• Residential Treatment Program for Teens 14-17

Anxiety

smartphone addiction

Does Smartphone Addiction Lead to Depression or Vice Versa?

Does Smartphone Addiction Lead to Depression or Vice Versa? 2560 1707 srtc_admin

For many teen girls a typical day looks something like this: wake up, roll over and check her phone, scroll through social media while she’s getting ready for school, text friends on their way to class, check out some TikTok videos during lunch break, catch up on anything she missed on social media after school, answer all the notifications as they come while at home, scroll through social media or watch a show on their phone while lying in bed before falling asleep. If we truly monitored the amount of time our daughters spent on their phones, the number would be staggering. But does the amount of time they spend on their phone actually have an impact on their mental health? 

Typically, when we think about teens who spend a lot of time on their phones, we are more likely to wonder if they’re lonely than if they’re popular, or an up-and-coming social media influencer. This suggests that the idea of the relationship between depression and social media addiction is already imprinted in our minds, even if we don’t quite understand how they became so interconnected. New research suggests a person’s reliance on their smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around. 

What Contributes to Smartphone Addiction?

When looking at the relationship between smartphone addiction and depression, these researchers decided to focus on adolescents, as rates of both issues are most prevalent among this age group. Not only have they all grown up with smartphones, but they are at a stressful stage in life where they are more vulnerable to not knowing how to cope with mental health struggles in a healthy way. 

We often think that teens who don’t know who to talk to or where else to turn in life escape into a virtual world, but researchers claim that this problem starts much earlier. Many teens who spend a lot of time online recognize that social media is addictive and has affected their self-esteem, but they feel like their social reputation is tied to their online presence and therefore can’t delete their accounts. 

One of the major negative effects smartphone use can have on girls’ mental health is contributing to a constant sense of comparison. They see filtered images and pictures of smiling, happy people living their best life. It is easy to see how they could begin to view their own life negatively. They may begin to question why they are not as happy or why they don’t have what other people have. This is also tied into FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. Social media allows users to be constantly updated when the people they follow post or when they receive a like or comment. Because they fear missing out, disconnecting from their device may feel impossible. 

Why Focus on Effects of Smartphone Use?

“If depression and loneliness lead to smartphone dependency, we could reduce dependency by adjusting people’s mental health,” explains study co-author Pengfei Zhao said. “But, if smartphone dependency (precedes depression and loneliness), which is what we found, we can reduce smartphone dependency to maintain or improve wellbeing.”

“We’ve really been trying to focus on this idea of dependency and problematic use of smartphones being the driver for these psychological outcomes,” describes Zhao. “There’s an issue where people are entirely too reliant on the device, in terms of feeling anxious if they don’t have it accessible, and they’re using it to the detriment of their day-to-day life.”

If we understand that smartphone use is common and, at this stage, fairly natural for young adults, how can we determine when that use has become detrimental? Here are some things to be aware of:

  • Withdrawing from face-to-face social interactions: Maybe you’ve noticed that your daughter quit her favorite after school club or is choosing to stay home on the weekends instead of going out to meet their friends. If she is starting to withdraw or isolate, this can be a sign that she is becoming too dependent on her technology use. 
  • Consistent anxiety, stress: If her smartphone use is leading to mood swings or elevated levels of stress and anxiety that is a clear signal that her smartphone use has become unhealthy. 
  • Grades begin to slip, and assignments reflect poor work or are left undone: If all of their focus is on social media, other areas of their life may begin to suffer. If your previously studious daughter has chosen to spend her evening learning a new TikTok dance instead of preparing for her tests it can lead to a negative impact on her school work. 
  • Avoidance of real life responsibilities, such as chores or homework: For many teens, the last thing they want to do is clean their room or empty the dishwasher. But these are important parts of having healthy, balanced lives. Excessive smartphone use can quickly throw that balance off. 
  • Ill at ease, ill-equipped or unresponsive to people in front of them: If your daughter is spending more time on her phone and less time interacting in real life, she may begin to feel uncomfortable in social situations. Like most things in life, practice is key to building skills, and without that real world practice they do not have the opportunity to build those skills. 
  • Phones begin to create conflict in their closest relationships: What happens when you ask your daughter to put her smartphone away? Does she lash out and get angry? Does limited phone use cause an outburst? Unreasonable reactions to being separated from their smartphone may mean that she has created unhealthy habits. 

Building Offline Communication Skills in Residential Treatment:

Having worked with adolescents with mental health issues for over a decade, Solstice RTC has noticed a recent increase in the number of girls and assigned female at birth we work with who have also struggled with smartphone addiction. Noticing this intersection, we have adapted our programming to help address the unhealthy ways that technology is used, expectations that teens have about their online identities, and communication skills missing from online interactions. 

Raising awareness about social media addiction has become a unique part of Solstice RTC’s program by teaching parents how to handle these issues and set boundaries around electronics.

