I’ve been asked to write again for LEAPAsia. This excites me because it taps into parts of me that might not seem to go together on the surface. Isn’t it just one of the best feelings when that happens?! They are currently running a series on communicating with students and I’ve been asked to write two posts: one on eating disorders and one on addictions.

Sadly, you don’t have to be a teacher to need to think about these areas. So, though this was written from a teacher’s perspective, how could it benefit you? Jesus came that we might have life and wholeness and enjoy activities! Amen?!


We talked about how as teachers we are fluent in the language of our subjects, be they mathematics, physical education or a foreign language. However, our subject is not the only language we need to speak in our classrooms. Although we do not need to know other “languages” fluently, we do need to be familiar with their dialects.

Recently we explored the dialect of eating disorders and today we are going to look at addictions. Addiction is a form of being lost in your own life.


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. Recurrent failure (pattern) to resist impulses. In other words, your student is not as able to control their behavior as before.
  1. Frequently engaging in those behaviors to a greater extent or over a longer period of time than intended. 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.
  1. Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce or control those behaviors. 

So, they may want to stop or reduce how much time they are giving, but they are unable to.
  1. Inordinate amount of time spent in obtaining the object of addiction and/or engaging in or recovering from the behavior. 

More and more of their time is going to this addiction.
  1. Preoccupation with the behavior or preparatory activities. 
They find themselves thinking about it more and more and look forward to when they can do their addictive behavior.
  1. Frequently engaging in behavior when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic or social obligations. 
Instead of doing what they should – their homework or helping a family member, they are participating in their addition.
  1. Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, academic, financial, psychological or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by the behavior. It doesn’t matter what you or their parents say or punish, they are so addicted they won’t listen to you.
  1. Need to increase the intensity, frequency, number or risk of behaviors to achieve the desired effect, or diminished effect with continued behaviors at the same level of intensity, frequency, number or risk. They have to do their addiction more and more to get the same amount of happiness.
  1. Giving up or limiting social, occupational or recreational activities because of the behavior. They would rather be with their addiction than with their friends or responsibilities.
  1. Resorting to distress, anxiety, restlessness or violence if unable to engage in the behavior at times. 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 they 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 for people under the age of 25 their brains 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:
  • Seems overly tired because they are regularly staying up too late.
  • Is more withdrawn and less interested in paying attention to real people in their real life.
  • You notice a change in their behavior
  1. 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 called many people blessed. If he were talking to you, I believe he’d say: Blessed is the teacher who notices their students helps them, for they are true teachers. 


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

A similar version of this appeared on LEAPAsia

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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