Is Internet Addiction real? That is the question I am often asked. Of course it is, I reply, but I can see how many people still question if we can truly become addicted to technology.
It is not technology itself that causes the problem but it is in how we have come to use technology in our lives. Look around any airport, school yard, or mall - everyone is staring at their screens. We have become socially removed. What is the impact of this technology when it does become excessive or compulsive?
In my 20 years of researching Internet Addiction, I have become the world’s leading expert. I say this because it is humbling and not in any arrogant way. I see how my research and academic studies have been applied by researchers all over the globe. I have consulted with hundreds of clinics about Internet addiction recovery and given many workshops to therapists. I say with that authority, Internet addiction is a real problem.
We debate this in America while other countries such as China and Korea have established treatment centers to deal with the problem for years. We lag behind other countries who have established clinics and university-wide studies in an effort to combat a distressing new problem in our culture.
Internet Addiction is real. Treatment is often necessary. It does not stand alone, most often those who suffer from Internet addiction also suffer from other clinical problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or social anxiety or phobia.
In September of 2013, I opened the nation’s first inpatient treatment center at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Bradford, Pa. It is part of Behavioral Health Services Dual Diagnosis Program and we have received calls from all over the world. It says to me how widespread the problem is and how many people are hiding their addiction to technology.
Based on the calls alone, it seems people have such a serious problem with their online use that they have struggled for years in outpatient counseling being seen by therapists who either dismissed the behavior as normal or weren’t sure how to address.
Inpatient counseling is intended for the serious cases of Internet addiction. Treatment focuses on daily individual therapy and 72-hour medically-supervised digital detox is required.
“Do I believe that inpatient care is necessary for Internet addiction?” “Yes,” I exclaim. “Inpatient care is necessary!”
Addiction is addiction. Americans have lagged behind other countries in treating people who may suffer from this problem. We are BRMC are proud to be the first inpatient program in the U.S. to offer such help. While the DSM-5 has only just included Internet Gaming Addiction in Section 3 for conditions that need further research in this last revision, my prediction is that in the years to come, more research will happen, and future DSM revisions will then include Internet Addiction as real condition.