How Social Media is Affecting our Teens

Jan Hamilton, Founder, Doorways Teen Counseling and Psychiatric Services Phoenix ArizonaBy Jan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

 

Since computers starting coming into the home and video games left the arcade, parents have expressed concerns about how much is too much and how these virtual interfaces will impact the lives of our children over the long term. For years, the main concerns around overuse of electronic media have centered on physical activity levels, studying, and the effect of violent, sexist, and racist themes on young minds. Recently I was asked my thoughts on the impact things like Facebook, Twitter, and video games are having on today’s youth. My answers might surprise you.

One of the main problems that I see is an increase in teens and young adults with significant social anxiety problems that seem to stem from spending too much time interacting with a computer and not enough time interacting with actual people. I call this “Social Phobia.” This is especially pertinent for teens that are in the 12 to 15 year old range that are actively developing and refining the social skills that will help them throughout their lives.

The more time a child spends in isolation posting on Facebook, playing Xbox, chatting online, texting, and watching YouTube videos, the less time they spend interacting with their peers and families. These real-world interactions are necessary for developing social skills, understanding social protocols, and building interpersonal relationships.

What Parents Should Look For

  • Parents should trust their instincts and if they are concerned there might be a problem, seek the opinion of a professional.
  • Parents also need to make the distinction between what is normal behavior and what is healthy behavior. Your son might spend 12 hours a day playing video games which seems normal when compared to his friends, but most health professionals would agree that even if it is normal, 12 hours of video game play in a day is definitely not healthy.
  • Watch for resistance to social situations and avoidance of social interactions. If your child is having a significant emotional response to a situation that requires social interaction, there may be a social problem that needs to be addressed.

What Parents Can Do

  • The most important step parents can take is to start young. Set expectations and ground rules about media use early in childhood which will help your child develop good habits as they grow into teenagers.
  • Provide multiple social outlet opportunities for your children through church, community, sports, and educational activities. But, beware of over-scheduling, children need downtime too.
  • Don’t accommodate their anxiety; it’s ok for them to be uncomfortable in social situations because they are learning how to manage those types of interactions. Giving in and allowing them to avoid socializing only reinforces the avoidance behaviors.

How Do You Know When Your Teen’s Warning Signs are Really Red Flags?

By Jan Hamilton, Founder, Doorways Teen Counseling and Psychiatric Services Phoenix ArizonaJan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP-BC

 

For parents with children who are suffering from a mental illness, it can be very difficult to know when their child’s problems are typical and manageable, and when those problems begin to endanger other people.

There are warning signs you can watch for if you are concerned that there may be something going on with your child that might endanger themselves or others.  Here are four tips parents can use in these difficult situations.

1.     When Something Feels Off, Pay Attention

As parents, we know our children better than anyone and the most important thing you can do is to trust your instincts.  If something feels off, check it out.  If your child’s behavior seems to change overnight or they suddenly stop participating in things they used to enjoy, talk to them and don’t stop talking and listening until you find out what is going on.

2.     Challenges with Peers

Often times, the peers of teens who act out in dangerous ways or harmed their families also sensed something was off or strange about them.  If your child is having difficulty interacting with their peers, getting bullied, or having trouble fitting in with others in their age group, seek a second opinion.  Often, as parents, we are too close to form an objective opinion about whether our child is struggling to fit in because they have some social anxiety, a few extra pounds, or braces and when their peers avoid them because they sense they are anti-social, odd, or dangerous.  Someone outside the situation can provide valuable insight into what is normal and what needs immediate attention.

3.     Keep Lines of Communication Open

One of the biggest challenges every parent faces is keeping communication going when times get tough.  Often, the times when our children need us the most are also the times they are least likely to seek our counsel or ask for our help.  Create safe spaces for your child to open up about things you don’t approve of so that they don’t let small problems become life-altering situations simply because they didn’t want to get in trouble.  Remember that communicating is a two way street and that you need to listen at least as much as you talk.

4.      No Such Thing as Perfect Parents

Remind yourself that there is no such thing as perfect parents or perfect children.  Be the best parent you can and provide your children with a solid foundation, room to learn to make mistakes, and opportunities to make decisions, even bad ones.  Be there for them in whatever ways you can when they falter but remember that they have free will and they are going to make their own choices.  Even amazing parents can have children who make very bad choices.   But, the opposite is also true, even when parents seem to do everything wrong, most adolescents turn out to be amazing, wonderful adults!

 

Jan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP-BC

Jan is a nationally Board Certified Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who specializes in adolescent treatment.  She earned her Master’s of Science and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner certification through the University of Arizona. She then worked for over eight years at Remuda Ranch providing inpatient services for adolescents and adults suffering from eating disorders. Jan has been a registered nurse for 31 years and worked in a wide variety of medical settings, including 30 years of serving young people through her work with Young Life, an interdenominational outreach program. Her desire to provide quality psychological and psychiatric care for adolescents and young adults in an outpatient, faith based setting has led to the opening of Doorways in 2008.

