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Video Gaming Addiction

There’s a growing concern that teenagers, and especially male teens, are becoming increasingly dependent on online video games.  Many teenagers play for hours every day.  Parents have called with concerns that their sons (and sometimes daughters) are disconnecting from life.  Let’s look at a case my supervisor encountered a few years back.

She had a 15-year-old male come into therapy for depression and anxiety.  During the intake she discovered he was not going to bed until 2:00 or 3:00am most nights.  When she explored the reason for this he said, “I can’t get my homework done.”  Given that he finished sports at 4:00pm each afternoon, she found this to be unusual.  When she dug a little deeper, she realized he was consistently violating the 1 hour of video games per day rule his parents had set for him.  She found out he was actually playing 5-6 hours of video games per day, and 12-15 hours on weekend days.  No matter what his parents did he found a way around it.  They eventually shut down the internet.  He crawled under his covers in his bed and become utterly despondent.  He wouldn’t get out of bed to eat, shower, or go to school.  He held out so long that his parents gave back in, “but just for 1 hour per day.”  That worked well for about 2 weeks until he started pushing the boundary again.  This cycle continued.  Finally, his parents destroyed all his devices.  He became suicidal, which terrified them to the point they gave him new devices.  They allowed him to home-school thinking this would help him complete everything so he could get to bed on time.  It didn’t work.  This boy had a severe online gaming addiction.

I’m not sure your teenager is at such an extreme place, but if that is sounding a little familiar then read on.  Video gaming addiction is especially common in role-playing games (RPGs).  In these games your child makes up a character and lives in a fantasy world.  Imagine the allure for an adolescent who isn’t especially popular in real life.  The brain’s reaction to feeling powerful, well-liked, and purposeful is intense.  There is another side to the story though.

If your son or daughter is spending hours and hours in front of a screen living in a false world, what skills are being developed?  Is your teenager learning how to cope with the nuances of real life?  Is your teenager learning to socialize, date, do physical activity, or have enough self-control to go to bed at a good hour?  Yes, your teen is physically safe from harm because they are sitting at home, but there is another, more subtle harm being done.

Video gaming addiction is an actual thing, and very hard on a family.  Your teenager must learn to live without games but still use a computer.  Your teenager will experience REAL withdrawals when you pull the plug.  There isn’t a happy medium for a child who has this addiction.  Cutting back is a short-term solution.  It’s like someone who has quit smoking cigarettes saying they plan to only have one when they drink.  That will work for a time, but soon enough they will be smoking again.

I know this is heart-breaking for you and your family.  I know you feel some level of guilt for buying the games in the first place.  No matter what got you here, just accept the problem as it is and begin to walk forward.  Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step.  The second step is equally as important; you must reach out for help.

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

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 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

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

The Stigma of Mental Illness

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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