Larry had no desire to go to this appointment, but his wife insisted. She made the appointment with the therapist, and they were going to therapy together. Larry did not see what the big deal was, but his wife was concerned. In the counseling office, she explained that Larry always had his smartphone in his hand. They would get the kids in bed, and then Larry would not speak to her the rest of the evening. Instead, he was either on his phone or laptop. Larry tried to explain that he was just trying to get work done. His wife countered that he does not need to be working until 1 or 2 am. The therapist could see that there was a lot of tension. The therapist had also seen this situation many times before. Many people are like Larry and his wife. The other clients may not be middle-aged and married, but the pattern was the same: an addiction to the Internet. People of all ages, from teens to retirees are struggling with compulsive Internet use. They are losing control over how long the spend online and, at times, what they do online. Internet addiction is a growing mental health problem. More and more, people are recognizing the harm it has caused and they are reaching out for counseling for Internet addiction.
“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
Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and unlimited data often mean that people can be online all the time. Some people regulate their Internet use without any difficulty. Others have trouble. Much like gambling or shopping, Internet use can become addictive. Also like other addiction, Internet addiction can cause significant harm to an individual’s person or professional life. And yet, there are many treatments available.
The counselors at Thriveworks Charlotte see many clients who use the Internet compulsively. Internet addiction can compete for control of an individual’s life, but the mental health professionals at Thriveworks Charlotte has guided many people as they fight back.
What Exactly Is Internet Addiction?
In the mid-1990s, the Internet was not nearly as accessible as it is today, and yet, mental health professionals were starting to show concern about people’s use. In 1995, Dr. Ivan Goldberg suggested that the compulsive use could be an addiction, and many thought this suggestion was a joke. However, it was not long before other mental health professionals saw the seriousness of the situation. Dr. Kimberly Young outline criteria for diagnosing Internet addiction by 1998. According to her diagnostics, if an individual displays at least five of the following, they may be using the Internet compulsively:
- Spending increasingly more time on the Internet in order to feel satisfied.
- Using the Internet to regulate one’s mood.
- Lying about how much one is online and/or what one is doing online.
- Being online longer than one expected or planned to be there.
- Difficulty curbing or stopping Internet use—wanting to quit but being unable.
- Experiencing a preoccupation or obsession with being online.
- Feeling depressed, moody, or irritable when not on the Internet.
- Risking one’s personal relationships, financial stability, or professional reputation in order to be online.
Internet Compulsion: Symptoms and Signs
People with an Internet addiction may spend a lot of time online, but the addiction can cause significant harm in real life. Early intervention is often a key to treating Internet addiction, and the sooner people recognize the signs and symptoms of Internet addiction, the better. Then, they may be able to seek help sooner rather than later. The signs and symptoms of Internet addiction can be separated into physical and emotional red flags.
The emotional red flags that someone may be struggling with compulsive Internet use include…
- 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
The physical red flags that someone may be struggling with compulsive Internet use include…
- Neck pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Poor nutrition (forgetting to eat or eating excessively)
- Dry eyes and other vision problems
- Poor personal hygiene (e.g., not changing clothes, brushing teeth, bathing, and more)
- Weight loss or gain
Scheduling an Appointment at Thriveworks Charlotte for Internet Addiction
Internet addiction can manifest in a variety of forms. It can look like a business professional will not stop looking at email. It can look like a teen who is always on social media, looking for that next “Like.” It can look like uncontrolled porn use or like an individual’s whose only relationships are online. Each person is unique and has their own particular struggles. That is why Thriveworks Charlotte offers individualized treatment to every client. When people have an Internet addiction, they may benefit from medication or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or group therapy. The mental health professionals at Thriveworks are dedicated to helping each client find the treatment they need.
When you contact our office, know that your first appointment may be the following day. We offer evening and weekend sessions, and we accept a variety of insurance plans. Let’s work together. Call today.