Internet Addiction: What Therapists Need to Know

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When we think about addiction, our minds often go straight to substance based issues like alcoholism, or addiction to opioids, or other drugs. But, as therapists, we know that people can be addicted to anything that provides a relief or distraction from the drama of daily life. In fact, one of the defining factors of addiction is that the behavior in question takes the person away from reality.

Many “newer” addictions are rearing their heads in the therapy room, but the one that is probably getting the most attention lately is technology addiction. So, let’s take a look at what we know about this troubling trend.

Internet Addiction Is Real

In his book, “Irresistable,” NYU professor, Adam Alter explores the ways in which we are addicted to modern internet sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and the like. Alter believes that up to 40% of people have some kind of internet addiction, which can even include seemingly benign applications like email – which workers check 36 times every hour!

Checking Internet Sites Produces Dopamine

Neuroscience has taught us that much of what we do online stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, and releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which makes us feel good. As Professor Alter describes, we get stimulated when we find that there are likes on our Facebook posts, or retweets from our Twitter account. Couple this with the fact that the internet provides immediate satisfaction, and it’s easy to see why it can be so addictive.

Internet Addiction Is Fueled By Fears Of Missing Out

Researchers at the University of Duisberg-Essen in Germany studied 270 participants, and found that the fear of missing out played a role in internet addiction. The researchers also found that being online allowed people to escape from their daily problems, but that doing so could lead to obsessions and addiction.

Comorbidity Increases The Likelihood Of Internet Addiction

This is especially true for teen users. Research has shown that teens who are struggling with depression, anxiety, adhd, low self-esteem, or poor image are more likely to develop an internet addiction.

We Can Help!

There are a variety of methods that are being used to treat internet addiction. Some of these methods include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Behavior Modification
  • Expressive Arts Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Family Therapy

In more severe cases, it may also be necessary to structure and closely supervise a schedule with little to no access to internet-connected devices for some time. However, unlike alcohol addiction, where the goal is to refrain permanently from the substance, sufferers of internet addiction are taught to reintegrate internet usage into their lives, in a more manageable form.

Here at Therapy Hive, we are committed to providing you with the latest research and information on issues that are coming up in the field today. Please join us alongside Sunspire Health on November 10th, from 11:30-2:00pm at Urban Rio, 1000 14th St, Suite 100, in Plano, to learn more about Addiction to Technology with Dr. Mark Bird, owner and director of Healing and Recovery in Lewisville. This is an RSVP only event. To RSVP please contact us.

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