Teen Relationships and Mood

Jan Hamilton, Founder, Doorways Teen Counseling and Psychiatric Services Phoenix Arizona

Jan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP-BC, CEDS Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Certified Eating Disorder Specialist CEO, Owner Doorways, LLC

By:  Jan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP-BC, CEDS

Few parents escape the teenage years without dealing with daily doses of drama that are an inescapable part of growing up.  But how do you know when your teen is just being over-dramatic, when they are hurting but healthy, or when the drama is a sign of clinical depression?

Many teens today are dealing with the relationship drama that is part of being a teenager and mood difficulties can be the result of all the drama.  Many teens are struggling because they find themselves in relationships, romantic or not, that they aren’t equipped to handle.  Depression can result when a relationship fails or does not work out as they expected and the drama associated with sudden changes in relationships only complicates the situation.

Many teens find themselves in relationships that got too romantic too quickly, and not just in the physical sense.  The end of a whirlwind relationship can be just as devastating if the connection wasn’t physical, if there was an emotional aspect, that’s enough.    The emotional highpoints of a new relationship and the emotional drama experienced when the relationship suddenly disappears can lead teens to feelings of depression.

Social networking, online friendships, and electronic communications have also changed the rules of the teenage game.  Unlike the teen years of their parents, today’s teens are hyper-connected to everyone they know, every minute of the day.  Twenty years ago, a fight between two friends may have resulted in a flurry of phone calls and drawn in three or four other people.  Today, that fight is played out on Facebook in front the entire school.  We know as therapists that human beings are not designed to participate in a hundred relationships at the same time which is in essence what social networking sites like Facebook ask us to do.  As a result of all of these relationships and the hyper-connected nature of their lives, teens today are bombarded with an exponential amount of relationship drama that is playing out like a television soap opera 24 hours a day.

The implied intimacy of knowing the thoughts, feelings, and everyday activities of the people in your life provides the façade of friendship where no real relationship exists.  Many of these online friendships and relationships weren’t built the way real relationships need to be built in order to be sustained.  Pair this with the fact that most people will say things to others online that they would never consider saying in person, and it is easy to understand why all this drama can drag our teenagers further into potential mood problems.

Even more concerning for the long term is how social networking impacts the skills teenagers need to develop in order to be able to handle relationships as they move into adulthood.  Today there is a whole generation of people who have developed friendships online through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and chat, but these relationships are not the same as relationships that were formed and built in person.  This group of teenagers doesn’t understand how to build real relationships and sustain them over time.  As a result, when a real relationship comes into their life, they don’t know how to participate in it or how to take care of it, because the skills they need are missing.  And when they lose that real relationship, they don’t know to handle the loss because it isn’t the same as having someone de-friend you on Facebook.

So what should parents do to help their child have healthy relationships and avoid relationship-caused mood problems?

  1. Encourage your teenager to get involved in extracurricular activities at school, church or other organizations.  From participating in sports or youth groups or volunteering for a community organization, all of these live activities provide teens with important one-on-one interaction and the opportunity to develop relationships with people.
  2. Monitor computer and cell phone usage; set boundaries.  I’ve heard some parents say that they insist that their kids share their passwords and give their parents 24 hour access to their social media accounts or text messages.  While some might think this is extreme, as parents who are responsible for the well being and safety of our children, it might be a good idea.
  3. Have regular family time.  Another family started a tradition when their children were young of going out to pizza as a family every Friday night.  Often times they would invite friends of the kids.  Even though the children are now teenagers, and one in college they still look forward to going to dinner as a family every Friday night when the can.  The benefit was that the family and kids spent the time eating and having conversation, something they didn’t do when they were all running in different directions.
  4. Encourage your teen to go out with groups of friends instead of just dating one person exclusively.

 

Anxiety Disorders in Teens and Young Adults

Did you know that an estimated 31.9% of adolescents suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder? And while the condition enjoys a high treatment success rate, the percentage of those who actively seek professional help for anxiety disorders is very low. In fact, only 1 in 5 teen sufferers actively seek professional help for their condition.

Characterized by intense and excessive amounts of nervousness, worry, and fear, anxiety disorders can affect the day-to-day workings and functioning of the sufferer.

However, given that anxiety disorders are highly treatable, it is indeed unfortunate that the level of awareness about the condition is very poor among the general population.

Which means, most sufferers of anxiety disorders, of which adolescents form a substantial percentage, continue to suffer through most of their childhood, and well into their adulthood, in silence.

