Internet Addiction is a growing problem for much of today’s youth. In today’s world, it is common for people to spend 10+ hours a day online, with much of this time on non-work or school activities. In 2016, Common Sense Media found tweens and teens spend six to nine hours a day with media, not counting school work (Common Sense Media, 2016). If our children are spending this much time online, what is this doing to their mental development? As someone who is an Internet Addict, I know full well how destructive and addictive the Internet can be.
What is Internet Addiction?
Internet Addiction occurs when a user’s life is disrupted by their excessive time online. Like chemical addiction; the Internet Abuser feels good while online, and will find ways to continue the process. Real life responsibilities fade, resulting in difficulties in many relationships. The Internet abuser justifies this time and does not often consider themselves addicted. This can occur for months and even years, while the Internet addict feels the excessive time online is both normal and useful.
Internet Addiction is personal to me, as I am an Internet Addict. For six years, I spent 10-16 hours a day playing an online game. During this period, my grades in college were not as they should have been, and I had few real life relationships. My life was the game; I existed so I may better live online. To me, Internet Addiction occurred because the game supplied needs which were lacking in my real life. This is often the case for most Internet Addicts.
Is Internet Addiction a Classified Disorder?
With the DSM-V, Internet Addiction was classified under Section III, meaning further information is needed to classify it as a Disorder. As of now, Internet Addiction is not a recognized Disorder or Addiction by the American Psychological Association (APA). This means little research will be conducted, as companies are not going to spend their money on a condition that does not officially exist. This is a huge problem, as Internet Addiction is a real addiction affecting millions of people worldwide. Without research, treatments are limited, with some professionals refusing to accept the Internet is addictive.
How Do I Classify Internet Addiction?
To me, Internet Addiction is a term that covers many conditions, including Internet Gaming Addiction, Social Media Addiction, and Online Sex Addiction. These conditions all use the Internet as the medium of contact, which is why I classify them together. I treat all conditions, as I have extensive experience with the medium.
How Do I Treat Internet Addiction?
First, I work with the client to determine just how extensive the problem is. I sometimes give the user the Internet Addiction Test, developed by Kimberly Young. With this test and my own questions, I can determine how much of a problem the addiction is currently impacting the client. Next, I work with the Client to change their behaviors to reduce their time online. During this process, I work to determine which needs have not been met and finding real life alternatives for them.
While treating Internet Addiction, Abstinence is not recommended. It is impossible to abstain from the Internet, as work, school, and social relationships are often online. Most of my Clients have tried to abstain from the Internet completely, only to have failed, leading to feelings of failure and worthlessness. In therapy, I work to integrate access to the Internet in a more controlled manner. For children, this means access is given to the Internet by their parents, at set times, monitored by the parents. This way, they can control the access, content, and at the same time teach their child what acceptable access looks like.
I also work to treat any other conditions besides Internet Addiction, such as Social Anxiety or Depression. Rarely have I seen a Client addicted to the Internet who does not have another condition. This other condition is often hidden, with the Client unaware. For example, many of my adolescent Clients have social anxiety, limiting their real-world interactions. They gravitate towards the Internet as it is an easier method of communication, and becomes addicted to it. Without resolving the Social Anxiety, they will relapse back into the Internet Addiction, or find a new addiction.
Besides offering therapy to treat Internet Addiction, I have developed a 30 day Guide that can help teach an Internet Addict how to better manage and control their addiction. The Book: Internet Addiction, Kicking the Habit: 30 Day Plan to Take Back Your Life, is available on Amazon as an E-Book which can be read on almost any device.
How Can You Determine If You Have A Problem?
First, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I spending excessive amounts of time online?
- Am I neglecting work, school, or social obligations, to be online?
- Do I often think about what I will do online when I am not online?
- Are my relationships with my friends and family suffering because of my time online?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you might have a problem. I suggest taking the Internet Addiction Test, developed by Kimberly Young. The test consists of 20 multiple choice questions designed to measure possible Internet Addiction. The test scores and interprets your results. The higher the score, the more problematic the Internet has become for you.
How Can I Get Help?
If you are in the Houston / Cypress area, I can help you to begin to turn your life around with counseling. I have afternoon and evening sessions available and am accepting new Clients. Understand, Internet addiction is like any other addiction and will take time to overcome. To set up an initial session, Contact Me.
If you are outside the Houston area, but still need help, I recommend purchasing my E-Book. It offers 30 days of activities to gain control of your life. Many of the therapeutic exercises I use in therapy are included in the book. I also recommend finding a therapist in your area that understands Internet Addiction. If you need help in this search, Contact Me, and I will help you find a therapist.