Therapy Services for Digital Addiction
Most of us use the internet on a daily basis, its part of our normal daily routine. For most of us when we overuse the internet we can pull away but for some its not that easy. At what point does a bad habit become an addiction? What can you do if you feel this is happening? What treatment is available? Who do you see?
The bad habit turns addictive
One big dilemma many people face is at what point does my bad habit become and addiction?
We make decisions everyday that are entirely driven by habit, most taking place in the subconscious mind. Its a fine line when determining at what point your habit become addiction?
Addiction is when a behaviour or habit becomes compulsive to the point where it interferes with your daily life. Neglecting family, loved ones, work, daily routines, school work in favour of your addictive habit. Tose addicted often find it hard to recognise their problems as their capacity to make positive decisions is eroded due to changes in the brain’s structure and function.
What to do?
If your habit is becoming compulsive and you find it difficult to stop you need to seek medical advice as soon as possible. Once you become addicted, the behaviour of substance becomes more important to the brain and leads to cravings. Your GP is a good place to start or a recognized addiction center.
What Treatment or Therapy is available?
At the time of writing this there is only one recognised treatment for digital (internet) addiction and that is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT-1A) developed by Dr. Kimberely Young, but that does not mean there are not other options. When looking for assistance you should be mindful that it is an addiction and most therapist who specialise in addiction treatment will be able to offer some respite.
When approaching a therapist for assistance with digital addiction it is important they have some knowledge of the complexities surrounding digital addiction and how this impacts on your health.
Below we briefly outline what you can expect from treatment for digital addiction using CBT-1A, as well as how two other complementary therapies that can be used to overcome their addiction.
This page does not endorse any particular kind of therapy but simply highlights what you can expect from a suitably qualified therapist. As with all therapies personal belief will be the deciding factor.
These are complimentary therapies and should never be used as a substitute for medical advice.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
What is it
CBT is often called a talk therapy and is a type of psychotherapy that explores the relationship between your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Originally developed by Professor Aaron Beck in the USA during the early 1950s. It is a therapy based on empirical science. This means information is gathered by observation or experimentation. in the form of recorded data, which may be the subject of analysis by an expert.
Beck observed that patients thoughts (cognitive) often contribute to the ways in which they feel emotions. Those that suffer cognitive distortions often see themselves, the world around them and their future very differently. These thoughts and feelings determine how they behave, which feedback into how they think and feel. They become trapped in an ever decreasing circle of negative thoughts which they find increasingly difficult to escape.
How does it work?
In general terms CBT is a talk based therapy where negative patterns of thought about the yourself and the world around you are challenged in order to change unwanted, negative behaviour patterns. Therapists can be any healthcare professional who has been specially trained in CBT, such as a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health nurse or GP.
CBT is normally carried out with a therapist in 1-to-1 sessions or in groups with other people in a similar situation to you. Some practitioners offer online therapy session as well.
CBT is a study of our thoughts and how those thoughts can influence our behaviour. Sometimes our thoughts can be a little over whelming for us and the therapist works with you to break them down into smaller more manageable parts. Our thinking process is the cognitive part and if this is distorted it can impact on our behaviour.
With CBT, problems are broken down into 5 main areas:
- physical feelings
CBT is based on the concept of these 5 areas being interconnected and affecting each other. For example, your thoughts about a certain situation can often affect how you feel both physically and emotionally, as well as how you act in response. This can help determine the triggers for your digital addiction.
How many session will I need?
This will be determined by the therapist in agreement with you. For digital addiction, depending on the severity of the case, clients usually meet with a CBT therapist for approximately 12 weekly weekly sessions, each session lasting approximately 30 to 60 minutes.
How is it applied to digital addictions?
CBT for digital addictions was develop by Dr Kimberley Young. Below is an extract from The Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy
Research has identified Internet addiction as a new clinical disorder that causes relational, occupational, and social problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been suggested as the treatment of choice for Internet addiction, and addiction recovery in general has used CBT as part of treatment planning. This article outlines cognitive behavioral therapy–Internet addiction (CBT-IA), a uniquely designed model for treating Internet addiction applying CBT with harm reduction therapy (HRT).
CBT-IA uses a three-phase approach.
