Withdrawal symptoms in children and their causes


Withdrawal symptoms are physical and emotional symptoms that occur after one tries to stop or overcome an addiction. We have heard of withdrawal symptoms in adults but it is surprising to find that children too suffer from them. Like adults, children also suffer from different forms of addiction. As children are very naive, many a times they do not realise the consequences of what they are getting into. It is the responsibility of parents to protect their children from such dangers.

Addiction is a need to do something repeatedly to the point where it can become harmful. There are a number of things which children get addicted to and there is a need to protect them and make them aware of such dangers. In the case of teenage kids or adolescents the addictions maybe at a little more serious level. At this age it is easy to become addicted to any activity that gives pleasure and not know where to draw the line. Eventually they become accustomed to it that they loose their self control and become dependant on the substance or activity. An addiction always has negative consequences which may be harmful to them as well as to their loved ones.

Here we will look at some withdrawal symptoms of some of the common addictions affecting children.

Cause: Addiction to junk food

Children of all ages love junk food as it is very appealing and appetising. While indulging in junk food once in a while is acceptable, having it on a regular basis it is harmful as it has many side effects. Junk food does not provide nutrition to the body. Children addicted to junk food have a great risk of obesity and chronic diseases. Obesity also may lead to a low self esteem and depression. It may also affect their performance at school and extra- curricular activities.

As parents, you need to inculcate good food habits in your children even when they are young. This will help them get into a healthy lifestyle which will be of great benefit in the long run.

Withdrawal symptoms: Cutting down on junk food may cause children to experience withdrawal symptoms like mood swings, cravings, anxiety and headaches. They can get also cranky, irritated and stubborn.  

What can you do: If you feel that your child is addicted to junk food, begin by reducing the portion sizes of the junk that they eat. Do not cut out junk food completely and suddenly, but slowly reduce the intake. You can help your children overcome the addiction to junk food by taking extra effort to prepare appealing, tasty and healthy food for your children. It may also help to add colour and variety to their diet so that they are exposed to different types of food/taste and develop an interest in eating healthy.

Cause: Addiction to computer games/video games

In today’s world, almost all children, both girls and boys play some form of computer games or the other. Children can easily get addicted to computer/video games as they get instant gratification. They games help them get into a fancy virtual world, where everything is very exciting. Video games are highly engaging and visually stimulating and gives the gamer an exhilarating virtual experience which cannot be experienced in real life.

Addiction to computer games may not be isolated only to teenagers but even to small children as well. Nowadays the cell phone has become a tool for baby sitting the younger kids as it gives parents time to do some work. This can be very dangerous as it can cause children to become addicted to video games.

Withdrawal symptoms: The consequences of getting addicted to computer games is great.  It robs children of real time experiences of playing outdoors and interacting with others. In older children it may affect their performance in school, cause irregular sleep patterns and lead to poor eating habits. Teenagers and kids alike who are addicted to video games are also likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. As they spend many hours gaming they become socially isolated and possess poor social skills.

When video games are suddenly cut short on your child’s life, they may experience some withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety and depressed moods. They may find other activities boring and having difficulty in concentrating on their tasks. They can get extremely fidgety and may have difficulty focussing on anything for long periods of time.

What can you do: As parents, it is very crucial to regulate the use of technology in your children’s lives. You need to help them understand the consequences of being addicted to computer games. You can also set boundaries on how much time the get to play. Given them access to games only when they complete their homework and any other responsibilities you may have assigned to them. You can also help your child overcome this addiction by spending more time with them and engaging in different activities. Get them to go play outside with their friends, enrol them in some kind of sports or a hobby. While they may rebel initially, with perseverance and patience you can help them overcome this addiction.

Addiction to social media

Nowadays kids, especially teens are so obsessed with the social media that they spend too much time on accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Using social media in a controlled manner is admissible but too much usage can be harmful. Social media is meant to be a platform to connect people together but on the flip side social media can cause teens to become self-obsessed and get a false sense of satisfaction. An unhealthy form competition for popularity also is created between peers. This may cause teenagers to go to any extent to become famous. Teenagers become so obsessed with their presence on social media that they neglect real-time relationships. It is very important for parents to set rules, time-lines and boundaries for the time spent online.

Withdrawal symptoms: When you limit or block out your child’s access to their social media accounts, they may experience rage, resentfulness and anxiety due to not being able to access social media. They will also feel extreme bitterness towards their parents. They may also have a compulsive need to check their updates and they can also get cranky and anxious because of sleep deprivation.

The University of Maryland conducted a study about social media addiction. They followed 200 college students who were asked to stop using social media for one day. They were then asked how they felt. The words the children used included, feeling “anxious”, “craving”, “impaired functioning”, “withdrawal” and “seclusion”. While these were college going kids, it is fair to assume that children and teens whose brains are still developing will suffer from the same kind of reactions when they are asked to abstain from social media.

What can you do: The most effective way to help your child overcome his/her addiction to social media is to restrict the use of social media. Do not cut out access immediately, they may turn bitter and resentful towards you. Instead, limit their interaction time. Also redirect their focus and attention to something else. Enrol your kids into something engaging and fun. If your child likes to play, enrol them into some kind of sports. If they like music or arts, sign them up for an art or music class.

Cause: Addiction to drugs

Addiction to drugs in teenagers maybe something really shocking to hear about but unfortunately it is true. Recently, a huge drug scandal pertaining to schools in Hyderabad was exposed. It was found that drugs in the form of chocolates were secretly supplied by the drug peddlers in some prestigious schools and many of their children were consuming these chocolates laced with drugs. Many teenagers think it is a cool to take drugs but they don’t realise that once they get hooked on to it is impossible to get out.

Withdrawal symptoms: The withdrawal symptoms of drug addiction can include but are not limited to are, anxiety, restlessness, instability, panic- attacks, depression, social isolation, poor appetite and insomnia. They may also experience headaches, dizziness, chest tightness, breathing difficulty, palpitations, nausea, diarrhoea, muscle tension, twitches and tremors.

What can you do Parents need to keep a very close eye on their children. It is very important to know who their friends are as friends are the great influencers. Try to reduce contact between your child and the friend who you think may be a bad influence. You can also seek help of rehabilitation centres which help children overcome drug addiction systematically.

Cause: Addiction to alcohol

Though it may be hard to believe many teenagers experiment with alcohol during their last years of school. Sometimes the kids are exposed to alcohol at their homes by fathers who have a drinking problem. Alcohol addiction affects the perception of reality and the ability to make good decisions.

Withdrawal symptoms: The withdrawal symptoms are similar to drug addiction and can include but are not limited to: lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, lack of appetite, sweating, trembling, headaches, Diarrhoea, fever and more.

What can you do: Parents can help their children by setting good examples at home and also provide a secure environment for them to grow in. In cases of extreme addiction, consider seeking professional help.



Young children are easily vulnerable to a wide range of temptations. Children by nature are very curious and therefore are very open to taking risks or even experimenting, especially towards things they are asked to stay away from. Sometimes, they get addicted to certain habits out of peer pressure and sometimes, they are addicted to something without even knowing about it.

Therefore it is very important for parents to watch out for their children. Parents need to be alert and look out for any warning signs of addiction and withdrawal symptoms in your child so that they can help their children fight addictions and overcome it.

Good luck and happy parenting!

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