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

Genetics can be a contributing factor in developing an anxiety disorder. This is especially true if the condition runs in the family. On top of this, some teens are more prone to developing the condition after undergoing a stressful event.

The divorce of parents, the loss of a loved one, a traumatic accident, or too much pressure to excel in academics or sports can lead to anxiety.

anxiety disorders in teens and young adults

Different Forms of Anxiety Disorders Among Young Adults

Anxiety disorders among young people can be classified under different types. Primary among these include the following:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Teens and young adults often face a lot of pressure at school, from their parents, or within their immediate social group. Sometimes it is about excelling in a particular arena, or it could be over their actions and behaviors. This can lead to excessive worrying—even about the smallest of issues.

Common symptoms to watch out for:

  • High-strung and restless.
  • Unable to focus or concentrate.
  • Highly fatigued.
  • Difficulty in sleeping or suffering from disturbed sleep.

Panic Disorder

This condition is characterized by unexpected yet reoccurring panic attacks which cause the sufferer to experience sudden and intense episodes of fear or a feeling of doom. Panic disorder, if left untreated, can cripple the social and relational life of a young person.

Common symptoms to watch out for:

  • Elevated heart rate.
  • Feeling of choking or experiencing chest pain.
  • Excessive sweating and trembling as well as having difficulty in breathing.
  • Dizziness, a numbing or tingling feeling in the arms and legs.
  • Gastric distress (abdominal pain, cramping, gas, nausea, indigestion, etc.).
  • Unexplainable fear of dying.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is more common among young children and teens. The fear of separating from a parent or caregiver or someone with whom they enjoy a strong emotional bond can trigger separation anxiety.

Common symptoms to watch out for:

  • Excessively worrying about losing the parent, caregiver, or loved one.
  • Excessively worrying about an impending departure of the loved one.
  • Avoiding activities which require separating from the parent or loved one.
  • Headache, nausea and vomiting, sweating.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is characterized by a strong and often crippling fear of being embarrassed or humiliated when in social events or gatherings.

An adolescent might fear saying or doing something which could cause them embarrassment. An estimated 15 million people in the US suffer from this condition and the onset age is during the early teenage years.

Common symptoms to watch out for:

  • Avoiding social gatherings, which could include going to school, or other social events.
  • Fear meeting new or unfamiliar people.
  • Worry they will be judged or scrutinized by other people.
  • Worrying for days about attending an upcoming social event.
  • Nausea, excessive sweating, rapid heart rate, dizziness, and difficulty speaking in front of others.

Treatment is Available

Adolescents suffering from anxiety disorders don’t have to suffer in silence. With timely intervention, including professional counseling, medication management, and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), an anxiety disorder can be effectively treated.

How Doorways Can Help

The world we live in today is ever changing. The pressures and challenges that young folks undergo as they carve out their individual identity can leave them vulnerable. Here at Doorways, our aim is to help our patients overcome some of these difficulties and to help them live strong and healthy lives.

We understand the degree of distress can be different for everyone. The best way to address individual triggers and symptoms of different forms of anxiety disorders is to create customized programs for every young person who comes to us. Some of the programs we offer include individual and family counseling for teens and young adults between the ages of 13-25.

We also offer an Intensive Outpatient Program for OCD and Social Anxiety. This program provides counseling in a small group setting and is open to adolescents between 13 and 18. This approach is very helpful in alleviating symptoms of anxiety, especially when these symptoms are interfering with school attendance and/or daily functioning. To find out more, visit our IOP page HERE.

If your child or someone close to you is suffering from an anxiety disorder, please connect with us at Doorways. We can help to identify the underlying cause of the condition and provide professional counseling and help. You can always give us a call at 602-997-2880.

What if Your Child is the Bully?

You get a phone call at work from your daughter’s school.  The Vice Principal would like to meet with you as soon as possible about a bullying incident involving your daughter.  Your heart sinks as you promise to be there as soon as you can.  You wonder if she is ok, worry about the long term ramifications she will face from being bullied, try to figure out what she is getting picked on for and think back over her whole life to see if there is something more you could have done to protect her.

It never crosses your mind that your daughter isn’t the one being bullied; she is the bully.

We as parents struggle to see anything but the best in our children and often it doesn’t seem possible that they could be the one hurting someone else. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t lie which means there are 2.1 million sets of parents out there who have a child who is a bully.  Parents are essential to the prevention and elimination of this kind of behavior and that includes all parents, not just those of the children who are the victims.  Parents of bullies may be the key to turning the tide against this pervasive crime being committed against and by our children everyday.

How Can You Tell if Your Child is a Bully?

