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Therapy for Internet Addiction

Goda Brzozauskaite
  • Mar 26, 2022
  • 5 min read
a handsome man taking notes and exploring the internet

The growth of modern technology has led to greater convenience in day-to-day tasks such as communication, shopping, and entertainment. However, this progress also brought with it an ever-growing problem being faced by many people who have taken their internet use to excess:  internet addiction.

Internet addiction disorder is characterized by a level of internet usage that impairs a person’s relationships and causes issues to family, work, health, and other aspects of a person’s life. This can mean excessive and compulsive online gaming, online shopping, cybersex, or social networking, to the point that it causes distress in other areas of their lives.

According to research, only about 0.3% to 1.0% of the general population might qualify for potential internet addiction, particularly internet gaming addiction. However, one research from Hong Kong suggests around 6% of the world’s population has internet addiction. Other research estimates up to 8.2% and even up to 38%, which could mean that internet addiction disorder is largely undiagnosed.  

Internet addiction has not yet been officially recognized by psychiatrists. It has also not been as researched as other forms of addiction, so it’s not unusual that very few get diagnosed with internet addiction.

However, internet addiction poses just as many health risks and is as much of a threat to public health as substance and gambling addiction. It’s also important for people with internet addiction to be able to easily get the treatment they need. Internet addiction therapy is one way to tackle and manage internet addiction. In this article, we will help you understand all you need to know about it.  

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Internet Addiction?

While there is no standardized way to diagnose internet addiction, most research agrees on a few key internet addiction symptoms that can help identify whether or not you have an internet addiction. According to Dr. Kimberly Young, who developed the Internet Addiction Test, people with internet addiction disorder typically experience the following symptoms:

  • Excessive preoccupation with the internet, activities related to the internet or computers
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as sadness, anxiety, and irritability when their gadgets or access to the internet are taken away
  • Tolerance, or the need to spend more and more time on the internet to scratch the itch or satisfy the urge
  • Difficulty reducing or quitting internet use
  • Giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to internet use
  • Continuing to use the internet despite these problems
  • Lying to family members or others about the amount of time spent on the internet
  • Using the internet to escape from problems or avoid negative emotions, such as guilt or hopelessness
  • Prioritizing internet use at the expense of work or relationships

While the amount of time spent online is taken into account when figuring out if a person has internet addiction disorder, this does not necessarily mean that people who spend long hours on the internet automatically have one. What is really important to note is whether the way they use the internet has an adverse effect on their lives.  

Dr. Kimberly Young covered an interesting speech about internet addiction:

Why Is Internet Addiction Therapy Needed?

Unlike alcohol or drug addiction, internet addiction does not put a person at risk of overdose.  However, this does not mean internet addiction is not a risk to your health.  

Excessive internet use can lead to health problems such as eye strain, back problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Research suggests internet addiction can lead to neck problems and sleep deprivation as well.  

Aside from physical health problems, research also shows that when a person has internet addiction disorder, they may be prone to other serious mental health issues, such as anxiety, stress, and depression.  

Addiction means a person doesn't have much control over their behavior. People with internet addiction have difficulty reducing their internet use or quitting entirely. This is why getting the help of a therapist or other mental health professional is important.

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How Can Internet Addiction Be Treated In Therapy?

Going to internet addiction therapy isn’t that different from therapy for other forms of addiction.  Typically, a meeting with a therapist can help you talk about the problem and learn ways to solve it. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for internet addiction, and the kind of therapy you need will vary on a case-by-case basis.

Here are some of the well-known types of internet addiction therapy that may work for you.

1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of psychological treatment that has been shown to be effective in treating various psychological disorders, from depression and anxiety to addiction.  

CBT is a form of talk therapy that usually revolves around changing your thinking patterns in order to gain a better understanding of your thoughts and what drives them. This is usually a short-term and problem-focused behavioral treatment that helps you recognize the distortions in your thinking process and helps you process and reevaluate them in light of what’s really happening around you.

Research from 2013 shows that the use of CBT for internet addiction has over 95% success rate in helping clients manage symptoms, 78% of which sustain their recovery for at least 6 months following the end of their treatment. 

This evidence-based approach will also work even through online therapy.  

2. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)

DBT is a form of psychotherapy that combines strategies like mindfulness and acceptance with individual and group therapy along with phone coaching.  

DBT aims to help you develop skills like emotional regulation and distress tolerance to help you better handle an emotional crisis and focus on the moment. With DBT, you can expect to be given assignments such as keeping a journal to help you write down the emotions, behaviors, and experiences you’ve had in order to see what patterns emerge over time.

3. Counseling

If you have noticed yourself having problems with internet addiction but don’t know where to start, seeing a counselor may help.  They have a different job from a therapist, but like therapists, they will listen and empathize with your problems.  

Counselors are trained to assist you in achieving your goals or help you find goals if you’re not sure what you want to do yet. They can also point in the direction of a therapist who can assist you with the kind of therapy you need, should you need one.

Attending a counseling session when you’re having mental health problems, even through online counseling sessions, may help you see past the issues you have been overlooking.  There are certain aspects of ourselves we can’t always see, and counselors and therapists are trained to see through those parts and help us live with them.

Is Online Addiction Therapy As Effective As In-Person Therapy?

Acknowledging that you have a problem is a good first step. But the road to recovery is a rocky place, and it’s not always going to be easy.  

Therapy will help you, but there are limitations to what traditional therapy sessions can do.  Particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face sessions may not be as convenient as they once were.  

Online therapy and online counseling can help you get the help you need without making you jump through hoops. Not only is it more affordable and accessible than traditional therapy, but with online therapy, you have the option of anonymity

It’s also easier to schedule sessions because everything happens online. Removing the need to travel to their office also saves you time and money.

Apart from that, online therapy has been proven to be just as effective as in-person therapy, so you don’t need to worry about its effectiveness.  

Online therapy offers adaptability and flexibility, which is a godsend considering we don’t always pick when our triggers flare out. This way, you get access to your therapist right when you need them.

Final words About Online Addiction Therapy

While the internet offers us many possibilities, from sharing cat videos and posting memes to working and shopping, some take their online gaming, shopping, sexting, and social media use to a level where it damages other aspects of their lives.

Starting online therapy may help you manage your symptoms and help you live a better life.  At DoMental, we have a network of therapists covering a wide range of specialties to best match your individual needs. If your internet addiction is harming your career or relationships, we can help you start online therapy today.

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