A-Z Teen Health Glossary

Teen Cell Phone Addiction Treatment: What Is It?


Teen Cell Phone Addiction Treatment is usually referred to as a Behavioral Disorder, characterized by a teen’s chronic use of, and obsession with, a cell phone.  In addition to having phone conversations, this can include all behaviors associated with smart phones, including: texting, watching videos, social media, video games, and more.  Profuse cell phone use becomes Cell Phone Addiction when cell phone engagement occurs to such a degree that it distracts teens from being present and participating in the real world, eventually causing negative effects in other areas of their lives, including school work, family relationships, and other responsibilities.


Teen Cell Phone Addiction Treatment | Teenage Anxiety Rehab | Paradigm Malibu


What It Looks Like


There’s no denying that cell phones have become an ingrained part of our culture and are considered a necessary part of life daily by most people.  When it comes to teenagers and their phones, this connection is probably even stronger, as they’ve grown up with cell phones as a normal and functioning part of their lives.  However, for some teens, common cell phone use can become an addiction, characterized by teens having an unrelenting need or fixation with their phones.  As with any Behavioral Disorder, what this cell phone addiction looks like can vary greatly, according to the individual teen.  For some, it might be constant texting: even during meals, conversations, movies, and when they should be sleeping.  For others, it might be a fixation with social media on their cell phones, where the teens are constantly checking other people’s statuses, updates, photos, and other information.  For nearly all teens with a Cell Phone Addiction, the addiction is characterized by teens having an incessant need to have their phones on them at all times, available to be checked, even when no one is trying to reach them and they have no updates.  This is true even to the extent that teens often sleep with their phones under their pillows or with them in bed.  And it’s also common for the act of pulling out a phone and checking it to become an addictive habit in and of itself.


Regardless of the specific nature of the teen’s cell phone addiction and how it manifests, what the addiction ultimately does is separates teens from the real world and prevents them from being present in their current responsibilities and experiences.  Even if teens are unaware of it, it’s common for them to actually experience relatively significant feelings of stress and pressure, due to the expectation that they always be available.  It’s understandable how this can gradually lead to problems within relationships and responsibilities, such as homework and school work, if teens are constantly being interrupted and distracted by this outside source.  Additionally, cell phone abuse can also become a way that teens withdraw from the real world and distract themselves from their responsibilities.  This might also be relevant if the teens are suffering from a Co-Occurring Disorder and/or experiencing feelings of stress or anxiety that they’re trying to escape.



Teen Cell Phone Addiction Treatment | Paradigm MalibuThe first and primary thing we address in Teen Cell Phone Addiction Treatment is to put in place intentional limits and structure around the teens’ cell phone use.  Even if teens are initially resistant to these limitations, we find that within a short time, they actually experience relief from this distance and feel less pressure to always be available.  Along these lines, even just a few relatively small and simple changes to the teens’ cell phone habits can help them to begin reforming healthier habits in their cell phone use, as well as gain insight into how their previous cell phone behaviors have negatively affected other parts of their lives.


Beyond teens’ cell phone activities, an equal if not more significant aspect of Teen Cell Phone Addiction Treatment is for therapists to work with teens to recognize what underlying behaviors, symptoms, or conflicts might be related to the teens’ excessive cell phone use.  This may be something as simple as a relationship between the cell phone use and suffering school-work, or something more complex, such as a teen experiencing symptoms of anxiety and using his/her cell phone as a way to hide.  Regardless of the particular ways in which the cell phone addiction is related to other areas of the teens’ lives, we want to be extremely thorough and careful in these evaluations, making sure that we recognize any Co-Occurring Disorders that may exist.  To this end, Cell Phone Addiction Treatment may likely become one aspect of a teen’s overall treatment plan, alongside other struggles the teen is having.





Is using a cell phone too much actually a problem?


Because cell phones have become such a dominating force in our culture, it might seem strange or even naive to label it as an “addiction.”  However, the answer to the question is, quite simply, it becomes a problem when it becomes a problem.  If teens are more dedicated to checking their phones and preoccupied by being constantly present in the cell phone realm, there is a good chance that other things in their lives are suffering because of it.  Furthermore, it limits teens to interacting socially through a device rather than in person, at a time in life when development of social skills is not only important, but critical.


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