Collegiate Coaching Services Offers an Effective Approach to Treating Young Adults with Internet and Video Game Addiction

The problems young adults experience as a result of compulsive Internet use and video game play is a growing concern for parents. Current studies have identified that 13-18.5% of college-aged young adults have “Internet Addiction Disorder”.  Among males, who constitute the majority of video game players, the 15-to 25-year-old age group is expanding most significantly.

Five specific types of Internet Addiction:

1) Cybersex Addiction; addiction to adult chat rooms or cyber-­porn.

2) Cyber-Relationship Addiction; online friendships made in chat rooms, social networking sites, or newsgroups that replace real‐life friends and family, this also includes the issue of cyber-affairs.

3) Net Compulsions; compulsive online gambling, online auction addiction (e.g.eBay and obsessive online trading), & cyber-shopping.

4) Information Overload; compulsive web surfing, watching “You Tube” or database searches.

5) Computer Addiction; obsessive computer video game-­playing or programming aspects of computer science.

The Internet is a commonly used tool for college students to take on-line courses, perform research, and most universities & colleges now require students to utilize their website to complete anything from enrolling in classes to utilizing the school’s on-line learning system, which includes 24/7 access to course-related materials, assignments, quizzes, grades, and more.

Young adults seeking employment search the Internet for job openings and are rarely required to enter the store in search of employment. In addition, most businesses require the candidate to complete on-line applications to be considered for a position. For most young adults attending college and applying for jobs the technology age has made doing both seemingly more convenient. However, for those young adults who are struggling with too much time spent on the computer and/or playing video games, human connection is a primary healing factor and is a required component for a successful recovery from Internet and video game addiction.

The Team at Collegiate Coaching Services works with young adults who struggle with Internet and video game addiction and abuse. Most young adults who struggle in these areas demonstrate common emotional characteristics, behaviors, and personality traits. One major characteristic that is linked with compulsive Internet and video game use is a lack of strong social connections with “real life” others (e.g. peers, family members, teachers, employers).

Characteristics, behaviors, and traits commonly seen in young adults at risk of becoming addicted to or are addicted to the Internet and video games:

–       Excessively introverted

–       Lacks strong social connections (e.g. feelings of loneliness)

–       History of being bullied by others

–       Socially anxious and avoids others a result

–       Isolated indoors (e.g. little to no physical activity or contact with nature): Isolates self from family/roommates in the home in order to maintain control of   their time on the computer/video game (e.g. basement, bedroom, closet)

–       Impulsive Behaviors (e.g. ADHD, oppositional-defiant)

–       Irritable; May threaten or demonstrate a level of aggression towards others, self/property

–       Depressed (e.g. poor hygiene, suicidal ideation, lack of motivation, self-harm)

–       Marijuana and alcohol abuse

–       Academic problems (e.g. failed out of college courses, lied about not attending classes due to playing video games)

–       Excessive use of all screens from a young age

–       Intelligent

Young Adults who have been diagnosed with the following are at risk for a co-existing diagnosis of Internet Addiction Disorder:

–       ADHD

–       Autistic spectrum/Pervasive Developmental Disorder

–       Social Anxiety Disorder

–       Major Depressive Disorder

–       Bipolar Disorder

–       Psychotic Disorder

–       Psychosexual Disorders

–       Oppositional Defiant Disorder/Conduct Disorder

–       Substance Addiction Disorders

The team at Collegiate Coaching Services has developed a successful approach to treating and preparing young adults to utilize computers in a moderate, pro-social, and successful way.

A brief description of the Stages of Internet and Video Game Addiction & Abuse Treatment

1)    Detoxification Stage: It is recommended that the young adult disconnects from technology for a minimum of 45 days, which includes mobile phone, computer, & mp3 players with screens. T.V. is allowed in a limited and supervised manner. This stage, as well as the others described below encourages connection with others, establishing healthy sleeping, eating, and exercise routines, as well as re-connecting with nature. We find these build the foundation towards overall health and wellness.

2)    Assessment Stage: The assessment stage coincides with the detoxification stage. During this stage, the clients’ mood is assessed regularly. The team completes a full battery of assessments, which include, Internet, video game, cybersex, mobile phone assessments, and an assessment to gauge readiness for change called, the “Stages of Change”. In addition, the team will assess the families’ technology use and attitudes. The therapeutic team works closely with the young adult and their family in determining the most effective approach to overall health and wellness. This may include a medication assessment by a psychiatrist or psychological testing.

3)    Education Stage: The education stage begins as soon as the young adult is willing and ready to explore how his/her use of how excessive use of the computer correlates with not reaching his goals. The team provides education during individual meetings with the young adult and during parent/family meetings. Recommended books, as well as the most current research is provided. The participant begins to develop their relapse prevention plan and plan for technology, which will be utilized during their treatment with Collegiate Coaching Services and beyond.

4)    Treatment Stage: In addition to building a trusting and respectful relationship with the young adult, the treatment modalities utilized by the team include:

– Cognitive Therapies; Cognitive-behavioral therapy & Dialectical-behavioral therapy helps the young adult with a pattern of escaping reality via computers/screens to identify maladaptive negative thought patterns and belief systems and to re-frame them to help the young adult to develop alternative, adaptive ways of thinking that promote healthy integration back in to relationships, academics, and in the workplace.

Additional effective approaches to treating Internet & video game addiction:

Family & Group Therapy

Equine Therapy

Neurofeedback: An approach approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics who recognizes that Neurofeedback is as effective as medication for treating ADHD; Neurofeedback is an effective approach to; Autistic Spectrum, mild traumatic head injuries, seizure disorders, & the anxiety-spectrum issues.

– Ecotherapy also known as Nature Therapy; Boulder, CO offers the perfect setting when it comes to experiencing nature. We find that the young adults who struggle with technology dependence experience little to no time in natural settings and can average 6.5 hours per day in front of screens. Nature has regenerative powers, improving mood and easing anxiety, stress, impulsivity, and depression. As little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking along a trail, fishing, or gardening improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation. Being in nature creates a sense of connectedness, meaning, and purpose. In addition, playing outdoors enhances cognitive flexibility, problem-solving ability, and self-discipline.

5)    Computer Re-introduction Stage: The participant begins to engage in the use of a technology. Most young adults may start out with access to word processing on the computer. This allows the young adult to observe their emotional state while being in front of a computer, without the opportunity to engage in the Internet. The therapeutic coach and therapist will initially accompany them to gauge level of emotion, level of stimulation, and identify triggers that may arise. The next step is utilizing email while the coach is present. When ready, the young adult will have the opportunity to explore the Internet while his/her coach is present. During these sessions feelings and triggers are continually assessed. At some point, the young adult begins to utilize the computer without the coach present and that timeline is dependent on how well prepared he is; Coping effectively with feelings and emotions; Has demonstrated consistency around new patterns of healthy, engaged behavior while working or going to school, in relationships, and self-care, such as exercise and nutrition.

Depending on the severity of young adults technology problems, their level of motivation and willingness to participate in technology addiction treatment, and the depth of their support system, will typically dictate when technology is introduced.

Tracy Markle, MA, LPC

Collegiate Coaching Services; Owner and Clinical Director

Headshot of Tracy Markle

The Stages of Internet and Video Game Addiction Treatment was developed by and is the property of Collegiate Coaching Services, a Trade Name of Markle Solutions, LLC.  You must obtain permission to re-print, copy or distribute it for any purpose.