Ben was annoyed that his parents made this appointment for him. Even worse, they were coming with him. Ben’s parents were concerned about how much time he was spending online, but Ben did not see the problem. As they sat down with the therapist, Ben’s parents spoke first. They had noticed how little he was sleeping and eating. They were worried about who he met online and whether he was safe. A year ago, they explained, Ben was a different kid—interested in school and active in different clubs. Now, that interest is gone and replaced with time on the computer. Ben became even more annoyed. They did not get it, he thought. The therapist then surprised Ben. The therapist asked to speak to Ben directly without his parents in the room. Ben started to explain what his life has been like for the past year. Yes, he is spending more time online, but his friends had cut him off. They stopped inviting him to hang out and ignored him at school. Ben had found new friends online. The therapist understood where Ben was coming from, and they began to speak about healthy Internet use and unhealthy Internet use. This appointment was the beginning of a long process for Ben to treat his Internet addiction. Many people are like Ben. Internet addiction is a growing problem for many people, but also like Ben, there are treatments and resources available.
“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
For many people, technology has become their master. When Internet use is controlling an individual’s life instead of an individual controlling how much they use the Internet, they may have an addiction. Much like a gambling or shopping addiction, Internet use can become compulsive. Also like other behavioral addictions, Internet addiction has effective treatments.
That is why the therapists at Thriveworks Chesterfield offer counseling for Internet addiction. Compulsive online use can cause serious problems in an individual’s life, but there are also ways to fight those compulsions.
Internet Addiction: What Is It?
In 1995, Dr. Ivan Goldberg first suggested the idea that people can become addicted to the Internet. The Internet itself was not as prolific at the time, and many received the suggestion as a joke. However, mental health professionals soon realized that he was onto something. Dr. Kimberly Young developed different categories for organizing Internet addiction and diagnostics for Internet addiction within a few years.
Dr. Young broke down compulsive Internet into different categories, including:
- Cybersex addiction: Compulsively going online for sex and porn.
- Net compulsions: Day-trading, gambling, or shopping online obsessively.
- Computer addiction: Playing online games compulsively.
- Cyber-relationship addiction: Being overly connected to online relationships.
- Information addiction: Obsessively searching the web or databases.
If an individual displays five of these diagnostics, they may be struggling with an Internet addiction:
- Being engrossed in the Internet.
- Failed and repeated attempts to curb or stop Internet use.
- Using the Internet longer than intended.
- Deceiving others about one’s Internet use.
- Spending an increasing amount of time online to feel the same level of satisfaction.
- Using the Internet to regulate one’s mood.
- Experiencing depression, moodiness, or irritability when not online.
- Taking risks in one’s person and/or professional life in order to be online.
Internet Addiction’s Red Flags
Internet addiction is not so different from other addictions in that there are red flags that may signal that someone is struggling compulsive Internet use. These red flags can be both physical and emotional.
Emotional red flags that an individual may be using the Internet compulsively include:
- Feelings of guilt
- Feelings of elation when using the Internet
- Losing a sense of time
- Inability to keep to a schedule
- Mood swings
- Avoidance of work
Physical red flags that an individual may be using the Internet compulsively include:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Poor personal hygiene (e.g., not bathing)
- Neck pain
- Weight gain or loss
- Poor nutrition (forgetting to eat or eating excessively)
- Dry eyes and other vision problems
Seeking Help for Internet Addiction at Thriveworks Chesterfield
There are a number of resources available to people who struggle to regulate how much they use the Internet. Thriveworks Chesterfield offers treatment and works with each client. Some clients need support groups. Others need medication. Many need a form of therapy—possibly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Many need a form of all three. Our mental health professionals seek to empower their clients to explore and heal past wounds as well as develop coping mechanism that are healthier than Internet use. Internet addiction can cause a number of problems, but treatments are available.
If you are using losing control over how much you use the Internet or how many risks you take online, it may be time to reach out for help. When you contact Thriveworks Chesterfield, one of our scheduling specialists will answer your call and help you make an appointment. Know that you may have your first session within 24 hours. We accept many different forms of insurance, and we offer evening and weekend appointments. Let’s work toward healing together. Call today.