Kaitlin sat down on her therapist’s sofa. She was irritated. While at her son’s swim practice this week, she was on her laptop, catching up on email. After practice, her son asked if she saw his dive. Kaitlin did not, and her son was so upset. He told her that she is always on her phone and that she misses everything. Kaitlin was hurt. She is a busy, working mom. She does her best to do everything, and yes, she is on her phone and laptop a lot. However, she has to be. At least, that is what she told her counselor. To help her get perspective, Kaitlin’s therapist asked her to observe when and where and how she was online during this next week. Next week, Kaitlin was less irritated and more concerned. She had started to see what her son was saying. Katilin was online all evening and into the night. She did miss a lot of real life because she was online. Her therapist explained that Internet compulsion is a growing problem, but there are treatments. Together, Kaitlin and her therapist come up with a plan to treat her Internet addiction.
“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.”
Kaitlin is not alone in her struggle to control how long and when she goes online. Most people can go online wherever and whenever they want. For many people, they can also unplug wherever and whenever they want. For many people, they have difficulty unplugging. Much like other behavior-based addiction, Internet use can become compulsive, and people depend upon it. Also like other addictions, there are many treatment options available for healing and re-establishing control.
The internet addiction therapists at Thriveworks Counseling in Raleigh, NC are seeing more and more people who have trouble disconnecting from the Internet. But we are also helping more and more people find the resources they need to treat the Internet addiction.
Compulsively Going Online
Wifi is in almost every coffee shop, airplane, and even the grocery store. The Internet is often easily accessible. It is understandable why people are spending more and more time online. However, Internet addiction goes deeper than access. Even in the mid-90s, when people had dial-up, mental health professionals noticed a problem. Some of the behaviors that certain people displayed around the Internet mirrored other behavior-based addiction, like gambling and shopping. For example, Dr. Kimberly S. Young developed criteria for recognizing Internet addiction. The symptoms will be recognizable to those familiar with other forms of addiction:
- Risk: Endangering one’s professional career or personal life to be online or to do certain things online.
- Escalation: In order to feel satisfied, being online for increasingly more and more time or taking more and more risks.
- Obsession: Constantly thinking about the Internet and experiencing preoccupation with being online.
- Lost Control: Losing track of time when online—staying there longer than planned.
- Deception: Misleading loved ones about how much time one spends online or what one does online. Often, people deceive themselves about the seriousness of their Internet use.
- Difficult Emotions: Feeling irritable, depressed, or moody when one cannot get online.
- Self-medication: Using the internet to manage one’s mood or avoiding difficult feelings by going online.
- Failed Attempts to Quit: Wanting to curb or stop use. Attempting to stop without success.
There are also different varieties of Internet addiction. For example, some people struggle with net compulsions—losing control of one’s shopping, gambling, or day-trading. Others struggle with playing video games online or looking at online pornography. Many mindlessly scroll through social media and other websites. In whatever form the Internet addiction may come, many of the treatments are the same.
Healing from an Internet addiction often focuses on building coping skills. Many people want to face life’s challenges directly, but they may not know how. Instead of processing disappointment, they go online to numb the pain. Learning healthy coping skills can often help people regain control of their Internet use. Healing may also involve setting up good boundaries and accountability. There are support groups filled with people who understand and who often help each other set up and keep good online boundaries. For many people, therapy is often helpful as well. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of therapy that has helped many people because it focuses on replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones. Those negative thoughts can often fuel the addiction.
Setting Up Appointments for Internet Addiction at Thriveworks Counseling in Raleigh
Many people are struggling with how long and what they do online, but many people are also reaching out for help. If you are ready to meet with a therapist about your Internet use, consider reaching out to Thriveworks in Raleigh, NC. Our therapists are taking clients, and we offer appointments for Internet addiction. When you contact our office, know that a scheduling specialist will answer your call and help you make your appointment. You may be meeting with your counselor within 24 hours. We do not keep a waitlist, but we do offer evening and weekend sessions. We also accept many different forms of insurance. Let’s work together.