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Living in a tech-savvy digital age brings its own specific set of 21st century problems. Recent years have seen a dramatic rise in cases of what is termed internet addiction – a wide-ranging term that covers issues such as having a compulsive need to play video games, to check Facebook, tweet, shop online or post Instagrams..

The problems begin when internet usage goes beyond the norm and starts to affect day to day life, work and relationships, with young people being particularly in danger of becoming addicted. Although there is some debate about whether this compulsive usage constitutes a true addiction, many psychiatrists and experts in the field have genuine concerns once a person’s use of social media and gaming becomes all consuming. Professional help is often needed to address the situation. The World Health Organisation has listed and defined gaming addiction disorder as a condition in the 11th edition of International Classification of Diseases.

woman using smartphone while boyfriend is sleeping

Smartphone overuse is considered by some researches to be a form of psychological behavioural dependence, where symptoms often include a preoccupation with mobile communications, excessive money or time spent on the phone and using the phone in socially or physically inappropriate situations. As networks become faster, the user is bombarded with ever more content and messaging, compounding the problem to addictive levels. Screen-based addictions are becoming more common, with people experiencing a dependency on Netflix, pornography or social media

Screen-based addictions are becoming very common, with people experiencing a dependency on Netflix, pornography, social media, shopping, dating and gaming apps.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a smartphone addiction or internet addiction disorder, please do not delay seeking help. We are here to offer free advice 24/7 as to how you can overcome your problem.

smartphone addiction stats

What are the causes of internet addiction?

The causes of internet addiction are hard to pinpoint, with studies suggesting that Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)– similar to other behavioural/process disorders – affects the pleasure centre of the brain, triggering the excessive release of dopamine. Repetitive release of excessive amounts of dopamine can alter the brain’s function and the way in which it communicates. This happens over a period of time until the brain’s pleasure reward centre becomes structurally altered. When this happens the brain prioritises the dopamine releasing stimulus above other healthy activities.

A predisposition in users to suffer from anxiety and depression can also be a causal factor, as they may turn to the internet to distract them from their problems. Shyness and awkwardness in social situations can also be a factor, as the internet can be emotionally rewarding without requiring interpersonal interaction. Whatever the cause, it is often the case that if you find online socialising, gaming or shopping a pleasurable activity and you suffer from an addiction to the Internet, you will begin to indulge in more and more of the behaviour in order to maintain your levels of pleasure.

As a result of the disorder being progressive, other areas of the sufferer’s life begin to feel the impact. The affected individual lives more and more in their virtually created world as it doesn’t present the challenges that real life does. Someone who suffers from internet addiction disorder will engage less and less with friends and family, lose interest in things they used to find enjoyable and even their career or school work will suffer as a result.

Signs of internet addiction

  • Spending increasing amounts of time online whilst neglecting other aspects of life
  • Doing activities and tasks online that are non-work related
  • Feeling guilty about the time being spent online
  • Becoming anxious or irritable when you can’t connect quickly
  • Feelings of intense pleasure when engaged in internet-based activities
  • Excessive time online causing increasing social isolation
  • An inability to prioritise tasks or keep schedules
  • Avoidance of work and worsening work or school performance
  • Physically suffering from neck ache, back pain, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Financial problems linked to excessive online shopping or gaming
  • Vision problems
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of attention to personal hygiene and diet

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What are the treatments for internet addiction?

The treatment of an internet addiction disorder is a relatively new field, but at Delamere we use our extensive knowledge gained from treating other addictive disorders such as gambling and drugs to devise innovative treatment programmes.

Once we have established that a patient is genuinely suffering from addiction to the internet (in whatever form), we evaluate the severity of the condition and formulate a personalised programme of treatment that will directly tackle the patient’s specific issues. Our expert counsellors use cognitive behavioural therapy as a basis for getting to the heart of the causes of the addiction, with one-to-one therapy and group support sessions providing important input. Once our treatment strategy has succeeded in reducing the amount of time online to more manageable proportions, we then introduce coping strategies that will help maintain the positive steps forward and prevent any slip back into old ways.