Equine Therapy: In addition to group and family therapy, we believe that equine therapy is a powerful way of teaching relational skills, like nonverbal communication and social awareness. Using body language with these sensitive animals helps students learn how to better communicate with others and build relationships.

Weekly phone calls with family: Teens today are used to having more conversations online than in person–even with their families. This depersonalized way of socializing often gets in the way of maintaining two-way conversations. While they do not have access to cell phones, students at Solstice are encouraged to make regular phone calls to friends and family members to strengthen their support system. Every week, students have the chance to video chat with their parents during therapy sessions.

Home visits offer opportunities to self-monitor social media use: Students periodically go home for a few days, prior to leaving the program, to gauge how they handle being at home with access to their cell phone and social media. Every teen has an individualized technology contract that they work on with their parents and their therapist to decide what boundaries, if any, may need to be set around healthy media use. 

At Solstice RTC, our goal is to help teen girls and assigned female at birth learn how to use their phones to communicate more effectively with people without feeling like they have to be attached to their phone every second of the day. Many of the girls and assigned female at birth we work with come to our program struggling with a “fear of missing out” and describe their compulsion to “stay updated” on their online social lives all the time.

“For the most part, I can do things and have it in my pocket and not need it. Right now, it’s not that big of an issue for me. I can be by myself and be okay and I’m reconnecting with a lot of things I love. And I don’t feel empty.” -Testimonial from former student who struggled with internet addiction

Solstice RTC Can Help

Solstice is a groundbreaking residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18. Our girls and assigned female at birth often struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, ADHD,  technology addiction, and other emotional or behavioral problems when they come to us. Through a unique combination of therapeutic programs based upon both traditional and holistic mental health treatment, we treat our clients with age and gender-specific techniques. With a strong emphasis on family therapy based intervention, nutrition, and physical fitness, and the supportive provision of cutting-edge academics, substance abuse/addiction therapy, equine therapy, and psychiatric services, 

Solstice sets the stage for the infusion of light into the previously darkened lives of the families we serve. We strive to empower teenage people with the ability to believe in themselves offline and provide the tools and motivation required to instill these beliefs for life.

For more information about smartphone addiction, contact us at 866-278-3345.

social anxiety in teens

Shyness or Social Anxiety in Teens? Symptoms and Triggers

Shyness or Social Anxiety in Teens? Symptoms and Triggers 1790 2560 Solstice RTC

Adolescence is filled with new experiences and challenges. Teen girls are going through physical and emotional changes and puberty starts and social dynamics begin to shift. With all these changes, it is easy to see how young women may feel uncomfortable or shy in these new situations. Friend groups may start to expand or contract, and your daughter will have to begin to learn how to create new friendships and relationships. This can be challenging for any teen girl, but for girls struggling with social anxiety, this can be even more difficult. 

Struggling to fit in with people your own age as a teen girl or child assigned female at birth is terrible. Most teen girls and assigned female at birth base their entire lives around their social life. They make it a higher priority than spending time with their family and/or even doing well academically. For some teen girls, this social life is not an option. Social anxiety in teens can be absolutely crippling in many aspects of a teen’s life. Unlike the self-consciousness most people feel from time to time, social anxiety in teens creates a fear of social situations that is so intense people avoid all situations that might trigger the fear response.

What is social anxiety? 

Feelings of shyness or discomfort in certain situations aren’t necessarily signs of social anxiety disorder, particularly in children. Their comfort levels in social situations will vary, depending on their personality traits and life experiences. Some teens are naturally reserved and others are more outgoing.

In contrast to everyday nervousness, social anxiety disorder includes fear, anxiety and avoidance that interfere with daily routine, work, school or other activities. Social anxiety disorder typically begins in the early to mid-teens, though it can sometimes start in younger children or in adults.

Many people experience some form of anxiety in their lives, but social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that causes extreme fear in social settings. Teens with this disorder have trouble talking to peers, meeting new people, and attending social gatherings. They fear being judged or scrutinized by others. They may understand that their fears are irrational or unreasonable, but feel powerless to overcome them.

There is no one cause of social anxiety, but current research shows that it can be caused by a combination of environmental factors and genetics. Some negative experiences that could contribute to social anxiety are bullying, family conflict, and abuse. Physical abnormalities such as a serotonin imbalance may contribute to this condition. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps regulate mood. An overactive amygdala (the part of the brain that controls fear response and feelings or thoughts of anxiety) may also cause these disorders.

Anxiety disorders can run in families, but it is currently unclear if there are genetic factors involved. A teen may develop an anxiety disorder by learning the behavior of a parent or family member who has an anxiety disorder. They learn to internalize these behaviors which can trigger a disorder of their own. Teens can also develop anxiety disorders as a result of being raised in controlling or overprotective environments.

