Internet Addiction in Westminster, CO—Counselors and Therapists
Lulu did not want to meet with the therapist, but her parents insisted. She did not see the what the problem was, but they said they were concerned about how much time she was spending online. As they sat down on the counselor’s sofa, her parents explained why they were there. A year ago, Lulu was excited about school, and she often stayed after to study with friends. Now, she is late to class many mornings and comes home as soon as the bell rings. Lulu spends most of her free time in her room, on her computer. She is having trouble sleeping and concentrating at school. Lulu’s parents were clearly concerned and wanted to help her, but Lulu was annoyed. She did not see things that way. The counselor invited her to share her perspective. Lulu took a brave step and decided to share that her friends had turned on her. She did not know why, but they were ignoring her. She was spending time online because her friends on the Internet were the only ones she had. That first session was a first step on a long-journey of healing. Lulu had to learn how to manage her Internet addiction and how to cope with life’s challenges. More and more people like Lulu are struggling to regulate their Internet use. They may also be trying to cope with deep emotional wounds as well. Also like Lulu, many resources are available for those who have an Internet addiction.
“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
Most people can probably relate to Gretchen Rubin’s observation. Technology is great when an individual can use it when they need it and then unplug when they do not need it. Many, however, have difficulty doing just that. Internet addiction is similar in many respects to other behavioral addictions—like gambling or shopping. The behavior can escalate and become compulsive. The treatments for behavioral addiction are also often effective for compulsive Internet use.
The counselors at Thriveworks Westminster see many clients who are having difficulty regulating their Internet use. They may be spending too much time online. They may be taking personal or professional risks on the Internet. In either case, there are treatment options available.
What Can Compulsive Internet Use Look Like?
In the mid-1990s, long before smartphones, tablets, and unlimited data plans, the idea that someone could become addicted to the Internet was first introduced, and many people saw the idea as a joke. However, within a few short years, mental health professionals were taking Internet addiction seriously. By the late 1990s, it was clear that the Internet was not a passing cultural phenomenon, and it was also clear that compulsive Internet use was also a serious mental health challenge. Dr. Kimberly Young developed criteria for recognizing the addiction as well as subcategories for how it may manifest. Compulsive Internet use can take a number of different shapes, including…
- Cybersex addiction: Compulsively going to the Internet for sex and porn.
- Computer addiction: Playing games online obsessively.
- Information addiction: Obsessively scrolling through social media, the web, or databases.
- Net compulsions: Out of control day-trading, gambling, or shopping online.
- Cyber-relationship addiction: Being enmeshed with online relationships.
When people have five or more of the following symptoms, they may have an addiction to the Internet:
- Experiencing a preoccupation with the Internet.
- Difficulty curbing or stopping Internet use—failed attempts.
- Using the Internet longer than one planned to use it.
- Lying to loved ones about Internet use, including how much and where one uses it as well as what one does online.
- Needing to be online longer and longer in order to feel satisfied—escalation.
- Managing one’s emotions with the Internet.
- When not online, experiencing, moodiness, depression, or irritability.
- Risking one’s person and/or professional life in order to be or do certain things online.
Red Flags for Compulsive Internet Use
Internet addiction is a mental health problem that has implications in real life. There are certain behaviors that can signal that a person is struggling with compulsive Internet use. These can be both physical and emotional red flags.
Physical red flags for Internet addiction:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Neck pain
- Weight gain or loss
- Poor personal hygiene (e.g., not bathing)
- Poor nutrition (forgetting to eat or eating excessively)
- Dry eyes and other vision problems
Emotional red flags for Internet addiction:
- 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
Reaching Out for Internet Addiction Therapy at Thriveworks Westminster
If you are ready to for help as you regulate your internet use, know that Thriveworks Westminster has appointments available. Each of our clients receives a unique treatment plan and individualized care. When you call our office, one of our scheduling specialists will answer and help you make an appointment. We offer evening and weekend sessions, but we do not keep a waitlist. New clients often have their first appointment within 24 hours of their first call. We also accept a variety of insurance plans. Let’s work together.