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Social Media Addiction In Teens

Social media is part of our teens’ everyday lives. Using it to connect with friends and see what other people are doing can be fun. There is a point where use and compulsion to check a social media feed become detrimental. For some teens this can even grow into an all-out addiction.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Cameron Munholland, MMFT, Associate MFT

Thoughts on Social Media Addiction

In 2017 20/20 did a piece about a young California girl who became obsessively addicted to her social media accounts.  At 12 years old this girl got her first smart phone.  Within a year she had multiple hidden accounts, was often up until 4:00am keeping up with postings on her feed, and texting for hours on end.  In the end this girl had to go to residential treatment because no amount of phone restriction would keep her from finding a way to access these accounts.

Whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, or some other new app, if your teen feels a compulsion to use it, it’s bordering on addiction.  If the compulsion is so strong that they use it despite negative consequences, it is an addiction.

Can your teenager get through a meal without checking their phone?  Does your teen insist on keeping the phone in their room at night?  Does your teenager hardly ever seem to see friends in person, but is always “talking” to someone using a device?  Have your teen’s grades started to slip because of the phone?  Does your teenager struggle to get to bed at a decent hour?  If you answered yes to all these questions, there might be a social media addiction issue.

Studies have begun to emerge detailing a surprising result; people who use excessive social media are actually lonelier.  A study out of the University of Pennsylvania headed by Melissa G. Hunt, Ph.D., had college students in one group limit their time on social media apps to 10 minutes per day per app, and another group continue normal use.  Assessments of depression, anxiety and loneliness done before and after revealed a significant improvement in the group that limited their social media exposure, but no change in the group that used it normally.  There are probably several reasons the group who used less social media ended up feeling better, one of which is getting out of the comparison trap.

If your adolescent is addicted to social media, there is a good chance she (or he) is comparing to others constantly.  There is a comparison of how good your teen’s pictures look compared with friends, how many followers your teen has, and how many likes your teen is getting.  Your teen is constantly exposed to what other kids are doing without her.  Your teenager can end up obsessively checking for responses to her posts in order to feel validated.  It becomes an obsessive-compulsive need for instant gratification and validation.

Social media addiction causes relational challenges, declining grades, and a loss of interest in the real world.  It also can cause physical problems.  Your teen is focusing his eyes on a screen most of the day instead of looking up and out.  Your teenager is also no longer exercising or engaging muscles the way they are meant to be used at a young age.  Your teen is constantly cheating on the amount of sleep needed for healthy development and immunity.  Your teenager is not developing necessary skills to succeed in the world from basic things like doing laundry, to more complex things like dating face to face.

If you feel like your family’s life is run by your teenager’s phone, it’s time to consider whether your teen has a social media addiction.  It’s time to get life back on track.  Your teenager needs help.  Your teenager will honestly feel better after the initial couple weeks of agitated withdrawal from the social media platforms.  Life is meant to be lived through more than just a tiny screen.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Cameron Munholland, MMFT, Associate MFT

Pornography Addiction In Adolescents

Pornography addiction can lead to feelings of shame and loneliness.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft has estimated that nine in ten adolescents have seen pornographic material (focusonthefamily.org), and most of this is from the internet. The exact percentage of teenagers who are truly addicted to online pornography is hard to pin down. What’s certain though is that your teenager has probably dealt with some form of sexually explicit content online.

It has become normal for a girl and a boy to like each other and begin a texting conversation. When he asks her to send nudes, she won’t even be surprised. A lot of times this happens before they’ve even held hands. Yes, things are that backwards in your teen’s world right now. If you find that hard to believe, trust me, so did I. You can learn a lot by simply asking your teen if these types of things are actually happening around them.

Sadly, you may be at a point where your son or daughter finds him or herself viewing pornographic material a few times a week, or maybe even a few times per day. Your teenager is likely feeling sucked into a vortex of pleasure and shame that is way over your teen’s head. If this is going on then it is definitely time to get help.

