Are You an Internet Addict?

Like all other addictive behavior, internet addiction disorders can disrupt one’s life to the extent that personal relationships, job performance, and social behavior are negatively impacted. Since internet usage plays such a large part in our lives today, it can be difficult to Internet Addicition Disorderssegregate legitimate business and personal use from addictive behavior. And, similar to other types of addictive behavior, denial is a very common response by the addict when confronted by anyone attempting to help.

 

Types of Internet Addiction Disorders

The compulsive behaviors and addictions associated with the internet include:

  • Cyber sex and pornography
  • Online gambling
  • Online dating
  • Obtrusive web surfing
  • Excessive video gaming
  • Online shopping and overspending
  • Social networking

The most prevalent symptoms of internet addiction include a preoccupation with the Internet, an inability to control use, hiding or lying about the behavior, psychological withdrawal, and continued use despite consequences of the behavior.1

While internet usage may be a form of escape and relief from the anxiety and stress of the day for many people, an addict’s behavior is compulsive and excessive and “relief” is never truly achieved without professional guidance. Acknowledging the addiction is key to understanding the root causes of the behavior and ultimate recovery. And, there must be a willingness on the part of the patient to address the addiction, either through harm reduction or abstinence.

 

Treatment for Internet Addiction Disorders

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the best course of treatment for internet addiction disorders/behaviors. CBT is an action-oriented treatment focusing on the behavioral problem. Working together, the therapist and the client identify and select strategies to best help solve the problem. Generally, there are 3 phases to treating the addiction disorder: behavior modification, cognitive restructuring, and harm reduction. Clients are taught to monitor their thoughts and identify those that trigger addictive impulses and behavior while learning new coping and prevention relapse skills.

As therapy sessions continue, they begin to focus more deeply on the cognitive assumptions and distortions that have developed and how they affect behavior. This involves assessment of the type of distortion, problem-solving skills and coping strategies training, modeling in therapy, support groups, and keeping thought journals.2 While true abstinence may be impractical, due to legitimate uses of the internet, harm reduction can be achieved by avoiding websites known to trigger addictive impulses and feelings.

 

 

 

1 Treatment Outcomes with Internet Addicts, Dr. Kimberly S. Young, Clinical Director, Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, published in CyberPsychology & Behavior, 2007, Vol. 10, No. 5; pp. 671-679.

2 Beck, A.T., Wright F.D., Newman, C.F., Liese, B.S. (2001). Cognitive Therapy of Substance Abuse. The Guilford Press.

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