INTERNET ADDICTION IN YOUNG ADULTS
Young adulthood is a period of intense transition. Faced with an ever-growing amount of freedom and responsibility, many young adults find themselves struggling with coping and identity issues. When young people suffer from stress, depression, social anxiety, or a simple lack of coping skills, they may turn to many forms of relief for the intense emotions they face, such as overusing the Internet.
Internet addiction often starts out when the addict begins using the Internet to unwind, a pleasurable action which releases dopamine in the brain. As this reward pathway becomes more established, a person can become reliant on Internet use. Internet addiction can manifest in addiction to social networking, information, role-playing games (RPGs), gambling, cybersex, or other activities available on the Internet.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Since Internet usage is such an essential part of the social and academic lives of young adults, it can be hard to distinguish between normal use and use that’s out of control. Young adults with Internet addiction often display:
- A preoccupation with online activities
- Withdrawal from normal social and extracurricular activities
- A drop in grades or work performance
- Feeling upset, irritable, or guilty when away from the computer
- Lying about usage
- Marathon Internet sessions
- Spending excessive money on online activities like RPGs
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in exercise habits
- Changes in sleep schedule
- Back pain
- Wrist pain
- Eye strain
Depending on the severity of the issue and the patient’s needs and preferences, a number of treatment methods can be used:
- Lifestyle changes. It is often difficult for people suffering from a major psychological issue to make lifestyle changes on their own. However, a healthy diet, a good sleep schedule, and regular exercise can go a long way towards facilitating recovery. Staying active in non-Internet activities is also important.
- Individual therapy. There are several models of therapy, such as psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The best choice is usually up to a person’s preferences, but cognitive-behavioral therapy is a popular approach for Internet addiction.
- Group therapy. Group therapy provides a safe, supportive space for a group of people suffering from similar issues.
- In-patient treatment. In-patient treatment provides a high level of support and treatment, with access to on-site doctors and the support of other patients. It is often used when out-patient methods are not effective.
- Wilderness therapy. Similar to in-patient treatment, wilderness therapy places a bigger focus on whole-body wellness and real-world accomplishments. Many people prefer wilderness therapy for the enriching environment it provides.
At Pacific Quest, we have seen great success treating Internet addiction using our Sustainable Growth™ model, which focuses on the mind-body connection, the importance of nature, and the individual’s place within the community, as well as the essential aspects of clinical care.
If you’d like to learn more about Internet addiction and how Pacific Quest’s Wilderness Therapy Program can help, please download A Parent’s Guide to Internet Addiction in Teens and Young Adults. If you are interested in the Pacific Quest Wilderness therapy program for your child, please contact us at 808-937-5806.
We are frequently discussing the topic of internet addiction on our Family Resource Blog.