Grayson would have gotten out of this appointment if that were possible, but his parents insisted. They had scheduled this time with a therapist because they were worried. As they sat on the counselor’s couch, they explained why. Grayson had stopped going to all his after-school activities and was often late to school because he was so tired from being online most of the night. He had also lost a lot of weight. They were not upset, but they wanted Grayson to get help if he needed it. His parents were concerned, but Grayson was annoyed. He saw things differently, and the therapist invited him to explain what he saw. Grayson took a deep breath and worked up his courage. He was online a lot because that is where all his friends were. His friends at school had been ignoring him and had stopped inviting him to hang out. That first session did not solve all their problems, but Grayson and his parents took a big step in the right direction. As the sessions progressed, Grayson and his therapist formulated a treatment plan for his Internet addiction. They worked on forming a healthy mindset about himself, other people, and life’s challenges. Grayson is not so different than many other people. More and more, Internet addiction is causing personal and professional problems, but more and more, people are reaching out and getting the help they need.
“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
Thriveworks Grand Rapids provides therapy for Internet addiction, and we have worked with a number of clients who have struggled to control the amount of time they are online or what they do when they are online. Many of the treatment options that are available for behavioral addictions (like gambling or shopping) are also effective for Internet addiction.
Internet Addiction’s Diagnostics
Today, almost anyone can be online whenever and wherever they want to be. Smartphones are always in the hand; laptops and tablets can travel anywhere; data is often unlimited. However, long before the Internet was so accessible, mental health professionals were expressing their concern. Some people can handle that access easily. Others have trouble with so much Internet access. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Ivan Goldberg proposed the thought that someone could become addicted to being online, and that thought was received with as a joke. However, within a few years, many realized this was no laughing matter. By the late 1990s, diagnostics and subcategories of Internet addiction had been developed by Dr. Kimberly S. Young.
When an individual displays a minimum of five of the following symptoms, they may be addicted to the Internet:
- Stabilizing one’s mood with Internet use.
- Difficulty stopping or curbing Internet use.
- Lying about how much one is online or what one does online.
- Staying online longer than one intended to be there.
- Experiencing a preoccupation with the Internet.
- Feeling depressed, irritable or moody when unable to go online.
- Escalating the amount of time spent online to feel the same level of satisfaction.
- Taking personal or professional risks in order to go on the Internet.
Internet addiction can come in many different forms. A few include:
- Cybersex addiction: Obsessively going to adult websites for porn and sex.
- Computer addiction: Playing online video games.
- Cyber-relationship addiction: Over involvement with relationships that are online.
- Net compulsions: Losing control over how much one is gambling, shopping, or day-trading online.
- Information addiction: Scrolling through social media, databases, and the web compulsively.
Internet Addiction’s Effects
Compulsively being online can have harmful effects in real life. Like any addiction, Internet addiction can be highly disruptive to both an individual’s person and professional life. Also, like other addictions, Internet addiction has treatments that may bypass many of its effects—especially if people reach out for help when they begin to see signs that they are struggling with their Internet use.
The emotional signs that an individual may be using the Internet compulsively 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 signs that an individual may be using the Internet compulsively include:
- Weight gain or loss
- Neck pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Poor personal hygiene (e.g., not brushing teeth, bathing, et cetera)
- Poor nutrition (forgetting to eat or eating excessively)
- Dry eyes and other vision problems
Setting Up an Appointment for Internet Addiction at Thriveworks Grand Rapids
As you read about compulsive Internet use, did you recognize anything? If so, you are not alone. There are many people who struggling to regulate when they are online and what they do online. If you are ready to help, the counselors at Thriveworks Grand Rapids are ready to help you. When you call our office, know that a real person will answer and help you schedule an appointment. New clients often meet their counselor within 24 hours of their first call. We do not put our clients on a waitlist, but we do offer weekend and evening appointments. We also accept many insurance plans. Call today.