Social Media Addiction Intervention and Treatment

Social Media Addiction Intervention

Parents are often concerned about their child’s social media use and are curious about a social media addiction intervention. A social media addiction intervention has similarities and differences from a typical intervention for drug and alcohol use. Generally, affected family members and friends will gather to let the teenager know their concerns about social media addiction and how it has affected them personally and the effect of social media addiction. social media addiction intervention

The intervention is generally led by a qualified therapist or other licensed professional experienced at conducting interventions. Before attempting a social media addiction intervention, it is useful to practice rehearsing responses to predicted objections to the intervention.

Probably the most common objection is going to be that everyone is using social media today and that this is an important part of identity development. Certainly, this does carry some weight. It is true that more people than not are on social media today and social media is a way to communicate with others just like parents of today use the telephone in years past to keep in contact. The difference, however, is that some teenagers will use social media pathologically.

What that means is that the teen’s use has become problematic and is doing more harm than good. In almost all cases, the teenager does not recognize the harm that the social media addiction is causing and therefore a social media addiction intervention is needed. An effect of social media addiction intervention will involve family members taking their turns expressing to the teenager how their social media addiction has affected their relationship with them personally.

It is not uncommon in a true social media addiction for teens to not be able to go for two or three hours without checking their social media accounts. This includes time spent in bed. We know that there are over 2 billion social media users on Twitter and Facebook alone. Addiction to social media is generally about impulse control ability and lack of awareness of the harm that social media is causing.

Social Media Addiction Intervention: A Primary or Secondary Concern?

There is much debate today about whether social media addiction intervention should be done as a primary diagnosis or if it is secondary to something else like depression or bipolar disorder. Generally, therapist accept social media addiction intervention as its own diagnostic classification with specialized treatment methods and needs.

Others say that there is not enough research to differentiate social media addiction or video game addiction as a separate disease process. Regardless of what you believe, there are countless numbers of parents out there that will state social media addiction is a real problem and that research regarding effective treatment needs to be prioritized. In one study, a decreased impulse control with social media addiction occurred when depression symptoms decreased. The significance of this study is that it lends credibility to neurobiological contributions to social media addiction.

There are definitely areas of the brain that become activated with substance dependence and create cravings when that substance is not used. These are the same brain areas that are activated when an individual is browsing social media. This brings further evidence to the classification of social media addiction and the need for social media addiction intervention.

We also know that the positive feelings one experiences with social media addiction creates a need for increased likes or positive interactions on social media to produce the same positive feelings that were once experienced with lesser interactions. 6% to 11% of Internet users in the United States were found to have a serious problematic social media use issue in one study.

Social Media Addiction Intervention: Real Disorder or Not?

Currently, social media addiction falls under the classification of internet video game disorder. This is partially because social media has been gamified in that users compete for likes or similar points for attention for posts that they make. There has been much research conducted by experts to convince others that social media addiction is a serious psychological illness.

However, treatment methods by most practitioners have been lacking. This is partially because the current model for treating addiction is the 12-step model which involves giving up a behavior completely. Because social media interaction is an important part of identity development, and because it is impossible to completely separate from internet use, it is just not practical or possible to completely give up technology in today’s society.

Social Media Addiction Intervention: Common Issues

Social media addiction intervention is often done for primarily mental health reasons. However, there are physical health reasons as well that one might want to cut down on social media use. Researchers have found that obesity and sleep disorders along with lack of exercise and peer relationships have resulted from pathological use of social media. Declining physical health problems are usually first evidence with weight gain as individuals who sit for extended periods of time on social media will not get the exercise needed to maintain a healthy weight range.

Psychological issues can also result from too much social media usage. In Psychology, we call this a secondary issue as the social media overuse will be the primary cause. Researchers tell us that psychological disorders and behavioral disorders can occur from too much social media usage. This includes drug and alcohol abuse, self-injury and aggression, all of which can be consequences from pathological social media usage. Other psychological disorders including depression and ADHD are often co-occurring with the need for social media addiction intervention.

One issue with social media addiction intervention is that there is little general consensus in the therapeutic community about best practice for treatment. This might have to do with the varying reasons for the needs for a social media addiction intervention. For example, one individual might be misusing social media by bullying others online and creating false identities to harass or harm others. The underlying issue in this case might actually be Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder.

In another instance, we might have someone constantly comparing themselves to others who post online and do not understand that photos posted are generally showing the other person in their very best light. This can cause psychological issues such as depression or low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy. Other mental health issues can be seen with social media misuse or overuse.

One example is borderline personality disorder, where a person might engage in dangerous online activities such as posting pornographic pictures of themselves for attention. Teens lack the frontal lobe development to see the full consequences of their behaviors and often do not understand that they are not as anonymous online as they might have first thought. Generally, treatment approaches involve targeting a certain number of hours that online behaviors will be limited to. A tracking journal is common in behavioral or cognitive behavioral approaches.  Another positive intervention is to educate the social media user on possible negative outcomes of posting personal information online and demonstrating how they are not as anonymous as they might think.

Additionally, a therapist should work with the teenager to develop insight into the harm they are creating by overusing or misusing social media. The final step in an effective social media addiction intervention would be to reintegrate technology back into the individual’s life in a healthy and meaningful way. While there may be bumps in the road and during times of stress there may be a tendency to regress back to old behaviors, effective treatment will teach participants how to get back on track if they fall off. 

Getting Back on Track After a Social Media Addiction Intervention

One thing that seems to be universally true about addictive behavior is that it is very difficult to get back on track when we fall off the bandwagon. This is especially true after a social media addiction intervention. Once an individual has gone through a detox process and developed insight into their addiction, coping skills are taught and practiced to enable the patient to live successfully after discharge.

However, when stress levels rise there will always be the tendency to revert back to old habits such as social media pathological use. This is why part of treatment should always include how to get back on track if you revert back to old behaviors. With any addiction, relapse will be part of the recovery process.  At our high-quality residential center, we discuss all the common frustrations teens and young adults will certainly face in life- breakups, arguments with supervisors, and disagreements with loved ones.  We learn that our response to these stressful situations determines our ability to live a successful, addiction free lifestyle.

An individual is only truly cured when they have the tools to come back from a relapse independently. We can help teach young people these skills by practicing different techniques and visualizing what we will do when we need to reach out for help. In this manner, we leave nothing to chance and our response to relapse has already been pre-planned and set in place.

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The team behind Your Little Professor is dedicated to providing factual information for parents and caretakers of adolescents on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. We believe in connecting families to the necessary resources in order to help individuals on the spectrum succeed in day-to-day life.