Study after study shows that sex within a committed relationship at an age when a committed relationship can actually be sustained (i.e. in marriage) is the healthiest form of sex. Think about how opposite pornography is to a committed relationship. There is no emotional connection. There is no wooing, dating, growing, learning, boundary setting, or selflessness. It is completely about instant gratification with no effort involved. Some of my clients have also told me it requires more and more extreme versions of sex over time to create feelings of arousal. This means by time real intimacy occurs, it’s often confusing and disappointing.

You definitely don’t want your teenager to develop ideas about sex that are unrealistic and damaging. You also don’t want your teenager to live in a pretend world based around his or her phone or tablet. This addiction can become so powerful that it leaves teens unwilling to go out with friends, get a job, or do anything outside their private time. My colleague once had a teen client who used to leave class and sit in the bathroom in order to catch a few quick porn videos because his addiction had become so dominating.

If your teen is dealing with pornography addiction, getting help can be key. There are steps to follow that are really difficult, but rewarding on the other side. Let’s help your teenager get a real, in-this-world, connected with actual people life back. Let’s fight back against this insidious and evil addiction that is victimizing your child.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Cameron Munholland, MMFT, Associate MFT

Screen Addiction In Teens

We have several therapists at Teen Therapy OC. Recently Cameron has joined our team as an Associate Therapist. I’ve asked him to contribute some of his thoughts on screen addiction since he is a great resource for you if your teenager is struggling with this. For the next few weeks you’ll have written blogs and vlogs from Cameron on this topic.

Here Are Cameron’s words:

As a therapist, when I diagnose an “addiction,” I’m asking a few key questions. This is true of any type of addiction, including technology. Go ahead and ask yourself these 5 questions about your teenager to help you determine whether he/she might be addicted to screen time.

1) When there isn’t access to technology, does your teen’s mood worsen?

2) Is the threat of taking away video games, the cell phone, computer or tablet the only thing that motivates your teen to get things done?

3) Has their use increased over time?

4) Will your teenager sneak in order to access it even at times when it is clearly not allowed?

5) Is your teenager’s screen time interfering with their social life, academics, athletics or family time?

If your teenager borders on too much screen time, then the answer to some of these questions will be yes. However, if your teen has a complete addiction, then you probably answered yes to all these questions.

I imagine you’ve become afraid to go cold turkey and just cut off the internet in your house. You worry about the anger and depression your teen will experience while withdrawing. You’re not alone in this fear. Some parents have become so nervous about this, or had such difficulty breaking their teen’s technology addiction, they’ve had to send their adolescent to a residential treatment program.

It’s a tricky thing for parents to navigate. When we grew up we had one or two phone lines in the house, and maybe a pager. Now everything is private and individual. I couldn’t have imagined everyone in the home having a separate phone number when I was a teen. Could you have? So now you’re forced to parent something you never experienced as a teen. You know your teen needs to socialize, exercise, and get out of the house, but you also know they need to be very computer literate for many future jobs; it’s a fine line.

Over the course of the next few weeks I want to walk the journey with you through the sides of technology addiction that harm teenagers. While I won’t be able to cover everything, I want to address some key areas. I will post one blog and one accompanying video on the following facets of screen addiction that I see in my counseling practice: addiction to pornography, addiction to social media, addiction to video gaming, and addiction to entertainment streaming (like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime). Each has its own unique problems, and in some ways they all have overlapping problems.

My goal in sharing this information with you is that you feel empowered as a parent to refocus your family on what is most important. I want you to know you’re in the right when you work towards reconnecting with your teenager; you’re in the right when you help your adolescent live a well-rounded life. I want to see your teen hanging out with friends, engaging with the family, passionately pursuing indoor and outdoor hobbies, and learning how to use the internet to support your teen’s God-given purpose instead of having it as your teen’s sole purpose.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Cameron Munholland, MMFT, Associate MFT

http://teentherapyoc.com/about-cameron

Guest Post- Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder is no longer something the psychiatric community recognizes as a “real” diagnosis. In previous editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual we had this diagnosis. It represented the portion of the population who feels depression in dark, cold months. It was supposed it existed from a lack of sunshine and outdoor activity. Now there is still an understanding that these factors contribute to feelings of depressed mood. It is a consideration therapists and psychiatrists make when diagnosing depression.

