Internet Addiction Symptoms and Treatment: An Interview with Dr. Kimberly Young
June 13th, 2011
Dr. Kimberly Young is a licensed psychologist and professor at St. Bonaventure University who founded the Center for Internet Addiction in 1995. She has written numerous books and articles on the subject, and has spoken about Internet addiction at various universities and conferences around the world. AllTreatment asked Dr. Young a few questions about the symptoms and treatment involved in addictive Internet usage.
AllTreatment: How can someone determine when their Internet usage has become addictive? Is it possible to recognize signs in a friend or loved one?
Dr. Kimberly Young
Dr. Young: Yes, there is a list of eight signs based upon psychiatric criteria to diagnose or determine if someone is addicted. Meeting five or more meets the baseline.
1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous on-line activity or anticipate next on-line session)?
2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
5. Do you stay on-line longer than originally intended?
6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
8. Do you uses the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
AT: What is it about Internet usage that lends itself to addictive behavior? Are individuals with Internet addiction generally prone to other addictive behaviors?
DY: The anonymity of cyberspace is a big factor. Using the Internet is personal, private, and feels anonymous so when we have someone who is stressed, depressed, or anxious, using the Internet becomes a form of escape, like any other addiction.
AT: It seems that awareness of Internet addiction is out of step with its prevalence. Do you have a sense of why this may be?
DY: Yes, I have sensed this since 1995 when I first began to study the issue of Internet addiction. Not sure why this is but mainly I believe it is because the Internet is such a productive tool. It is hard to imagine someone becoming addicted to it in the same way we talk about drugs and alcohol. It can happen, as we know and many cases have been documented, yet there is still such a push to have people use the technology that it is difficult to look at the addictive qualities of the technology with the same investment we look at drug treatment. In other countries such as China and Korea this is not the case. They have been leaders in the treatment field.
AT: What forms of treatment tend to be most effective for Internet addiction?
DY: The common practice is cognitive behavioral techniques to examine Internet behavior and maladaptive thoughts that lead to addictive thinking (rationalizing that the Internet is not addictive, justifying need to engage in cybersex, gaming, gambling online, etc.)
AT: The Internet is used for so many reasons (school, work, etc) that sometimes it seems impossible to avoid. If someone is experiencing symptoms of Internet addiction, how could they go about managing these demands without fueling addictive behavior?
DY: The training or treatment I provide focuses on time management – it is a clear behavioral modification program to manage online behavior. This is the best way to learn or relearn how to use the computer. The creates a positive work-life balance so the person uses it without abusing it. The idea of treatment is controlled or moderated use. If you look under ARTICLES on our site you will see one that outlines in detail treatment of Internet addiction and how to manage online time using cognitive behavioral therapy, which is primarily what I use, and it does seem to work well with this patient population.