In the first phase, behaviour modification is used to gradually decrease the amount of time the addict spends online.
In the second phase, cognitive therapy is used to address denial that is often present among digital addicts and to combat the rationalizations that justify excessive online use.
The third phase applies HRT to identify and treat coexisting issues involved in the development of compulsive Internet use. As the first model of its kind, it can be used both on an outpatient and inpatient basis to deal with this emergent client population.
Full details of this document can be found here
CBT-1A is specifically design for digital addiction and recognises that, unlike other addictions, technology has become very much part of our everyday lives, we simply cannot avoid it. The new CBT-1A is designed to treat digital addictions to reduce symptoms, improve impulse control, challenge cognitive distortions (negative outlook on reality) and address personal and situational factors specifically associated with compulsive use of the Internet.
Treatment will follow a clear and structured recovery program of recovery focusing on internet activities, situations, and emotions that are most likely to trigger online binges. A particular chat room, a certain time of day, or a client’s mood just before logging online may all serve as triggers that can lead to inappropriate conduct and abuse. To help identify these triggers clients will be asked to complete a daily internet log to keep track of their digital use, noting when and how they use a digital device.
As these traits are identified the therapist will work with the client using CBT to change patterns of thinking or behaviour that are behind their difficulties, and so change the way they feel.
Please note at the time of writing there are no known centres that operate specific mindfulness based treatment for digital addiction. Mindfulness is, however, frequently used for addiction recovery and has a very high success rate when treating alcohol, gambling and drug addiction. It can also be applied with CBT known as Mindful Cognitive Behaviour Treatment.
What is It
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. It is a practice involved in various religious and secular traditions, from Hinduism and Buddhism to yoga and, more recently, non-religious meditation.
Mindfulness is becoming more popular with mainstream modern western culture through practitioners such as Jon Kabat-Zinn who founded the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Oasis Institute for Mindfulness-Based Professional Education and Training in 1979. This is where Kabat-Zinn developed his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, an eight-week program aimed at reducing stress.The complete course is available free at palousemindfulness.com/ and I recommend taking a look through this site and try some of mindful ideas.
Kabat-Zinn learned about and studied mindfulness under several Buddhist teachers, including Thich Nhat Hanh (an influential and popular figure in Western mindfulness himself). This gave him an Eastern foundation in mindfulness that he integrated with Western science to develop MBSR. You can read more about his work in the article on The History of Mindfulness.
It is a form of meditation but is best described as a way of being
How does it work
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. Meaning mindfulness helps us to focus our attention on the present moment. Our minds are incredibly busy and it is impossible to totally quieten our thoughts. Thinking of future or past events can create powerful emotions causing cravings arise. How we react to those thoughts is the key that mindfulness offers. With practice you learn to view your thoughts or cravings in a nonjudgmental way, whilst returning to focus the mind to the present moment.
Buddhism teachings state that humans hold onto desires and objects that ultimately cause suffering. This includes attachment to objects, people, substances, behaviours and abstract concepts such as identity. Addiction and cravings are clearly behaviours that harm your physical and mental health and tied in with compulsion where you feel as though you cannot stop. Mindfulness allows us to let go of these desires little by little by increasing our awareness of these desires and compulsions. Through this heightened state of awareness, mindfulness promotes the freedom and motivation to cease harmful activities.
How many sessions will I need
There is no specific treatment plan for digital addiction. However treatment plans for gambling ad drug addiction is on approximate 8 to 12 weekly individual or group sessions depending on severity of the addiction.
How is it applied to Digital Addiction
Mindfulness is used to promote self-regulation of attention and so prevent negative thoughts or cravings taking hold. One very important point in the use of mindfulness for digital addiction is it does not attempt to encourage the patient to avoid or substitute addictive behaviours. This is very important as it is almost impossible to remove all technology from temptation. Educating one to be aware of their thoughts and promoting self regulation is the route to long term success.
Mindfulness can also have an impact on the structure of the brain. Addiction weakens communication in the frontal lobe and strengthens the amygdala, the walnut-sized area in the center of the brain responsible for regulating emotions (your fight, flight or freeze reaction). The stronger amygdala grows the more emotional and impulsive you become.