Kimberly Hayes has kindly written a guest blog post on this topic for you to better understand what it is, what it feels like, and a few things you can do about it. Just so you know a little bit about who she is:

Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created PublicHealthAlert.info to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is something more keenly felt in winter months.
Photo via Pixabay by
Pawel_Kozera

Winter Wellness Tips: Staying Healthy When You’re Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter can be a difficult time for many people; across most of the US, it’s a cold, bleak season that strips the greenery bare and doesn’t offer much sunshine. Because of this, many people find themselves suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. This disorder is often accompanied by feelings associated with depression and can have a profound effect on your ability to function at work or school, as well as keep you from enjoying yourself with friends or loved ones. There are many causes where SAD is concerned, but thankfully, there are just as many ways to help relieve those feelings. So, how do you find a way to stay physically and mentally well when winter rolls around?

There are many ways to care for yourself. For example, taking care of your gut health can promote positive mental health, as well as keep you feeling good physically, while getting some sunlight can boost your vitamin D exposure and lift your mood. You can also create a good diet and exercise routine to keep confidence and self-esteem balanced.

Keep reading for some great tips on how to stay well this winter.

Keep Your Gut in Check

Many people don’t realize how much their gut health affects them, both physically and mentally, but it’s important to make sure you’re eating the right foods and exercising daily to keep your digestion on track. You can also make an effort to get as much sunlight as possible, as this can help to boost serotonin production — a hormone that impacts your mood and energy levels. Open the curtains on sunny days and use natural light as often as you can, or step outside on your lunch break and soak up some rays. This is important during the winter, as the days are shorter.

Boost Your Energy Levels

Many people who are living with SAD find that they don’t have much energy during the winter months, which can leave them feeling inadequate at home or at work. You might start exercising daily, or look for a supplement that can help. There are many energy supplements on the market today that can help you feel better even during the slow winter months, but it’s important to find the right one for your needs. Some are based more in the physical, while others help you take care of your mental health at the same time. Look for a supplement that will focus on the things you need to take care of, and talk to your doctor before starting a new regimen.

Focus on Your Mental Health

There are several ways you can focus on boosting your mental health when cold weather seeps in, including journaling, keeping an active social life, and spending time outdoors when the days are nice. You can also try picking up a new hobby, such as painting or learning a new language, which will help keep your mind occupied until spring.

Find Support

One of the keys to getting through any difficult time is finding support in a friend, family member, or support group. Look for an online group that you can attend from home; this can help to relieve anxiety and will allow you to get through the season with relative ease.

Staying well when you have a condition like seasonal affective disorder can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful ordeal. Creating a good plan for your physical and mental well-being will help you stay on top of things even when you feel the least motivated.

Thank you Kimberly for your insightful thoughts on seasonal depression. We appreciate you writing this for us.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Recovering From Sexual Assault or Rape

Earlier today news broke about the details in a rape case in Delaware. A young girl was lured from her bus stop by schoolmates. They took her cell phone and ran. She gave chase and ended up at a boy’s house. There a group of 4 boys (ages 12, 13, 13 and 14) gang raped her. This is a hellacious story. It’s heartbreaking and sickening. The road to emotional recovery will likely be longer for this poor girl than even her physical recovery.

If you or your teenager are the victim of a sexual assault or a rape, coming back from that is grueling and often excruciating. Here is one thing I know makes a difference based on my years of working with teens, many of whom have been the victim of a sexual crime.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

For Parents of Addict Teens

If your child is addicted to drugs, it feels devastating. Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

If your child is addicted to drugs, it feels devastating.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

When your teenager becomes a drug addict, it is one of the most scary, tragic, overwhelming things that can happen.  It breaks your heart into pieces.  You feel like you can’t get your head above water.  Even when you’re having fun with family or friends, you always sense a dark cloud lingering in the background.  Your prayers are desperate, you feel broken, and you feel disconnected from family and friends because they don’t understand the depth of your pain.

