CBT for Internet Addiction
CBT for Internet Addiction
Whilst most people can ‘unplug’ themselves from the Internet a growing number spend hours each day and night surfing the Internet or using online services, suffering from tremendous anxiety when they are separated from their devices or unable to connect for some reason.
Described as an impulse-control disorder by behavioural health experts, Internet addiction is becoming increasingly recognized as a mental health concern. Internet addicts often use the internet as a fantasy world and substitute for face-to-face interaction, often being unable to achieve these relationship connections in the usual way. The condition shares many characteristics with other, more recognised addictions.
The signs and symptoms of Internet addiction vary from one person to the next so it is not possible to quantify by hours spent online, text messages sent etc. because many of us need to spend time online as part of our daily work routine.
There are however a number of warning signs:
- Attempting and failing to limit your internet use several times
- Losing track of your time online
- Sacrificing doing work or chores in order to spend more time online
- Feeling a sense of euphoria from using the internet
- Getting angry or irritable if your time online is interrupted
- Feeling defensive about your time online
- Hiding your internet use from your family or friends
- Lying about what you do whilst online
- Using the internet as an outlet for negative feelings
- Preferring to spend time on the Internet rather than with family and friends
- Feeling that your online friends are your only true friends
These are also some of the physical symptoms that can be present:
- Dry eyes
- Tension headaches
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
These are the secondary physical symptoms which can result from a lack of exercise, for example:
- Weight gain
- Problems with eyesight
- Neck aches
- Back aches
- Repetitive strain injuries
- Circulation problems
The nature that all addictions have in common is that specific changes in the brain occur when a high arousal artificial stimulation agent is used to achieve a dopamine or ‘feel good factor’. The brain itself makes these adaptations and then believes it must have that level of input to feel ‘ normal’.
The withdrawal and inner emptiness that can occur when this stimulation is withdrawn can produce withdrawal symptoms like inner emptiness, sadness, social isolation, and depressive and anxiety symptoms.
CBT can work with this in a five stage programme borrowed from motivational interviewing.
Stage 1 – Denial. I can control this. I can cope i.e. I do not need help.
Stage 2 – Pre-contemplative. Contemplating in a cost benefit analysis the advantages and disadvantages of changing without any actual application
Stage 3 – Planning and organising change. Learning behavioural coping techniques such as breathing, visualisation and progressive muscle relaxation to have tools to cope better.
Stage 4 – Identifying and challenging both negative automatic thoughts and permission giving beliefs which hold the addictive patterns in place.
Stage 5 – Experimenting with the effects of how changing the addictive behaviours in new applications i.e. Experiencing the ‘paradise factor’ in new and original settings.
Virtual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Convenient, private and secure
Online Therapy is available to anyone, anywhere in the world at home or in the office using a tablet, mobile phone or laptop / computer and a good internet connection.
This service would appeal to client's for a variety of reasons.
- Clients location would make it difficult / impossible to access Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy.
- Clients time-pressure, work deadlines, and work-based travel make it difficult to commit for the normal counselling time-scale.
- Clients family commitments make it easier to have treatment on-line at home.
- Clients prefer an initial face to face assessment, and then combine both treatment modalities.