What are Process Addictions? 6 Tips to Help Your Teen Cope

Parents are often concerned about alcohol and drug addictions, but in fact, people can develop fixations on things other than intoxicating substances. Teens can take an obsessive involvement in certain activities such as gambling, Internet use, video games and eating; these are known as process addictions (or behavioral addiction). Those who engage in this sort of compulsive behavior may do so to enjoy the short-term reward despite risking a serious consequence such as poor school grades or job loss.

What are Process Addictions and How Can You Identify Them?

Process addictions are behaviors that give teens a natural reward or emotional high from engaging in them, they are classified as impulsive and addictive behaviors that can be harmful to a teen’s well-being if not diagnosed. The most common types of process addictions are:

  • Gambling addiction
  • Internet addiction
  • Exercise addiction
  • Shopping addiction
  • Food addiction
  • Video Game Addiction

All of these teen addictions share the common symptom of a teen being unable to stop partaking in the behavior, even if it is causing adverse effects like their grades dropping in school, lack of sleep, withdrawal from friends and family, etc. It’s important for parents to understand the warning signs and behaviors of adolescent addiction:

  1. Using the behavior as an escape from negative emotions or events happening in their lives
  2. Compulsively seeking the emotional high that the behavior delivers, such as spending more and more time partaking in the addictive behavior, in order to increase the reward
  3. Spending an abnormal amount of time thinking about or actively involved in the behavior, often to the exclusion of other activities, such as responsibilities at home or in school, or personal relationships with friends and family
  4. Showing no signs of wanting to stop the activity, even if they are aware of the adverse effects that it is having on their everyday life
  5. Experiencing withdrawal if they can’t access or partake in the behavior that they are addicted to, this could come across as severe mental distress or anger

Teen Behavioral Addictions Treatment

Below are six tips you can use to help your teen if they suffer from any of the above process addictions.

Remove Access to the Activity

It’s much easier to cope with teen behavioral addictions if you remove access to the activity. For example, if your teen has an unhealthy obsession with eating, keep your pantry free of junk food. Or if your teen is addicted to video games, remove all gaming consoles from your home and restrict their time spent on the computer. For some processes, this can be a little more difficult; a teen with an Internet addiction may still need to use their desktop or laptop for schoolwork. But you can limit their online activities by blocking access to social media on their computer.

Develop Stress Management Tools

Stress management and mindfulness are great ways to help with a process addiction craving. Activities such as yogameditation and even knitting may help prevent your teen from engaging in their process addiction; they’ll feel more relaxed and less likely to turn to a disruptive activity to cope with stress or anxiety.

When your teen feels tempted to engage in their process addiction, they can instead turn to a list of alternate activities. Some options may include going for a hike, taking up a sport or trying a new recipe. Creating a list ahead of time will help them cope better when they’re struggling with pressures.

Newport Academy: a young man smiles slightly looking directly at the viewer. A text box below him reads, "Help your teen beat depression. We're here for you. Learn more about our mental health treatment."
Newport Academy: a young man smiles slightly looking directly at the viewer. A text box below him reads, "Help your teen beat depression. We're here for you. Learn more about our mental health treatment."

Provide an Accountability Partner

Having a loved one that understands their process addictions can be a great coping tool for your teen. Knowing that they have someone to stay accountable to and who will check in with them may deter your teen from indulging in their addiction. You can serve this role and enlist any of their friends or another family member to help out when you’re not around to keep an eye on your teen’s behavior.

Recognize Their Triggers

Knowing what triggers your teen can help them reduce their desire to engage in their addiction. For example, if your teen tends to relapse when they’re tired, encourage them to go to bed by a certain time each night. If hunger sets them off, make sure your teen always brings a healthy lunch and snack to school with them.

Professional Treatment for Process Addictions

If you have tried the above steps to limit your teen’s dependency on their addiction and are still concerned about their behavior, the next step is to seek professional treatment. Treatment for process addictions at a teen treatment facility like Newport Academy, may involve Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as part of an integrated treatment plan. CBT can help teens understand the underlying causes of their addiction and how to manage their compulsions. Contact us today, to speak to a qualified professional about the options available to your teen.