 

It can be scary to talk with your friends and family about your teenager’s addiction.  You just never know what kind of reaction you’ll get.  Some people are kind, compassionate and understanding.  Others try and go back into the past to determine where you went wrong as a parent.  When people react this way it’s excruciating and insensitive.  Many, many times I’ve worked with families who truly did everything right.  There are no parents who are perfect, but these families were wholesome, loving, fair and genuine.  Despite this, their teenager still got into drugs.  It’s not necessarily a product of the family system, and it’s very painful that family and friends don’t always realize that.

 

The other thing that parents have said is really difficult for them when their teens are addicted to drugs is feeling like a burden to their loved ones.  What they mean by this is the well-being of their child is always on their mind.  Sometimes parents don’t even know where their addicted child is, which is also very scary.  These parents don’t feel like they can call their friends or family and lament about the same problem every single day.  They have told me they live in a world where their pain is central to their existence, but they’re alone in their hell.  They worry that discussing their heavy heart everyday becomes a drag to those around them.

 

It’s important for parents of addicted children to get support from people who truly understand how intense the battle against addiction is for both the addict and the addict’s family.  A good place to get this support is Alanon, Celerate Recovery, CODA, or some other support group type of environment where it’s okay to voice how much it hurts.  There will be others around who feel the same way.  There will be some who have learned how to live with this and even carry on with their life.  There will be people there who can really understand your fear and helplessness.  There will be people there to gently point out ways you might be enabling your teen’s addiction, and then to support you as you try to stop.

 

Most of you who have an addicted teenager also have other kids.  You have to continue being a parent to the children who are healthy and try to make things as normal as possible for them.  You have to help them through their own pain they experience because they have an addict sibling.  Somehow you’re supposed to do this while fighting through it yourself.

 

Addiction rocks families.  It’s not just a problem for the addict.  For parents it is terrifying.  A child’s addiction has destroyed family finances, marriages, hopes and dreams.  Putting people around you who really understand this, and who don’t blame you, is critical.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

The Stigma of Mental Illness

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

For people who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, etc., it can be hard to share this openly with family and friends.  If your teenager has any of these diagnoses, the stigma is even more profound.  As a rule, your teenager’s peers are not the most accepting when it comes to psychological struggles.  On the surface they might be, but they tend to gossip about these things to their friends.  In my work with teenagers I’ve noticed they are not the best secret-keepers.  If your daughter takes an antidepressant and she confides in one of her friends, there is a decent chance a lot of other teens will find out.

 

This means you’re left with two approaches.  The first is to encourage your kids not to tell anyone about their counseling, psychiatric treatment and challenges.  While this will prevent them from experiencing teasing, it also might create a sense of shame in them.  It’s tough too when they want to spend the night at a friend’s house and need to take a pill at the end of the evening.  Their friend might be curious, which means your teenager will have to lie.

 

The second approach is to work hard with your teenager on not feeling shame.  The thing I tell a lot of my clients is that even though they don’t know it, there are a handful of their friends who get medication and/or are also in therapy.  I remind them that very likely some of the most popular, good-looking, athletic, smart kids in their school get counseling for things.  I try really hard to help them know that emotional struggles happen to most people at some point in their lifetime.

 

If they can feel confident in their knowledge that they are just fine even if they have a psychological diagnosis, other teens will be more comfortable with it.  It also really helps to have some others know in terms of getting support.  There will be days when your adolescent needs a pick-me-up from their friends.  If their friends know what’s going on, they might better know how to help them.

 

I had one client who struggled with OCD.  It caused her to do a few things that were noticeable in social situations.  She just confidently said she had OCD and then was able to laugh about it.  Her friends felt a lot more comfortable after that, and laughed right with her.  Another thing started to happen.  Different teens would come up to her in confidence and tell her about their experiences with anxiety, depression, etc.  Because she refused to give in to the stigma of mental illness being something shameful, she became a safe refuge for a great number of struggling teens.

