Marc’s parents insisted that he meet with a therapist—they may the appointment. They were coming to the first session too. Marc knew his parents were worried about him, but this seemed a little extreme to him. He sat in the office waiting room while his parents met with the therapist first. Then, it was Marc’s turn. He sat down on the sofa. The therapist said that his parents shared their concern, but now it was Marc’s turn to share. Marc was not sure what to say. He said that he thought his parents were overreacting. Yes, Marc admitted that he was online a lot, but his parents did not understand. “Understand what?” the therapist asked. Marc took a deep breath. Things had changed at school. His friends have been ignoring him. The reason he is online so much is because that is where his only friends are. His therapists nodded in understanding. He also asked Marc if he had ever heard that people can become addicted to the Internet. That first appointment did not make anything magically better, but it was a first step for Marc. Over the next year, he and his therapist worked on overcoming his compulsive Internet use. That meant Marc learned some healthier coping techniques for dealing with challenges in life and set up some boundaries for himself online. That also meant that Marc learned he is not alone. Many other people are struggling with an Internet addiction as well.
“We all need a technological detox… If we continue to distract ourselves so we never have to face the realities in front of us, when the time comes and you are faced with something bigger than what your phone, food, or friends can fix, you will be in big trouble.”
― Evan Sutter, Solitude: How Doing Nothing Can Change the World
For some people, a technology detox is a welcomed thought, and they can unplug without a problem. However, others have difficulty. They may mindlessly reach for their phone, lose track of how long they are online, or even take risks that put themselves in danger online. Compulsive Internet shares many characteristics with other behavioral addictions—like gambling or shopping. Just like other compulsions, Internet addiction has effective treatments.
More and more, Thriveworks Counseling in Westborough Internet Addiction Therapists are seeing clients, like Marc, who are addicted to the Internet, but our therapists understand what it takes to re-establish balance and control in an individual’s life. Many people are found the help they needed for their compulsive Internet use by working with a therapist at Thriveworks Westborough.
Internet Addiction and Compulsion
Even before the days of Wifi and high-speed Internet and unlimited data plans, mental health professionals were expressing concern about people’s interactions with the Internet. By 1995, Dr. Ivan Goldberg first put out the thought that the Internet could be addictive. Others initially thought he was joking, but it soon became clear that compulsive Internet use was no joke—it was addictive. Dr. Kimberly Young developed diagnostics for Internet addiction by 1998. When people display a minimum of five of the following, they may be addicted to the Internet:
- Escalating the amount of time one spends online or the risks one takes online in order to feel content.
- Being obsessed with the Internet—thinking about it constantly, even when not online.
- Losing control and spending more time online than one planned or wanted to spend.
- Difficulty stopping or limiting how much one is online or what one does online.
- Lying to loved ones about one’s Internet use.
- Jeopardizing one’s personal or professional life in order to be online or do certain things online.
- Self-medicating with the Internet—using it to regulate one’s mood and difficult emotions.
- Feeling irritable, moody, or depressed with unable to go online.
Dr. Young also developed subcategories for Internet addiction. It is not a unified issue, but it can manifest in a number of ways, such as…
- Cybersex addiction: Losing control over how much one uses the Internet for sex and/or porn.
- Net compulsions: Using the Internet to gamble, shop, or day-trade compulsively.
- Computer addiction: Playing video games on the Internet obsessively.
- Information addiction: Endlessly scrolling through websites, databases, or social media.
- Cyber-relationship addiction: Compulsive and controlling online relationships.
Internet Addiction’s Physical and Emotional Toll
What happens online can take a toll in an individual’s real life. Just as other addictions can extract a severe toll in an individual’s life, so can Internet addiction.
Physically, compulsive Internet use can cause…
- Poor personal hygiene (e.g., not bathing)
- Dry eyes and other vision problems
- Weight gain or loss
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Poor nutrition (forgetting to eat or eating excessively)
- Neck pain
Emotionally, compulsive Internet use can cause…
- Inability to keep to a schedule
- Avoidance of work
- Feelings of guilt
- Losing a sense of time
- Feelings of elation when using the Internet
- Mood swings
Reaching Out for Help at Thriveworks in Westborough for Compulsive Internet Use
If you are ready to work with a mental health professional, know that Thriveworks in Westborough is ready to meet with you. We have appointments available for Internet addiction. When you contact our office, your first appointment may be within 24 hours. We work with many different insurance companies, and we offer weekend and evening sessions. Let’s work together. Call today.