Regaining control, BEFORE things get out of hand, can be one of the most important decisions a person can make.
Unfortunately, due to the many ways in which we use computers (e.g., for work, for communication, for gathering information, etc.), it can be difficult to determine precisely when "normal" use of the Internet/computers/video games can turn into "problematic" use. Without answers to this question, real problems can and often do go untreated.
Am I "Addicted"?
At the present time, there is no formal diagnosis called "Internet Addiction" or "Video Game Addiction" although many clinicians and researchers describe excessive and problematic Internet and computer/video game use using this term. The reason it is described this way is because the signs and symptoms of excessive and problematic Internet and computer/video game use often mimic the signs and symptoms that occur with drug and alcohol addiction. (Keep in mind these are signs of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and even excessive use of the Internet and Computer/Video Games)
Signs of addiction include:
- Significant preoccupation with use, also known as "cravings" (especially when not using)
- Feeling a "high," "numb," or "buzzed" when engaged in the activity.
- Increasing quantity (amount or time spent) to gain the feeling that was experienced at the beginning
- Feeling moody, irritable, depressed or anxious, or showing physical symptoms (ranging from headaches and stomach pain, to nausea and vomiting), when use is discontinued
- Significant conflict between the individual who is using and those around him/her, as well as guilty feelings about excessive use.
Get Help Sooner Rather Than Later
Very often, people who need help do not get the help they need. My philosophy is to err on the side of caution. If, after reading the information on this page, you believe you or someone you know shows the signs and symptoms listed here, please do not hesitate to call to get more information. The earlier a problem is treated, the better the prognosis tends to be.
When it comes to Problematic Internet Use, it is easy to deny a problem exists (particularly during the early stages). I often hear parents say, "At least he's not out on the street using drugs," or "At least she's not hanging out with those other kids who are getting into trouble." Meanwhile, their son or daughter is spending excessive time online at the expense of their studies, social activities, and even health and hygiene. Or a spouse says, "I had no idea what he was doing, I thought he was working." Meanwhile, their partner has lost control engaging in online activities that pose major problems to their marriage.
Because computers are involved, as opposed to drugs or alcohol, it is understandable for people to look the other way, and to minimize the idea that a potential problem exists. Below are some concrete things to keep in mind to help determine if you or someone you know may be showing signs of a "problem."
Things to look for:
- Secretive use, lying about use
- Using approximately 24-30 hours or more per week (non-work/school related)
- Mood shifts when not using (e.g., increased irritability)
- Increase in arguments about excessive use with close others
- Work performance drops, or grades drop significantly
- Significant decrease in social, non-computer related activities
- Major sleep problems
- Neglecting important responsibilities
- Deterioration of health or hygiene due to computer-related use
- The above signs and symptoms have been present for at least 3 to 6 months
Can "Internet Addiction" be treated?
I have extensive experience treating conditions such as major depression, anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as other addictive disorders such as alcohol/substance abuse and pathological gambling. Some of these conditions are often present in people who exhibit the signs and symptoms of excessive and problematic Internet/Computer/Video Game use.
Excessive and problematic Internet or Computer/Video Game Use is often a sign of other major life problems (interpersonal, family, emotional, scholastic, educational, marital), and can serve as a response to or an escape from the stress. I take a comprehensive approach to treatment that takes into account the role of emotions, thoughts and relationship patterns in the development and maintenance of this problematic behavior. My approach focuses on getting negative behaviors under control as soon as possible, while getting to the root of the problem so that positive changes can take hold and persist after treatment ends.
If you are committed to this kind of treatment, I am committed to helping you move forward in overcoming the problem and improving your life and relationships.
If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me for more information.