Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

The Dialect of Addiction

by Amy Young

Last week we explored the dialect of eating disorders. Today we are going to look at addictions. These are deep and complex subjects, but do not be overwhelmed. Our goal is simply awareness. The more aware you are, the more you will be able to help your students.

Traditionally, addiction has been associated with drugs and alcohol, and while both certainly can exist in your classroom, the truth is humans can become addicted to anything. Students can also become addicted to the Internet, pornography, shopping, gambling, and video games. While the Internet has enhanced our lives, one of the downsides is it has made “adult” addictions more easily accessible to students.

How do we know if a behavior is becoming an addiction? A famous psychologist in America, Dr. Phil McGraw gives 10 signs:

  1. Inability to resist: In other words, your student is not as able to control their behavior as before.
  2. Increased time and attention given to the behavior: For example, maybe they used to just play video games on the weekends, but now they play every day after school instead of doing their homework.
  3. A desire but inability to control the behavior: So, they may want to stop or reduce how much time they are giving, but they are unable to.
  4. Large time commitment: More and more of their time is going to this addiction.
  5. Preoccupation with their addiction: They find themselves thinking about it more and more and look forward to when they can engage in their addictive behavior.
  6. Participating in the behavior to the detriment of other responsibilities: Instead of doing what they should—their homework or helping a family member, they are participating in their addiction.
  7. Persisting in the behavior in spite of obvious negative consequences: It doesn’t matter what you or their parents say or how they are punished, they are so addicted they won’t listen.
  8. Need for more (time, intensity, risk) in order to reach the desired effect: They have to do their addiction more and more to get the same amount of happiness.
  9. Sacrificing relationships and other activities to the behavior:They would rather be with their addiction than with their friends or responsibilities.
  10. Feeling anxious or restless or becoming violent if prevented from engaging in the behavior: They become distressed when they aren’t able to do what they are addicted to.

As you talk with your students look for signs that they feel unable to control a behavior and are participating more frequently and for longer time periods.

What is especially concerning about addiction in students is the ways it impacts their brains. Tragic elements are present if anyone gets involved in addictive behavior, but the brains of people under the age of 25 are still developing. Addictive behaviors, be they drinking alcohol, playing computer games, or needing to have a cell phone with them at all times are not just annoying, they are altering the brains of our students.

Practically speaking, what can you do?

1. Once a week walk around your classroom asking the Master Teacher to help you know each student, to see who might need help, and to open doors for discussions with students.

2. Look for warning signals. Ask yourself if you have any students who:

  • seem overly tired because they are regularly staying up too late.
  • are more withdrawn and less interested in paying attention to real people in their real life.
  • exhibit a noticeable change in behavior

3. Talk to the counselors at your school and find out what you should do if you suspect a student of having an addiction. Also find out what sort of support and resources are available. It might surprise you what is available.

The Master Teacher gave a famous talk where He called many people blessed. If He were talking to you, I believe He’d say: Blessed are the teachers who notice their students and help them, for they are true teachers.

Further exploration

What’s your perspective?

  • What is your experience with students with addictions?
  • What resources have you found to be helpful?
  • What question do you have for Amy about addictions?

Post Author

Amy’s first classroom was filled with two students who did not want to be there, seeing as they were her younger sisters. Thankfully, things have looked up for her when it comes to teaching! She’s taught junior highers all the way up to visiting scholars from China. She has masters in both TESL and counseling and sees strong connections between the two disciplines.  She blogs at the Messy Middle.


Photo Credit: David Wulff via Compfight cc

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This entry was posted on February 11, 2015 by in Amy Young, communicating with students, students with addictions.

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Photo Credit: Eric Fischer via Compfight cc
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