Internet addiction is classified by excessive use of the internet and electronic gaming coupled with negative consequences and disruption of psychosocial functioning. Prevalence studies are scarce since the diagnosis is not recognized in the the DSM-V, the diagnostic manual for mental health professionals. However a recent study suggests that somewhere between 1.5% and 8.2% of North Americans and Europeans are affected by internet addiction.
Although treatment programs have been available for over a decade, the first hospital-based treatment and rehabilitation program has opened in the U.S. at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania. The program is directed by internet addiction expert Dr. Kimberly S. Young and boasts a revolutionary Digital Device Treatment Program.
The program offers a comprehensive treatment plan including psychological testing, daily sessions with both a psychiatrist and psychologist, re-integration into electronic media, and discharge planning. The hospitalization program lasts 10 days and is for adults over 18 years of age who have internet addiction in addition to a co-occurring mental health illness (for example, depression or anxiety). Click here for more information about the program.
Think you have an internet addiction? If you've experienced four or more of the following symptoms in the last month, you should consider contacting a mental health provider:
- Feeling preoccupied with the internet or online services and thinking about it while off line
- Feeling a need to spend more and more time online to achieve satisfaction
- Inability to control online use
- Feeling restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop online use
- Going online to escape problems or relieve feelings such as helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression
- Lying to family members or friends to conceal how often and how long you stay online
- Risking the loss of a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of online use
- Continuing use even after spending too much money on online fees
- Going through withdrawal when offline, displaying symptoms such as increased depression, moodiness, or irritability
- Staying online longer than originally intended
Internet addiction behaviors can take on several forms and isn't limited to endlessly surfing social media websites. It can also include cybersex & pornography, online relationships, gaming, and compulsive shopping.