Mike was not happy. He had been as his daughter’s soccer game, and he decided to catch up on some emails while he watched. No big deal, right? Not according to his daughter. Mike apparently missed her goal, and after the game, she was furious. She said he was always on his phone or his laptop. She said that he barely even noticed her anymore. “Not true,” Mike thought. He told himself that he was just doing his best at work. Getting online and staying on top of email was part of the job, Mike told himself. His wife suggested that he talk to somebody about it. Reluctantly, Mike scheduled an appointment with a therapist. When they sat down to talk, the therapist asked Mike to spend the next week noticing when and how much he was online. Throughout the week, Mike started to see what his daughter was saying. He would try to stay off the laptop for a whole evening, but before Mike knew it, he was online again. Mike is not the only one. His therapist explained that Internet addiction is a growing problem for many people.
“Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master.” —Gretchen Rubin
High speed Internet, smartphones, unlimited data plans, tablets, laptops and more make the Internet easily accessible. Most people can be online wherever and whenever they want to be. Some people have no issues unplugging, but some people wrestle with how much time they spend online and what they do there. Internet addiction, in that respect, is very similar to other behavioral addictions like shopping or gambling. Like other addictions, compulsive Internet use can have severe consequences in an individual’s life. Also like other addictions, compulsive Internet use has effective treatments.
The therapists at Thriveworks Atlanta in Sandy Springs, GA offer treatment for Internet addiction, and more and more, our therapists, counselors, and psychologists are seeing clients who are struggling. More and more, we are also seeing people who receive the help they need to regain control over their online compulsions.
Losing Control Online
The idea that someone could become addicted to the Internet was first suggested in the mid-1990s—before the Internet had become a fixture in people’s lives and while people still had to dial-up to log-in. At first, the concept was thought of as a joke, but mental health professionals soon realized that Internet addiction could be a serious mental health challenge for people. By 1998, Dr. Kimberly S. Young had developed diagnostics for recognizing when people are using the Internet compulsively. The diagnostics share many characteristics with other types of addiction. When someone has at least five of the following, they may be addicted to the Internet:
- Escalation: compulsion can look like being online for longer and longer periods of time or taking more and more risks while online.
- Deception: addiction and lies are almost always linked. When an individual is deceiving their loved ones about what they do online or how long/when they are using the Internet, they may be addicted. These individuals may also be self-deceived at the negative effects of their Internet use.
- Obsession: experiencing a preoccupation with being online—day dreaming about it, thinking constantly and obsessively about it, et cetera.
- Lost Control: losing track of time when online—spending more time than planned. Losing track of where one is online—doing things one did not plan.
- Irritability: becoming depressed or moody when one cannot get online or becoming defensive when talking about one’s Internet use.
- Self-medicating: regulating one’s difficult emotions with the Internet—going online to manage sadness, frustration, disappointment, and more.
- Risk: jeopardizing one’s job, finances, relationships, and more in order to use the Internet.
- Failed Attempts to Quit: the inability to limit one’s Internet use—even when one desires to stop or curb use.
Internet Addiction’s Effects
Internet compulsions have both physical and emotional effects in an individual’s life. Recognizing the effects of an Internet addiction is important because it may lead to early treatment. When people are struggling with an Internet addiction, they may experience emotional effects like…
- Mood swings
- Feelings of guilt
- Feelings of elation when using the Internet
- Inability to keep to a schedule
- Avoidance of work
- Losing a sense of time
When people are struggling with an Internet addiction, they may experience physical effects like…
- Neck pain
- Poor nutrition (forgetting to eat or eating excessively)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Dry eyes and other vision problems
- Poor personal hygiene (e.g., not brushing teeth, changing clothes, bathing, and more)
- Weight loss or gain
Reaching Out to Thriveworks Sandy Springs for Internet Addiction Help
When you read about Internet addiction, did anything stand out to you? If you are struggling to control how much you use the Internet or what you do online, then know that you are not alone. Others are struggling as well, and there are many resources available. If you are ready to reach out for help, reach out to Thriveworks Atlanta. We have therapists and psychologists who can help. We offer evening and weekend sessions. We also accept many different insurance plans. Let’s work together. Call today.