behavioral Addictions are first and foremost characterized by persistent, repetitive behaviors that provide teens with a short-term reward, such as feelings of happiness or relief from stress. Teens continue in these behaviors despite the presence or possibility of negative consequences, including their diminished control over engaging in the behavior. Because of this characteristic, some scientists classify Behavioral Addictions as Impulse Control Disorders.
The difference between casual habits and behavioral addictions is behavioral addictions occur to an extent and severity that they cause adverse effects in the teen’s life. For instance, often these behaviors lead to problems in school, withdrawing from peers and other activities, and conflicts in relationships. Teens might very well be aware that the behaviors are having these negative effects, and yet they are unwilling and/or unable to change them, despite this knowledge.
Because it’s also common for teens to have a Behavioral Addiction as a Co-Occurring Disorder, it’s common for the given behavior will be sought out initially as a sort of refuge from the feelings and thoughts the teen is experiencing, because of a Mental Illness. Teens may retreat into a behavior in order to alleviate stress or make themselves feel better. However, in time, the positive feelings produced from the behavior, usually which are quickly felt, can create an unhealthy reliance upon the behavior, eventually leading to addiction. Behavioral Addictions are especially common in teens experiencing Depression and/or Anxiety. Often, the behaviors are a form of self-medication that the teens seek, under the overwhelming negativity and persistence of their symptoms.
Teen Behavioral Addictions Treatment
Because Behavioral Addictions may exist alongside another addiction and/or mental illness, it’s important for teens to be carefully diagnosed, making sure therapists understand- and therefore, treat- the full aspect of symptoms that the teens are experiencing. At Paradigm, we take special measures in order to properly and precisely diagnose teens, with special attention to the possibility of Co-Occurring Disorders. Furthermore, our treatment approach and style is also very effective at recognizing and targeting Behavioral Addictions as Co-Occurring disorders, because our therapists treat not only the Mental Illness or primary disorder at hand, but also the underlying behaviors and/or habits present in a teen’s life. We often find that it is these underlying behaviors, habits, and belief systems that may have initiated, contributed to, or worsened the symptoms the teen is experiencing.
Our treatment plans for Behavioral Addictions include a combination of Talk Therapy and Behavioral Therapy, including Classical and Experimental Treatment Approaches. In the case of Co-Occurring Disorders, therapists may prescribe medication according to the other disorder, especially in cases of Depression or Anxiety.
Our therapists work with teens to help them identify what feelings and/or stressors precede the behavior, what sort of feelings or relief is produced by the behavior, and what other habits and/or experiences might be connected with the behavior. By helping teens to evaluate and recognize the nature of their addictive behavior, teens can begin to notice connections in themselves. This is an important first step toward teens becoming aware and empowered enough to overcome the addiction and make positive changes in their own lives. Along these lines, therapists help teens to learn healthy skills for coping with stress, and addressing stressors or conflicts in their lives. In time, therapists can help teens to begin replacing the negative behaviors with positive ones, while also helping teens to re-establish healthy belief systems and a positive sense of self. All of these aspects of our treatment plans help contribute to a holistic treatment of Behavioral Addictions in which teens can recognize, and then recover from, their addiction.
For more information regarding a specific Behavioral Disorder, please visit the individual pages we have provided, including information on Co-Occurring Disorders.