The first thing parents need to do is come to terms with the fact that their child is engaging in behavior that is unhealthy for them and damaging to others.  An adolescent that is bullying others is not necessarily a “bad kid” and being the parent of a bully doesn’t automatically mean that you are a bad parent.  People engage in bullying behavior for a reason and the most important thing you can do to help your child is to uncover that reason.

If you are concerned that your child may be bullying others, there are some things you can look for.  Bullies lack empathy and struggle feeling or finding sympathy for others.  Bullies believe that aggression is a valuable tool for dealing with other people and often exhibit a belligerent attitude.  Bullies like to be the leader, the one in charge, and the one who makes and enforces the rules.  When they win, they like to lord it over those they beat and when they lose, it is everyone’s fault but their own.  They are impulsive and may exhibit bullying behavior toward siblings.   Bullying behavior includes any verbal, social, physical, or online action that is repetitive and intentionally harmful.

What Makes Children and Teens Bully Others?

The perception that every bully is a social outcast who is lashing out at others in an attempt to repair or elevate their own self-esteem is outdated.  While this does describe some bullies, it also contributes to the idea that popular, socially-adept adolescents with intact families aren’t bullies, which is not the case.  Teenagers bully others for a variety of reasons many of which start at home.  If your child is being bullied or has been bullied by someone at home, they may model that behavior and bully others.   Children who never learn or lack empathy may become bullies because they don’t take the feelings of the other person into account.  Whatever the reason, adolescents need to be taught that this behavior is never acceptable.

How Does Bullying Affect the Bully?

Being bullied can have devastating, life-long affects, but being the bully can also cause long term problems.  Children who bully others are more likely to struggle in school, to smoke, to drink, and to engage in criminal behavior into their adult years.  When children bully others and experience no repercussions, it reinforces the idea that this behavior is acceptable and that being mean-spirited, dismissive, and degrading to other people can be a source of power.  This is a dangerous lesson that underlines how important it is for parents to stand up, step in, and speak out.

How Can You Help Your Child?

Here are some things you can do to help your child see that bully behavior is not acceptable and encourage them to stop participating or engaging in things that are intentionally damaging to others.

  1. Treat the issue as seriously as it is.  It isn’t a phase or something they will grow out of.  You need to reinforce the idea that intentionally causing harm to others is never acceptable.
  2. Work with your child to uncover the reason for their behavior.  It may be helpful to seek the services and expertise of a medical practitioner, counselor, or therapist. This is also a great time to connect with your child’s teachers, school counselor, or other school resource to talk about any problems or difficulty in school.
  3. Model the behavior you want your child to emulate.  Be empathetic, show sympathy for others, don’t fly off the handle and lash out in anger.
  4. Help your child develop positive problem solving skills.
  5. Never allow bullying behavior to continue in your presence no matter who is doing the bullying.
  6. Talk to your child away from their peers; don’t bring up this or other sensitive topics in front of others.
  7. See the new documentary called Bully as a family and use it as a way to start and/or continue the conversation.

Cyberbullying – A Major Contributing Factor of Depression and Suicide in Teens and Young Adults

cyber bullying teen depression and suicide

In a previous blog post we looked at how peer pressure can have a negative impact on teenagers as well as its influence on their thinking, actions and decisions.

In this article we will look at cyberbullying, another form of negative peer pressure which has quickly emerged in the last few years as a major factor in instances of depression and suicide not only in teens but also in young adults.

The reach of social platforms is extensive.

Cyberbullying is a form of peer abuse which takes places in the virtual space. And because it can happen via chat, on forums, through blogs and websites, social sites, email, or phone messages, addressing the issue can be difficult for parents.

Cyberbullies Enjoy Virtual Anonymity

The bigger danger with cyberbullying is that unlike traditional bullying, where the aggressor’s identity is easy to establish, cyberbullies can hide behind the wall of anonymity and continue to attack the victim in a relentless manner.

They often use fake profiles, avatars, and a variety of screen names when attacking their targets. Targeting can happen through a text-war or abusive comments, name-calling, or victim shaming through pictures (often morphed), misinformation or deliberate spread of false information and rumors.

Dangers of Cyberbullying on Young Lives

The reason why cyberbullying is so dangerous is because of the negative impact it can have on the lives of teens and young adults. It not only affects their social relationships, but it can lead to self-esteem issues, or in extreme cases even lead to a self-harming behavior well into adulthood.

It is vital to note that cyberbullying is not limited to teenagers. College students, and young adults, face cyberbullying either at the college level or even in their workplace.

Social penetration is pervasive and any kind of content, or online activity which has a resonating value among a group, will get amplified.

The effects of such actions or activity on a teenager or young adult can be crippling. Here are some of the challenges and dangers of cyberbullying:

  • Tracking online bullying is difficult for both parents, guardians, and teachers since the bullying happens over platforms and through mediums they may not be privy to.
  • Cyberbullying can lead to increased levels of depression and anxiety among teens.
  • It could also lead to the teen harboring suicidal tendencies.
  • Just as in the case with traditional bullying, cyberbullying can impact school life and academics.
  • The feeling of vulnerability and the shaming that the victims of cyberbullying must endure can continue well into their adulthood since in most cases, the information stays online even if the immediate harmful content is deleted.
  • The victim could develop a fear of any online threats becoming a reality which could lead them withdrawing away from family and friends. It can shatter their confidence in this world which correlates with a lessoning of their quality of life.
  • Since most teens and young adults spend a lot of time online, they might feel helpless and get trapped into a state of constant victimhood thinking they can’t escape cyberbullying.

Preventing Cyberbullying – The Role of Parents and Guardians

Open communication is the most important aspect of preventing cyberbullying whether it happens at school or in the workplace from impacting the life of teens and young adults, respectively.

Talk to your children when they are of school-age and tell them why cyberbullying is not acceptable in any form. It is a reality to anyone interacting in the virtual world and it is best to learn about early on.

However, students and young professionals can do a lot to prevent cyberbullying from happening in the first place. Simple preventive steps include:

  • Never share passwords and exchange personal information online.
  • Don’t share pictures with strangers or people you are not very familiar with.
  • Talk to a parent or teacher/guardian about being a victim of cyberbullying.
  • Be clear that they will not be punished (blocking their internet access) if they come to you about being bullied or targeted online – it is important that your child knows you will not judge them.
  • If your child is in college and you suspect, they are a victim of this form of bullying, try to talk to them about it and how they need to ignore it or report it someone in authority. Print it out – document it.
  • Don’t respond to cyberbullies in any way – well not without the aid of someone in authority.
  • Don’t do anything with the aim of extracting revenge on cyberbullies – then you may become the person you dislike.
  • Show or instruct your child on how they can block or delete unwanted messages.
  • Any time they see messages or posts which are harmful, or which target them, tell them to take screenshots as proof.
  • Inform them that help can be sought from social media helplines, moderators, or service providers by reporting any instances of cyberbullying and finding ways of identifying or blocking cyberbullies from acting in this manner.

Social Media is Everywhere

Bullying and abuse can happen in many different forms. However, the ubiquitous nature of social media and kind of anonymity it offers to users, makes cyberbullying a very dangerous form of abuse.

Tackling the issue requires a consolidated social, political, and legal approach. Until that happens, it is the job of parents and guardians to keep children safe and protected from the dangers of cyberbullying.

How Doorways Can Help Victims of Abuse

Teens and young adults today face trials and challenges which make them extremely vulnerable to mental and physical disorders. At Doorways, our aim is to help young lives overcome some of these difficulties and to help them live strong and healthy lives.

We have specific programs which focus on teen and young adult mental health treatment. Some of the programs include individual and family counseling for teens and young adults between the ages of 13-25.

If your child or someone close to you is depressed, anxious, or if you suspect they are harboring suicidal tendencies, please connect with us at Doorways. We can help in identifying the underlying cause for the condition and provide professional counseling and help. You can also give us a call at 602-997-2880.

How to Help Your Teen Overcome Low Self-Esteem and Body Image Issues

how to help your teen overcome low self-esteem and body image issues

Self-esteem and body image issues can be a very difficult part of adolescence and young adulthood. Each generation has its own idea of “perfection” perpetuated through media, peer pressure, and societal prejudices, all have which take strong roots in our thinking.

Any kind of negative imaging in the formative years can lead to teens picking up a distorted view of what constitutes the “right” body image and self-concept.

Understanding Self-Esteem and Body Image

Body image is how one perceives oneself physically. Self-esteem on the other hand takes on a more holistic view of how one values and respects oneself as a person. Body image and self-esteem are closely linked in the sense that they have a spill-over effect on each other.

A positive body image allows you to appreciate your individual qualities and strengths both on the inside and the outside.

When you feel good inside and out, it has a positive influence on other areas of your life – you feel good about your life, the people in it, the work you do, and your accomplishments. Each of these in turn drive you towards a more positive future.

This is what a positive self-esteem constitutes – a qualitative and a quantitative appreciation of oneself.

In this context, consider the following statistics:

According to the National Institute of Health, unhealthy eating habits and addictions can lead to both health risks and mental disorders or conditions such as depression. Establishing these habits at a young age can result in a teen who continues presenting with these habits even into their adulthood.

Therefore, it is so important for parents to help their teens and young adults develop a healthy body image and positive self-esteem.

Concrete Steps You Can Take as Parents

Start by trying to understand what your teenager feels about their own body image. The following questions can help you understand what they are thinking;

  • What qualities do they like about their body?
  • Are they happy with their physical appearance (weight, height, features)?
  • Is there a specific celebrity or public personality with a body type they like?
  • Is there any part of their body they would want to change or replace?

Additionally, work on your own values about your body and the messages you give to your kids about health and body image:

Give Prominence to Human Values Over Physical Appearance

  • Focus on qualities of kindness, helping others, and honesty over physical attributes or appearances.
  • Don’t criticize your teen or young adult over their physical appearance; work with them to pick up healthy eating habits, good sleeping habits, and to exercise appropirately.
  • Appreciate any efforts they make in this regard.

Lead by Example

  • If you have a negative body image or have self-esteem issues, your kids will notice.
  • If you tend to obsess over food, appearance, and weight they will pick up on those habits.
  • When you speak negatively about others’ appearance, they will feel encouraged to do the same.

Help Your Teen Overcome Negative Perceptions About Their Body

  • Talk to your teen about appreciating their body and their physical and emotional strengths.
  • You can help highlight a strength to counter any negative feelings they have about a specific body part.
  • Impress upon them that even celebrities and public figures must deal with imperfections; the images they see on the Internet, TV, and social media are often airbrushed or manipulated.
  • Talk to them about how marvelous the human body is in terms of what it can achieve, and that everyday life is not so much about how one looks, but about what one does.
  • Talk to them about people who have overcome physical, emotional, gender, and community biases to achieve greatness in their lives; this can help them understand the above-mentioned point of focusing on achievements and everyday actions.
  • Listen to your teen when they speak; if they know you are paying attention and care about their feelings, they will feel encouraged to open up about struggles.

Poor Self-esteem and Negative Body Image Issues – How Doorways Can Help Your Teen

If your teen is struggling with poor body image or low self-esteem, there is every chance they can fall into the trap of unhealthy lifestyle choices, including bad dietary habits and addictions. Assistance by way of behavioral, family, group counseling, and psychiatric intervention can help your teen learn to respect, feed, and appreciate their body.

To learn more about how we can help, visit Doorways or give us a call at 602-997-2880.

Teen Internet Addiction – Should You be Worried?

teen internet addiction

The virtual, or online, world is replete with exciting opportunities and experiences.

The rise of social media sites, online shopping, extensive gaming opportunities, as well as easy and on-the-go access to literally every kind of information, are pushing the boundaries on the kind of influence and hold the virtual world has on different sections of populations.

This includes the vulnerable and experience-seeking teenager who is desperately trying to find their own space and identity.

Why is Internet Addiction Dangerous?

The most vulnerable sections of any society are young children and teenagers. And there is no doubt they are spending increasing amounts of time online. But can the time spent online convert into an addiction?

Consider the fact that today’s teenager has grown up on a steady dose of online content which they can easily consume over various screens. Of which, the smartphone is the most popular choice. The big question then is this – does more online screen time lead to Internet addiction?

While Internet addiction is not a cause of concern for every single teenager. The Internet can become a dangerous place for your teen, especially if the usage is largely unsupervised, for several reasons. Consider the following:

  • Easy availability of drugs online.
  • Easy access to online gaming.
  • Easy access to online porn and other adult content.
  • Easy access to provocative and polarizing online content (political, religious, violent) which are often created to influence young, unsuspecting minds.

Each of these factors can lead a teenager to pick up habits which are addictive in nature and dangerous to their mental and physical health.

Signs of Internet Addiction in Your Teen

As with any form of addiction, Internet addiction displays itself through a few common signs. Watch out for these signs in your teen:

  • Unduly obsessive about the time they spend online each day.
  • The number of hours spent online keeps increasing steadily.
  • Not missing an opportunity to go online.
  • Pushing back bed time to stay online or even staying up all night.
  • Pulls back from social engagement; withdraws from engaging with family and friends.
  • Falling grades, unable to focus on school work, lack of interest in school and learning.
  • Mood/emotional outbursts and signs – irritable, moody, or angry when asked to cut down time spent online.
  • Is convinced online connections/friends are real.
  • Over dependence on online friends and including them in all decisions.
  • Hides or refuses to divulge or share any information about online activities.
  • Becomes depressed if not online.

Who is at Risk?

Social, environmental, family, physical, and emotional factors play a vital role in the development process of a teenager. A problem in any of these areas increases the risk of the teen developing problems or picking up an addiction. Internet addiction is no different.

For example, teens who lack a strong social support system, or are battling depression, or anxiety or any other form of mental/emotional disorder fall in the vulnerable category. If the teen is already addicted to say, drugs or alcohol, again the chances of them becoming addicted to the Internet is higher.

