When you think of addiction, you’re likely picturing classic film and tv portrayals of the typical “junkie.” Unfortunately, the world doesn’t always suggest problems like video games, the internet, and technology obsessions, yet these are real issues where counseling service is needed in some cases.
The Modern Addiction Problem
Most children already own mobile phones by the time they hit age seven. Even before that, many kids enjoy hours of gameplay on their parents’ devices. It seems to be the perfect way to get the rowdy little tykes out from underfoot for any significant amount of time.
By the age of six, kids are already starting to look for and join social media platforms. Although there are specific networks “just for kids,” it still sets our youth up for addiction later in life. Whether it’s a crippling fear of missing out (FOMO) or the need for instant validation from their peers, 36% of teenagers can’t go without checking their phone for more than ten minutes.
Social media isn’t the only modern problem. Other, sometimes lethal, addictions are:
- Compulsive internet use
- Online gaming
- Computer addiction
These issues have become so rampant that they’ve given birth to a whole new word: Nomophobia, or “no-mobile-phone-phobia.” There are even counseling services that help teenagers and adults with these modern addictions.
Before you can ask for help, you need to understand what qualifies as addiction and how to recognize that there’s a problem.
We work, play, and socialize online. In fact, most of our lives happen on a computer or mobile device. There’s nothing we can’t do, from banking to shopping, if we have the right app or software at our fingertips. Unfortunately, that makes it a lot harder to recognize when fun or convenience becomes a problem, and when a habit evolves into a full-blown addiction.
- Go to the store without your mobile phone?
- Eat an entire meal without watching tv or checking your messages?
- Go a day without using any form of technology?
- Spend a week without playing your favorite game or turning on a console?
- Live one day without the internet?
If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, you should consider taking stock of your internet and mobile use. Recognizing that you have a problem is a vital step in asking for help.
Symptoms of Modern Addiction
Technology and the internet play a significant role in our daily lives, making it difficult to recognize signs of addiction. However, according to the Current Psychiatry Reviews journal, there are a few habits and symptoms for which you can keep an eye out. These include:
- Neglecting their social, school, or work life.
- Experiencing frequent mood changes.
- Can’t control their playing or browsing habits.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when deprived of the internet.
- Lack of sleep due to technology.
- Compulsively checking their mobile devices.
- Exhibiting signs of FOMO and nomophobia.
Denial and justification are also common. Not only will people with an addiction describe their activities as normal, but they might even justify it as healthy. Depression, sleep disorders, stress, and manic behavior could indicate a problem.
Kids and Adults Are at Risk
Larry Hyrb also known as “Major Nelson”, Xbox Community Manager, right, and members of the media are seen during a “Grudge Match” on Xbox LIVE, being hosted to celebrate the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops “First Strike”, in Santa Monica, Calif., on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. Call of Duty: Black Ops “First Strike” multiplayer downloadable content is now available worldwide on Xbox LIVE. (Casey Rodgers / AP Images for Xbox 360)
Children and teenagers are usually considered more at risk than adults. They have less impulse control and are inclined to spend hours of uncontrolled time on their various devices.
Teenagers are especially vulnerable, often taking advantage of the freedoms that come with burgeoning adulthood. There have been cases where these young adults have “played themselves to death.”
Unfortunately, grownups are also at risk of addiction. Some may carry it through from childhood, while others revel in their unrestricted access to the internet and consoles. Sadly, adult addiction has resulted in the neglect, malnourishment, and death of children in their care.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Counseling
It might be challenging to recognize whether you have an addiction or not. However, if you suspect you have a problem with technology and internet use, it’s best to get a professional opinion. A doctor can help assess your situation, make a diagnosis, and find the right treatment or counseling services.
Doctors or mental care providers generally use scored questionnaires, like the Internet Addiction Test, to help make a diagnosis. Depending on how you answer, you’ll receive a specific number of points; the higher your score, the greater your addiction.
Common questions include:
- Are you obsessively thinking about your previous or upcoming gaming sessions?
- Do you need to spend extensive periods online to get satisfaction?
- Are you struggling to cut your online time or mobile access short?
- Has your usage resulted in lost jobs, opportunities, or ruined relationships?
- Do you use the internet or online games to escape your problems?
There are occasions where your addiction might result from a pre-existing condition such as depression or anxiety. In cases like these, addiction is a symptom rather than the primary disorder. You’ll likely be assigned a treatment to help with both it and the underlying cause.
Types of Treatment
Drugs, alcohol, and other addictions often use psychological therapies for treatment. Three of the most common ones include:
- Motivational interviewing (MI): Learn new behavioral skills to give up your addictive habits.
- Reality therapy (RT): Learn how to manage time, replace current activities with new ones, and focus on how addiction is a result of choice.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Using goals to uncover poor habits and then replacing them with healthier behaviors.
All three, especially RT and CBT, have shown results in people with internet addiction.
How Counseling Can Help
Counseling usually goes together with other medical treatments. These therapists will often work with your psychologist to provide comprehensive therapy. Counselors tend to build stronger, more personal relationships with their clients, making it easier for them to help you cope with the stress of recovering and building healthier habits.
Ask for Help, Ask For Counseling
We use technology daily. It isn’t easy to distinguish between regular use and addiction, especially when we’re in denial about our excessive use. Analyze how much time you spend online, whether gaming or on social media, and recognize if you’re wasting too many hours on these activities.
Remember, modern addictions can affect adults and children, so there’s no reasonable way to justify your actions with age. Instead, accept that you might need support to change your habits.
If you’re dealing with addiction, you can get help from family, professionals, and counselors. Support groups include:
- Online Gamers Anonymous
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Internet & Tech Addiction Anonymous (ITAA)
It’s a real problem affecting teenagers and adults. You shouldn’t be ashamed of asking for assistance if you need it.