Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Teens Develop Addictions?

Parents, who have reasons to worry about their teens, breathe a big sigh of relief when they find out their teens aren’t involved with drugs and alcohol. Addictions, however, aren’t always drug and alcohol related. Other addictions include gambling, addiction to relationships, addiction to video games, addiction to sex, addiction to food, etc., some of which are really hard to detect in the early stages. While drug and alcohol may appear most dangerous to the physical body, all types of addictions are detrimental to the quality of a teen’s life.

It’s important to note that teens don’t start off with the intent of becoming an addict (and they usually aren’t aware of the precise moment they start to lose control). Repetitive engaging in particular behaviour to receive particular benefits does, however, lead to addiction.

This leads us to ask, why are teens repeatedly engaging in certain behaviours to the point of developing an addiction? What’s causing them to go back to use the same substance or behaviour?

If we know what leads teens to become addicted, it’s easy for parents to take preventative measures so their teens do not get caught in the trap.

Here are 4 reasons teens start engaging in and keep coming back to addictive behaviours:

1. It has rewards: Some teens feel that a particular behaviour or substance has certain rewards (e.g., feeling a temporary high, fitting in with peers, proving self-worth and courage, deliberate rebellion, etc.). The perceived reward tempts the teen into engaging in the particular behaviour again and again. While the reward is different for every teen, it’s the supposed benefit that keeps the teen coming back to the same behaviour.

2. Pain relief: Some people feel forming addictions is a sign of irresponsibility, bad friendships or hanging out with the wrong crowd, and bad choices. On the surface this is certainly how it appears, but many teens who go through therapy say the substance or behaviour was first used to help them deal with emotional pain. Teens that come from emotionally abusive or neglectful homes (whether they were abused or witnessed abuse) are more likely to develop an addiction. Over time, these teens start consuming larger doses while believing they’re in control.

3. Coping with stress: Life gets tough no matter what age you’re at. It’s even tougher if you don’t know how to deal with what life has to offer to you. In order to divert attention from stressful life circumstances some teens form addictive behaviours. Teens that experience anxiety or depression often find relief in using substances or engaging in certain behaviours. Addictions are particularly likely for teens that don’t see a way out, don’t believe help is possible, or are embarrassed to speak about it.

4. Modeling: Teens that are present in environments with substance abuse or other addictive behaviours are more likely to develop same behaviours. Many of these teens learn this as a way of life and unless someone comes along to show them an alternative way of living, they will adapt the destructive habits as their own.

Best Wishes To You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

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