 

The stigma associated with mental illness makes us want to hide.  It makes us want to keep it to ourselves, and fight through it alone.  Unfortunately that makes the battle a lot more challenging to overcome.  When I struggled with an eating disorder my junior and senior year of high school I didn’t tell anyone.  When it progressed and continued into college I was much more open about it.  At that point I found I was able to get the support I needed, which was the first step toward healing.  I want the same for your teenager.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Pain Increases Depression

There is a strong correlation between pain and depressed moods. If you find your teenager seems irritable and down, one thing that might be worth exploring is if they are in chronic pain. Not every kid will complain when they have something nagging in their body. Perhaps your child has always had allergies, and everyone is so used to him having a runny nose that it’s easy to underestimate the negative impact this has on his moods. The bottom line is, pain can lead to feelings of depression. This means not every case of depression is psychiatric. It also works in reverse. Depression can lead to symptoms of pain. Things are not always as clear-cut as they first appear.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Technology Addiction In Teens

Some teens send hundreds or even thousands of texts per day. Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some teens send hundreds or even thousands of texts per day.
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear Teens,

You live in an era where it’s easier to spend time in front of a screen than go do things out in the world.  It’s hard to go more than three minutes without some form of entertainment.  If you look at what you’re parents are doing, there’s a good chance mom, dad or both are also addicted to technology.  They don’t even go to the bathroom without taking their phone!  This means it’s not just your age group, so don’t feel condemned.

 

Here are the positives of being on social media, playing video games, watching Netflix, or spending time on any other app.  First of all, you’re pretty much staying out of trouble.  You could be out doing drugs, or getting into all kinds of stuff; instead you’re at home where mom and dad know you’re safe.  Secondly, you’re probably never bored.  You always have something to keep you occupied.  When I was your age, if we couldn’t get ahold of our friends then we had almost nothing do do at home.  Thirdly, you probably communicate with your friends all the time.  Between commenting on their pictures or messages, and sending them texts or Snapchats, you’re always in contact.

 

Like anything though, there are some negatives to too much screen time.  I bet you can guess what I’m going to say.  First of all, you might not be taking great care of your physical health.  One study came out that said people who use a lot of electronics are more sedentary, and eat more calories than those who don’t.  The combination of not moving much, and eating in front of the TV because you’re bored can equate to carrying excess weight.  The second problem you might have is that everyone looks happy on social media.  They tend to post pictures when they’re with friends, or put up posts that say how much fun they’re having.  You’ve probably heard, but this isn’t real.  Every single person who posts things has times where they lack confidence, are lonely, feel angry, etc.  It’s just not very common to write things on Facebook like, “I’m feeling ugly today because I have a huge zit in the middle of my forehead.”

 

Thirdly, some of you struggle with face to face interactions.  When you text or post things all the time, you get to think before you hit send.  That’s so nice because you have a few seconds or even minutes to formulate your answer.  When you’re in person though you feel awkward and uncomfortable.  You’re not with your peers in person as much as generations before you, so you haven’t spent as much time practicing the nuances of conversation.  It’s really an art to be funny, witty, deep, and thought-provoking in a face to face conversation.  Most people need a lot of practice to get there, and they practiced it growing up with their friends.  Now you don’t do as much of that.  It just makes things harder when you go on a date or interview for a job.

 

If you worry that you might be addicted to technology, here’s a quick self-test.  Put down all forms of technology for 3 days in a row.  Can you do it?  If you can find books to read, enjoy going on a walk, and figure out how to talk with people, you’re probably okay.  However, if you feel a sense of withdrawal, and a little bit depressed without your technology, then recognize that you might have a psychological dependence on it that goes beyond what is within healthy limits.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Don’t Wish To Be Someone Else

As an adolescent I was overly eager to fit in with the “Scrippies,” which was our sarcastic name for the cool kids.  I’m sure my overeagerness was off-putting.  In sixth grade some girls were called biters, some were called the b-word and some were called the s-word, but I was called annoying.  Let me tell you, obsequiousness doesn’t really get you far when it comes to fitting in.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT