The instant gratification received by internet use has led to many people developing what some have called internet addiction. While this is not an official diagnosis, internet addiction does mirror drug addiction and process addictions. Internet addiction treatment may be necessary for individuals who feel they cannot control their internet use and find themselves obsessing over internet use. Completely avoiding the internet is unrealistic for most people in our culture, but internet addiction recovery is possible through developing healthy boundaries regarding internet use.

Therapy for Internet Addiction

Internet addiction therapy consists of teaching techniques to help a person moderate their internet use. In the early stages of treatment, therapy may be focused on increasing motivation to change and becoming more aware of how internet overuse has been harmful. A major part of treating internet addiction is identifying triggers and high-risk situations then learning how to cope with them.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

One of the most effective therapies for treating internet addiction as well as other process addictions is cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy for internet addiction aids individuals in changing their beliefs about internet use. Faulty beliefs and inaccurate thoughts are challenged and replaced with new thoughts that are aligned with healthy internet use. This approach may also consist of making a behavior change plan to reduce internet use.

Group Therapy

Internet addiction group therapy may consist of the same goals as cognitive behavioral therapy for internet addiction. However, a benefit of group therapy is the ability for group members to seek experience from others with similar difficulties.  Group therapy may also create positive peer pressure that can encourage group members to follow their recovery plan more stringently.

Motivational Interviewing

For many people who overuse the internet, this behavior may not seem problematic. In these cases, bringing awareness to the difficulties caused by internet use may be the initial therapeutic need. Motivational interviewing focuses on identifying reasons to change and increasing personal motivation for change. Many times when a person becomes aware of the impairment a behavior, such as internet overuse, causes in their life, the person will be more likely to make changes.

Medication for Internet Addiction

Internet addiction medical treatment is limited. In some cases, internet addiction may be rooted in other disorders such as depression or anxiety. When this is the case, medication to treat the underlying disorder may prove beneficial in treating the internet addiction. For example, if internet addiction develops as a byproduct of depression, using antidepressants may relieve the desire to engage in internet addiction-related behaviors. Mood stabilizers used for impulse control disorders may also be helpful in reducing the impulse to use the internet.

Alternative Treatments

Alternative solutions for internet addiction may assist a person in reducing their internet use without seeking therapy. Some possible alternative solutions focus on improving mood with the hope that improved mood will relieve the desire to engage in internet addiction-related behaviors.  

  • Exercise. Regular exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercising provides mood-boosting benefits which may reduce the compulsion to act on internet addiction. Depending on the exercise type, it may be difficult to use a phone at the same time which would then eliminate the ability to use the internet during that set period as well.
  • Leave Your Smartphone at Home. With smartphones, people can use the internet nearly anywhere at any time. For people who find that they are using their phone excessively for internet use, it may be beneficial to intentionally leave their phone at home when going out.
  • Take Breaks. Scheduling breaks from the internet or scheduling confined time limits for internet use can help reduce overall use. This method requires self-discipline and a strong desire to reduce internet use, as the person will have to consciously stop their internet use at a specific time.
  • Content Control Software. Just as technological advances are increasing access to the internet, technology is now also offering solutions for internet overuse. Software is available that can limit internet use by blocking certain websites after a specified period of activity or during certain parts of the day. This includes options such as Surfblocker as well as internet browser extensions like StayFocusd. Other software is available to track internet use to provide a clear understanding of internet use patterns including RescueTime and TMetric.  

Internet Addiction Support Groups

Internet addiction support groups are not available in all locations. However, as the accessibility of the internet increases, the prevalence of related support groups follows suit. Larger cities are more likely to have support groups available.

Treating Internet Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

In some cases, internet addiction may be present at the same time as other addictions or mental health conditions. Treating internet addiction with dual diagnosis requires that both conditions are addressed. In many cases internet use is a form of escape from other problems. In these situations, treating the co-occurring disorder may help to relieve the internet addiction as well. If you or a loved one are seeking help for internet addiction and co-occurring alcohol or drug addictioncontact The Recovery Village at 352.771.2700 for more information on available treatment options.

    

Block, Jerald J. “Issues for DSM-V: Internet Addiction.” American Journal of Psychiatry 165 (2008): 306-307.

Can You Really Become Addicted to the Internet? (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2019, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/therapy-matters/201107/can-you-really-become-addicted-the-internet

Kershaw, S. (2005, December 1). Hooked on the Web: Help Is on the Way. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/01/fashion/thursdaystyles/hooked-on-the-web-help-is-on-the-way.html

Li, W., O’Brien, J. E., Snyder, S. M., & Howard, M. O. (2015). Characteristics of Internet Addiction/Pathological Internet Use in U.S. University Students: A Qualitative-Method Investigation. PLOS ONE, 10(2), e0117372. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0117372

Researchers Find Sad, Lonely World in Cyberspace. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2019, from https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/tech/98/08/biztech/articles/30depression.html

Weinstein, A., & Lejoyeux, M. (2010). Internet Addiction or Excessive Internet Use (Vol. 36). https://doi.org/10.3109/00952990.2010.491880

Young, K. S. (2013). Treatment outcomes using CBT-IA with Internet-addicted patients. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 2(4), 209–215. https://doi.org/10.1556/JBA.2.2013.4.3