Internet Addiction in Teens – What You Can Do About It

A simple “no” will obviously not work when it comes to dealing with teenagers. However, you can take certain steps to reduce the chance of your teen becoming addicted to the Internet by doing the following:

  • Fix a time limit for Internet usage when it comes to engaging on social sites and for consumption of other social content.
  • Be strict about fixing a time limit on gaming.
  • Make it clear that the Internet is essentially for doing school work and research.
  • Try and keep Internet access to common areas within the home such as the kitchen/dining area, the study, or the family space for easy monitoring.
  • If you notice unusual behavior, speak with your teenager about what could be triggering the behavior.
  • If you feel the time spent online is impacting your teen in other ways, address it as soon as possible – if you are unable to find a solution, consult with a professional.
  • Lastly, closely monitor all online activity – leaving your child unsupervised online can be dangerous.

Overcoming Internet Addiction is Possible – How Doorways Can Help Your Teen

A potent treatment combination of behavioral, family, group counselling, and psychiatric intervention can help your teen overcome their Internet addiction.

At Doorways, our focus is to first gain a comprehensive understanding of the triggers for the addiction, and then to address any of the mental and physical issues a teen might have developed during the course of the addiction.

Overcoming any form of addiction will only happen if the teenager can achieve an emotional, spiritual, and relational/social balance in their lives. This is our big focus area at Doorways.

If you suspect that your teenager is addicted to the Internet, or if you know of a family or friend with a teenager who is struggling with Internet addiction, please direct them to Doorways. We can also be reached at 602-997-2880.

Is Your Teen Being Negatively Influenced by Peer Groups?

is your teen being negatively influenced by peer groups?

As teenagers start exploring the world around them, their contact base will expand beyond their immediate circle of family, friends, and relatives to include another important section known as peer groups.

Peer groups enjoy a certain degree of acceptability based on shared similarities such as gender, community, age, and activity, which makes them a substantially influential group.

If the influence of peer groups is positive, it will lead to positive outcomes. However, if the influence is negative such as encouraging addictions, or substance abuse, or other forms of risky behavior, the implications can be dangerous for your teenager.

Identifying “Peer Groups” in Your Teen’s Life

As a parent it is important you are aware of the kind of ideas and influences your teen is being exposed to on a day-to-day basis. Which is why it is important you identify the peer groups that can influence your teen.

Peers or peer groups are a set of individuals your teen admires or identifies with in some way. These peers or peer groups can be from different places such as school, or at an after-school club or activity, from the neighborhood, or even via social platforms and online forums.

Why do Teens Feel Pressure to “Fit In”?

The need to “fit-in” or be one amongst a crowd can drive teens to succumb to peer pressure. So, a teen who wants the approval of these peer groups will feel pressured to mimic their behaviors and actions.

Bullying could also be a major reason for teens to succumb to peer pressure. In both instances, it is the pressure of conforming to a certain group or expectation which can lead to behavioral changes among teenagers.

Important Signs of Peer Pressure

Teenagers who enjoy healthy and positive relations with their friends and family, are better positioned to deal with peer pressure.

However, teens who are isolated or those who don’t have the buffer of family and friends, tend to be more vulnerable to peer pressure. If your teen is facing peer pressure, there are several signs which will indicate the same. You should be worried if your teen displays one or more of the following:

  • Is irritable or shows signs of depression.
  • Indulges in substance abuse and other forms of addiction (gaming, smoking, drugs, and alcohol).
  • Starts displaying behavioral changes that are out of character.
  • Displays sudden change in belief and attitude.
  • Is overly worried about not “fitting-in.”
  • Is easily influenced to think or act a certain way regardless of the dangers or risks involved.
  • Is easily influenced by “friends” – and as parents, these “friends” make you feel anxious or concerned.
  • Shows little or no interest in school and studies.

If you find it difficult to communicate with your child, are unable to help them deal with peer pressure, or find the above symptoms are getting worse, it is best to seek professional help.

Positive Impact of Peer Pressure on Your Teen

While peer pressure generally carries a negative connotation, this is not the case every time. So, while one set of people might have a negative influence on your teen, another set of people from the same age group or gender, can have a positive influence. As parents, it is easy to get overprotective of your child.

However, if you notice positive changes in your child after they start interacting or associating with a certain peer group, it is important to appreciate and encourage these interactions.

If you notice your teen is more confident, or is pursuing healthy interests and habits, or enjoys a greater sense of belonging which is having an overall positive impact on their thinking and decision making — encourage them!

Don’t be suspicious of every action; getting a tattoo does not necessarily mean your teen is associating with drug addicts or has fallen into bad company. Perhaps it is simply a sign of artistic expression.

Communicate with your teen and support their decisions. If you are against a particular action or idea, explain your reasons for feeling the way you do. Above all, support them so they know they can always depend on you regardless of what transpires in the outside world.

