Len’s parents had made this counseling appointment for him and then insisted on coming. They were worried about him, but Len did not see the problem. As they sat down in the therapist’s office, Len’s parents explained that he is spending a lot of time online. He used to stay after school and go to practice or hang out with his friends. However, this year, Len has been coming home and getting online instead. He has lost weight and is having difficulty sleeping. Len’s parents were also concerned about his safety: Who was he meeting online and what was he doing?
Len was irritated, and he said his parents did not understand. The therapist invited him to share his understanding of the situation. Len took a brave step: He explained how his friends had stopped inviting him to hang out. They ignored him at school, and his only friends were online.
That first appointment was a big step in the right direction. Len and his parents had more work to do, but they were heading in the right direction. They are not alone. Many people are like Len—they are struggling with big life challenges as well as compulsive Internet use. Addiction to the Internet is a growing mental health problem.
“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
What Is Internet Addiction?
With smartphones and unlimited data plans, the Internet is more easily accessible than ever. Some people have no trouble unplugging. They can set their phone down, have a meal with friends, and not think twice about looking at their email. However, others struggle. They may use the Internet excessively or in a way that puts their personal or professional life at risk. Internet addiction shares many characteristics with other behavioral addictions—like gambling or shopping. Like other addictions, compulsive Internet use can have devastating effects in an individual’s life, but also like other addiction, compulsive Internet use has effective interventions.
The licensed therapists and counselors at Thriveworks in Littleton, CO have worked with many clients who are struggling with how, when, and where they are using the Internet. We have walked with them as they regain control and learn healthier coping skills.
What Are the Symptoms of Internet Addiction?
When Dr. Ivan Goldberg first suggested that people could become addicted to the Internet, it was received as a joke. That was 1995, but within a few short years, mental health professionals were taking the condition seriously. In 1998, Dr. Kimberly S. Young had outlined diagnostics for recognizing compulsive Internet use. If an individual has five of the following eight symptoms, they may have an Internet addiction:
- An obsession with being online or the Internet.
- The inability to curb Internet use or stop going online.
- Staying online for longer than one intended.
- Putting one’s professional or personal life at risk because of Internet use.
- Managing one’s mood with the Internet.
- Increased time spent online in order to feel satisfied with one’s use.
- Feeling moody, irritable, or depressed when unable to use the Internet.
- Deceiving loved ones about when and/or how much one uses the Internet.
Being online too much or taking unnecessary risks on the Internet can have difficult consequences in real life. When people are addicted to the Internet, they often display certain physical and emotional signs. The experienced counselors and therapists at Thriveworks in Littleton, CO will be on the lookout for these symptoms.
Physically, being online compulsively can lead to difficulties like:
- Poor personal hygiene (e.g., not bathing)
- Weight gain or loss
- Dry eyes and other vision problems
- Poor nutrition (forgetting to eat or eating excessively)
- Neck pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Emotionally, being online compulsively can lead to difficulties like:
- Avoidance of work
- Feelings of guilt
- Losing a sense of time
- Feelings of elation when using the Internet
- Mood swings
- Inability to keep to a schedule
What Are the Types of Internet Addiction?
Mental health professionals like those at Thriveworks in Littleton, CO also came to see that Internet addiction can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Dr. Young also formulated subcategories of Internet addiction, including the following:
- Net compulsions: Compulsively shopping, gambling, or day-trading on the Internet.
- Information addiction: Endlessly searching databases, looking at social media, and surfing websites.
- Computer addiction: Obsessively playing video games online.
- Cybersex addiction: Compulsively using the Internet for porn and/or sex.
- Cyber-relationship addiction: An obsession with online relationships.
Get Help for Internet Addiction at Thriveworks in Littleton, CO
When people are struggling to regulate their time online, there are a number of resources available to them. Some people benefit from support groups or 12-step groups. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or another therapeutic method may help others. Often, people need a multifaceted approach to healing from Internet addiction that involves one or more of these options. The exceptional therapists at Thriveworks in Littleton, CO work with each client individually to find options that fit their unique situation.
Are you struggling with your Internet use? If you are ready to meet with a licensed therapist to talk about your issue, Thriveworks in Littleton, CO offers appointments for Internet addiction. When you contact our office, a scheduling specialist will answer your call and help you make an appointment. Weekend and evening sessions are offered, and we accept many different insurance plans. Call today.