With practice mindfulness creates new neural pathways in the brain improving communication to the frontal lobe increasing our ability to make positive decisions, whilst relaxing amygdala and so reducing anxiety.
Mindfulness can be used as a self help therapy and would certainly be beneficial to those with mild addiction problems.
What is hypnotherapy
Please note at the time of writing there are no known centres that operate specific Hypnotherapy based treatment for digital addiction. Hypnotherapy is, however, frequently used for addiction recovery from drug addiction to gambling addiction. It is also extremely effective when combined with both CBT and mindfulness.
Hypnotherapy is split into two parts. Hypnosis is a state of relaxation called trance. It is a consent state which the client allows themselves to enter, during which there is an altered state of conscious awareness (or high degree of focused attention e.g. trance) and heightened suggestibility. During hypnosis the mind relaxes, lowers its guard by minimising interference from the critical judgmental conscious mind. This is the where the therapy part of hypnotherapy can take place as the hypnotherapist is able to communicate directly with the subconscious mind.
As it is the subconscious mind that controls our habits, hypnosis is often very successful in habit modification. With the conscious mind quietened the hypnotherapist can communicate directly with the sub conscious mind. This can make hypnotherapy treatment more effective over a shorter time frame than other talk based therapies as they have to battle through the conscious mind. It should be noted that much will depend on the skills of the hypnotherapist and clients beliefs.
Modern hypnosis has been used beneficially for around the last two hundred years, and is rapidly growing as a significant tool in effecting positive change. While hypnosis has been, and is still being used extensively by many cultures through their medical practitioners, healers and priests, its modern roots are usually attributed to Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815).
Shortly after World War II hypnosis started to become popular again in the clinical field, when it began to be used to treat neuroses and battle-related disorders and trauma. Since that time, it has gained a growing recognition and acceptance by much of the medical fraternity.
How does it work
Hypnosis is a natural and enjoyable state of consciousness that we all experience many times a day. From sitting idly at a desk and daydreaming, to the mental focusing required to study in a noisy environment, all of these are variations of the state that is known as Hypnosis. In particular that twilight time, when you are either just drifting into or awakening from sleep, when you can process vivid images or even contemplate re-
entering a dream to continue it, these are all states of hypnotic trance.
It is a natural relaxed state and not a sleeping state. You will be fully aware of all that is happening and cannot be made to do something against your will.
During the initial introduction a trained clinical hypnotherapist will use CBT to determine the nature of your problems. From there they will determine the type of hypnotic suggestions to give to the sub-conscious mind. The first session may last for approximately 90 minutes depending on issues arising. First sessions normally include a simply relaxation script.
How many sessions will I need
There is no recognised treatment plan for using hypnotherapy to treat digital addiction. Hypnotherapy can be quicker than conventional talk therapies as you bypass the critical conscious mind. Treatment using hypnotherapy should take around 8 to 10 weeks depending on the severity of the case. A common complaint from digital addiction is anxiety. Under hypnotherapy this can take between 4 - 6 session.
The Hypnotherapist will often give copies of their hypnotic scripts to clients so they can listen to them at home, this may also reduce sessions required. Mindfulness is also practiced by many hypnotherapist and can be used as part of client education to help them understand their own mind. The difference between hypnosis and meditation is, meditation is self-induced and with full self-awareness, whereas hypnosis is usually induced by another person (unless is self-hypnosis which is self-induced) and the person is in state of trance, amnesia or unconscious.
How is it applied to digital addiction
Hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, phobias, addictions, undesirable spontaneous behaviors, and bad habits. It can be used to help improve sleep, learning disorders, communication, and relationship issues.
Hypnotherapy has the ability to plant positive suggestions directly into the sub-conscious mind, making treatment a little quicker than conventional talk therapies.
Whether it’s for a child or adult, hypnotherapy can be a powerful way to directly address the challenges of digital addiction by going directly in to where the disorder originates. Although not a substitute for conventional therapy, hypnosis can be a powerful way to find relief from your digital addiction, especially if combined with CBT and mindfulness.
Please note this is not a definitive list of treatments for addiction and the following treatments are also available for addiction treatment:
- Contingency Management (CM), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Matrix Model and 12-Step Facilitation.