Knowing When to Ask for Help

If your teen enjoys a healthy relationship with their peers, you have nothing to worry about. The only time you should be concerned is when peer pressure starts having a negative impact on your teenager’s life and the choices they make. If you are unable to help, then seeking professional help is the best way forward.

How Doorways Can Help Your Teen

Here at Doorways, we are aware of the trials and pressures teenagers face in their growing years. We also know that each teen has their own way of dealing with these pressures – some find their own path, others need a little help.

Our role as behavioral therapists and professional counselors is to help teens and their families deal with peer pressure in a positive and constructive way and build confidence for all parties involved.

If you suspect your teen is facing peer pressure and needs help, please connect with us at Doorways. We can also be reached at 602-997-2880.

Danger of Substance Abuse Among Teens is Acute and on the Rise

danger of substance abuse among teens is on the rise

Did you know that almost 50% of high school seniors have tried an inhalant or illicit drug at least once in their lives? Here’s another alarming stat – more teenagers die from having abused prescription drugs than those who have used cocaine and heroin.

Neither of these stats read well for teens growing up in today’s world.

As parents and guardians, the responsibility of keeping teens and young adults safe is enormous. And while one can argue that substance abuse has been an issue for past generations of teens and young adults, the challenge today is very different and far more complex than say, even a decade earlier.

Some of these challenges include:

  • Marijuana strains available today are far stronger than those available in the earlier years.
  • An influx and easy availability (online purchase) of designer drugs such as ketamine and synthetic drugs such as Spice.
  • Revival of the heroin culture.
  • Marijuana has been made legal across many states.
  • Increase in abuse of pain medication.
  • Prescription drug and over-the-counter medication abuse on the rise.

The Modern Social and Personal Life of a Teenager is Highly Complex

It is a universally accepted fact that teenage years are difficult. Young teens are under immense pressure to meet certain standards, to “fit-in,” and often, they struggle to find their own space and establish their identity.

The open nature of today’s media, of which social is a big part, is a major contributor to skewed and unrealistic expectations and pressures that today’s teens face in their personal and social lives.

The social life of a teenager today is complicated to say the least. Add to that the fact that their exposure to the world is very different; they are competing and trying to stay relevant not just among their school peers, but also on social platforms.

Many face a lot of negative sentiment and experience bullying not only at school, but also online. Without a strong support structure to back them, many buckle under the pressure of meeting these standards.

The result is that many teens develop a negative impression of their lives. This often cascades into a negative body image, depression, and low self-esteem leading many turning to drugs.

Of course, some teens use drugs to experience a thrill and end up getting addicted. Sometimes substance abuse is a result of their social conditions or surroundings, family history, or abuse.

Why should you be worried?

The danger comes when a teen becomes addicted. Addiction is a medical condition with specific symptoms. Addiction can eventually lead your teen to experience erratic or harmful behavior, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, violent and suicidal tendencies, as well as serious health conditions.

Overcoming Mental Addiction is the Bigger Challenge

Addiction is a medical condition in which the brain craves certain substances, leading to an impulsive and uncontrollable dependence on the substance even though the substance is harmful.

And although someone fighting an addiction problem might be able to control their physical craving for the drug, it is in fighting the mental addiction that they face their biggest challenge. The brain can carry the mental addiction well into adulthood.

The Dangers of Drug Abuse Among Teens

If your teen is addicted to drugs, or even if you suspect your teen might be using illegal substances, the most important thing is to not ignore it. The last thing you should do is dismiss the behavior as a “phase.”

Some of the dangers of substance abuse include:

  • Lower IQ, especially among teens who use marijuana before the age of 18.
  • Developing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and increased risk of developing schizophrenia.
  • Developing physical health conditions because of impaired growth hormones, brain development, and organ function.
  • Increased tendency to become violent and dangerously aggressive.
  • Inability to maintain and develop relationships or live in established social structures.
  • Sudden and drastic dip in academic performance.
  • High probability of becoming juvenile delinquents.

Treatment for Substance Abuse

Successful treatment for substance abuse involves a combination of behavioral, family, group counselling, and psychiatric intervention.

Our treatment plan takes on a comprehensive approach to help a teen overcome their addiction problem, while also addressing and treating any of the mental and physical conditions the teen might have developed because of the substance abuse.

Finally, we work with the teen to help them develop an emotional, relational, and spiritual balance in their life. This is done with the aim of ensuring the teen can go back to his normal life in the present and to be able to plan and build a future life as well.

We know this arena!

If your teenager is addicted to drugs, or if you know of a loved one who is struggling through substance abuse, please direct them to Doorways. We can also be reached at 602-997-2880.