Social anxiety in teens is actually fairly common. However, the social situations that trigger social anxiety can be very different. Some of these triggers include:

  • being the center of attention
  • meeting new people
  • making small talk
  • being criticized or teased
  • speaking with authority figures
  • public speaking
  • navigating new spaces

How can you tell if your teen has social anxiety?

Just because your teen occasionally gets nervous when she’s in social situations doesn’t mean they necessarily have social anxiety. Many people are shy or self-conscious—at least from time to time—but it doesn’t get in the way of their everyday functioning. Social anxiety in teens, on the other hand, does get in the way of a teen’s normal routine and can cause tremendous distress. That’s why it’s important to note symptoms of social anxiety in teens:

  • Fear that others will notice nervousness
  • Fear of humiliation and being watched by others
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Reddened face
  • Blushing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Feeling that your mind has gone blank
  • Muscle tension

Teens with social anxiety may avoid situations that they used to enjoy such as social gatherings or school events. They may begin to withdraw and isolate as a way to deal with their anxiety. And while avoiding situations that cause anxiety may help them feel better in the moment, their anxiety is likely to continue if they do not receive treatment. 

If you notice that your teen is exhibiting signs or symptoms of a social anxiety disorder, it may be time to seek out professional help for a diagnosis. According to the ADAA, about 36 percent of people with social anxiety don’t speak to a healthcare provider until they have had symptoms for at least 10 years. The symptoms of social anxiety may themselves be a deterrent to reaching out for help. A mental health professional will diagnose social phobia from a description of your teen’s symptoms. They can also diagnose social phobia after examining certain behavioral patterns.

Treating Social Anxiety

There are several types of treatment available for social anxiety disorder, and different types of treatment make work for different people. For some, one type of treatment is beneficial, for others, a combination of treatments may be helpful. 

Treatment options for social anxiety disorder include: 

Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy helps teens learn how to control anxiety through relaxation and breathing, and how to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. CBT helps teens recognize their behavior patterns and how to address negative patterns to create positive one. 

Exposure therapy: This type of therapy helps teens gradually face social situations, rather than avoiding them. They can practice coping skills in challenging environments so that they can start to become more comfortable in these situations. 

Group therapy: This therapy helps teens learn social skills and techniques to interact with peers in social settings. Participating in group therapy with others who have the same fears may make them feel less alone. It will give them a chance to practice their new skills through role-playing.

There are also lifestyle changes you and your teen can take into consideration. Paying attention to their sleep habits and making sure they are getting enough rest can be a good first step, as well as avoiding stimulants like caffeine that can make them feel jittery or exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Some teens may also benefit from medications that manage anxiety symptoms. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications can play a part in a treatment plan. 

The most important thing to understand when dealing with an anxiety disorder is that it will likely take time for your teen to get their symptoms under control. Encourage your teen to have patience and take pride in the steps they are taking to improve their mental health. 

Residential Treatment for Social Anxiety 

For some teens, making changes at home and participating in outpatient therapy can be helpful. Other teens may benefit from the structure and support of a residential treatment center. A residential treatment center like Solstice West combines therapy practices such as individual, family, adventure, and group therapy for a holistic treatment approach. 

Milieu therapy is an experiential therapeutic approach that utilizes the residential environment of our program to better understand how to help your child approach and overcome their challenges. At Solstice West, milieu therapy is carried out by observing your child’s behaviors and emotions throughout the day, within a variety of different settings. Milieu therapy provides an invaluable “in the moment” understanding of your child’s challenges, unique from traditional talk therapy. Milieu experiential therapy utilizes the social culture of a residential treatment environment to create positive changes in your child’s behavior. These changes are achieved through the therapeutic use of our campus’s “community”, which includes their peers, staff, community roles and responsibilities, groups, and meetings. The positive influence of peers can promote a powerful and sustainable change when combined with the intentional application of other therapeutic interventions.

Volunteering and community service is a significant component of our adventure therapy program. Our students participate in community service regularly, volunteering at a variety of local and regional organizations. Our students learn how to build and maintain a sense of community by repeatedly volunteering with a select group of organizations in our area. As they gain stronger relationships with the people and organizations we work with, they begin to feel more connected to the community and the work they do.

Solstice West Can Help

Solstice West, a residential treatment center for teen girls and assigned females at birth ages 14-18, can help your child struggling with social anxiety. Solstice helps girls and assigned female at birth struggling with emotional and behavioral difficulties such as depression, anxiety, and eating issues. 

Our relationship-based philosophy is based on the significant body of research that supports the idea that the “therapeutic alliance” is the factor that contributes most to positive change in the therapeutic process. This “alliance” is referring to healthy, trusting relationships. At Solstice, we ensure that your child has the ability to develop many safe, secure, and authentic relationships. This begins with employing the right people and training them effectively in the process of building and maintaining these relationships with our clients and families. For more information about Solstice, please call (801) 406-7256.