“Anyone who finds themselves constantly checking their phone from the moment they wake up, or spending an inordinate amount of time on the internet, may need to consider seeking help if their life has become unmanageable.”

If you are worried that internet addiction has become a problem in your life, or in the life of someone you care about we’re here to help.

The process of recovery for internet addicts

Just because internet addiction does not involve a substance as such does not make it any less damaging. Someone who suffers from internet addiction disorder (IAD) also referred to a problematic internet use or pathological internet use, will suffer from a compulsive behavioural disorder that affects all aspects of their well-being.

Any behavioural addiction is very distressing and painful, not only for the individual that suffers but also for family and those closest to them. We recognise that it is not the substance or the activity that is the problem in addiction but the distinct lack of control and risk taking that brings about negative and harmful consequences.

The process of recovery for internet addicts often requires professional intervention. Cognitive behavioural therapies combined with other evidence based therapies to treat the underlying causes of the problem often prove to be the most successful in terms of internet addiction treatment.

At Delamere we have learned that the first step in recovery from any addiction or problematic behaviour is to stop the behaviour completely for a period of time. During this time the individual can undertake a rehabilitation programme and learn strategies and boundaries that they can implement around their problematic behaviour.

In this day and age, it is not always possible to completely abstain from the internet, we understand this. This is especially true of those that have a job involving spending a lot of time on the internet or where internet research is needed to fulfil school or work requirements. However, abstaining from compulsive and non essential internet use is possible and this is the aim of recovery from internet addiction.

The process of recovery for internet addicts attending a Delamere inpatient treatment programme will consist of many different treatments to tackle all aspects of the person’s life. Each treatment is tailored to the patients individual treatment needs and delivered using a person-centred approach.

The process of recovery from internet addiction will include:

  • Stopping the compulsive use of the internet – abstaining
  • 24/7 high levels of care and support provided by our multidisciplinary team of addiction professionals
  • Unearthing the causes underpinning and contributing to the individuals internet addiction disorder and healing them
  • Devising an intricate and bespoke rehabilitation programme with an assigned personal counsellor
  • Treating any co occurring conditions, mental health illnesses and other addictions presenting; all simultaneously within the same treatment period
  • Applying evidence based treatments to heal and change the mindset
  • Teaching healthier ways of managing emotions, thoughts and feelings
  • Instilling essential relapse prevention techniques and strategies
  • Delivering professional counselling treatment for social issues, low self esteem and other factors that can contribute to an internet addiction disorder
  • Providing a family programme and family intervention where needed
  • Using interesting and engaging workshops that teach on the nature of addiction, life skills, communication skills, boundary setting and safe emotional expression.
  • Delivering a full somatic healing programme

Introducing the patient into local support networks, peer and mutual aid support networks to be accessed once back home.

Discovering and learning to implement healthier ways for channelling stress and emotional distress using holistic practices such fitness, meditation, trauma release techniques, yoga, mindfulness, equine therapy, music, art and drama
Providing a detailed aftercare plan with aftercare sessions and ongoing support delivered by our counsellors and staff

At Delamere we believe in treating the whole person as opposed to just the symptoms that the patient walks through our doors with. This means that as well as treating every single aspect of each patient on an emotional, physical, social, intellectual, spiritual and psychological level, we also look at their home environment, family environment, work environment and social circle. We feel this is important as this is where they will continue their ongoing recovery.

Here, at Delamere we are available for our post-inpatient clients 24 hours a day, every day of the year. We also hold regular aftercare sessions and will go that extra mile to help our patients with any problems and challenges they face in the outside world.

If you are worried that internet addiction has become a problem in your life, or in the life of someone you care about we’re here to help.

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Call us now: 0330 111 2015