Treating Social Media Addiction In Teens: The Equinox RTC Approach
Social media is incredibly important to the teens of today. With applications from Instagram to Snapchat to TikTok at their fingertips, they have become so used to being in constant contact, that the thought of going without can be jarring. But for some teens, it’s not just uncomfortable to be without social media, it feels as if their world is ending. That they’re completely cut off from the world. For those teens, this may be a sign that they are struggling with social media addiction.
Social Media’s Affect on the Brain
Teens who get drawn into social media may lack face to face skills, which leaves them feeling disconnected. They find themselves trying to create that sense of connection online and find it rewarding and helpful in the short term. But they discover that with time, it is less satisfying and meaningful than having a face to face connection.
Part of the addictive quality of social media is that when teens post a picture or video and then other’s begin to “like” or “comment” something they’ve shared, there’s a large release of the pleasure chemical in the brain. In short, it feels good to be liked. So when that good feeling fades, teens feel like they need another hit. For example, if they post a picture that gets 15 “likes”, they feel compelled to post more so that they can feel that pleasure, or receive that reward again. But then maybe the next photo receives 20 “likes” or more. There seems to be a powerful pull for people to want more of that validation. In the same vein as online gambling or internet shopping, this endless chase after the reward can begin to overtake everything else.
Treating Social Media Addiction
Focusing on healthy connection, socialization, and communication are all important parts of treatment. We can also look at learning how to manage urges, cravings, and intrusive thoughts.
Anyone who struggles with addiction, this is a large part of what they need to manage. Learning to manage thoughts of : “I need to check facebook one more time, I need to check snapchat one more time before I go to bed.” through CBT and other cognitive approaches can help change the behaviors.
Teens can also learn how to maintain and engage in healthy behaviors to replace addictive behaviors. Whether that’s art and creative expression, or hanging out with friends, treatment can help them find healthy ways to find meaning in their lives. We can also help them work on executive functioning, daily living skills, and keeping and maintaining a schedule.
Addressing underlying concerns is also a crucial part of treatment. If they feel pulled to social media because of their social skills deficits, we help them work on social skills. If there’s underlying anxiety or depression, we’ll help them work through that.
Equinox Can Help
We strive to support the creation of self-sustaining, lifelong change at Equinox through our remarkable people and programming. When change is generated through a relationship-based and principle-centered focus, in which a teenager has the choice to comply, then lifelong, sustainable change is achievable. success in working with young men requires specific and unique areas of neurological, emotional, and physiological emphasis. At Equinox, we have created a culture and approach designed specifically to meet the needs of teenage boys. For more information please call (828) 414-2968.
Casey has been working with teens and young adults since 2009. He specializes in mindfulness-based approaches to therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, motivational interviewing, and family systems work.