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Internet addiction can cover a wide variety of problems, from compulsions to use social networking sites, through to shopping, gambling and pornography. Online addiction has been brought sharply into public awareness over the last few years due to a number of concerning headlines.

Often described as an impulse control disorder, internet addiction is a behavioural addiction that doesn’t involve the use of substances in order to feel desired side effects. If you have an internet addiction, it will feel much like how a compulsive gambler will feel, with the desire to go online taking priority over other aspects of your life.

Much like the relationship experienced with addiction to drugs and alcohol, heavy and repeated use can lead to building up a tolerance to the pleasurable effects of using the internet or playing an online computer game, causing you to feel the urge to spend increasingly longer periods to achieve the same effect.      

Treatment for internet addiction

While many people are able to detach themselves from the daily use of technology, it can be more difficult for others to switch off. If virtual worlds and online friends have become more important than the relationships you have in the ‘real-world’, and you feel anxious without them, then it is a sign that a period of abstinence is required in order to regain control of your life.

Internet addiction treatment at Priory is delivered via a number a methods including self-help groups, abstinence and counselling. If you are unable to progress with either self-help or one-to-one therapy, there are also 12-Step rehabilitation programmes run by Priory.

Treatment for internet addiction can take place as part of our 28-day addiction treatment programme, with the length and type of treatment that you receive, dependent on your unique condition, the internet addiction symptoms you’re struggling with, and the severity of your addiction. A free initial assessment is also offered, which explores the specific problems that you are experiencing with online addiction, after which a bespoke treatment plan can be made.

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How to treat internet addiction

Once you have had a free assessment, a consultant will recommend a suitable treatment programme for you that would involve either inpatient (residential) treatment or outpatient treatment.

Due to there being no medications that can specifically treat internet addiction, a treatment programme will focus on the thoughts and behaviours you have that contribute to a compulsive urge to go online.

Self-help for internet addiction

Internet addiction therapy at Priory includes self-help groups and behavioural talking therapies focused on abstinence and understanding more about why you may turn to excessive internet use.

The goals of self-help and therapy sessions for overcoming internet addiction include:

  • Helping you to identify how internet addiction has impacted your life
  • Working with you to try and understand if there are any underlying mental health issues which may be causing you to compulsively use the internet as a coping mechanism
  • Shifting a negative relationship with the internet into a positive one by finding new outlets for coping with the stresses and strains of daily life

Therapy for internet addiction

Therapy sessions for internet addiction aim to encourage ways you can reduce the amount of time spent on the internet, with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), behavioural activation techniques and family therapy being effective methods of reaching this goal.

CBT for addictions helps you to understand the impact that internet addiction has on your relationships and conduct with others, as well as teaching you methods of managing your thoughts and behaviours that lead to compulsive internet use, in a more positive manner.

Behavioural activation aims to increase activity levels and focus on ways that you can prevent feeling the need to avoid other activities through your internet use, and help you to find alternative hobbies which can help improve general mood and overall wellbeing.

Family or relationship therapy - this form of therapy can be useful if your internet addiction has affected the family unit, as well as problems with relationships relating to unsolicited chats with potential partners online, or cybersex based interactions.

Family or relationship counselling allows you to work through unresolved issues that might be affecting existing relationships, while marriage-specific counselling works towards improving communication and re-establishing an intimate bond between you and your partner, if you have turned to the internet to fill such a void.

Risk factors of internet addiction

Addiction to the internet can be compared to other forms of addiction such as alcohol or drugs, in the sense that it can provide a type of escape or 'high' for some users. This is especially true when considering the release of your brain’s ‘happy chemical’, dopamine, which is released when playing a computer game, interacting with people online, or receiving ‘likes’ for content that you have posted on social media. This mood altering effect thereby increases your desire to repeat the process in order to attain the same feeling.  

Those with other pre-existing addictions or mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety can be more predisposed to having an internet addiction. The secluded behaviour of internet addiction can actually increase unwanted symptoms of co-existing mental health conditions, due to social interaction being required to feel increased self-confidence, relieve feelings of mental illness and boost your mood. Treatment at Priory would involve treating symptoms of related mental health conditions first, in the hope that this would address the severity of an internet addiction.

Situational issues such as loneliness and a general difficulty making and maintaining relationships can lead to unhealthy amount of internet use, particular if you are looking to replicate such emotional attachment with chat rooms, social networking and virtual communities.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding internet treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0330 056 6023 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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