The Latest Smartphone App Craze Causing Feelings of Addiction

Smartphones are as much a phone as they are mini computers and hand-held gaming devices. It’s likely most smartphones owners have downloaded and played at least one game – perhaps even getting sucked into one of the app crazes that’s happened in the last few years.

Words with Friends
Angry Birds
Draw Something
Candy Crush

Now add Kim Kardashian: Hollywood to the list.

Developed around her life, the game is about figuratively keeping up with the Kardashians by climbing the celeb social ladder. As described by Yahoo Tech, “… [to stay] within the Kardashians’ social circle requires constant attention to wardrobe, social standing, romantic life, media presence, and accumulation of wealth. The game is structured to keep [players] furiously tapping [their] screen (and into [their] bank account) in order to earn virtual cash, energy, and special Kardashian branded K stars that are used to “charm” people, to help [them] rise from E-lister to A-lister (just like Kim!).”

It sounds silly, but players of all ages are quickly getting sucked in leaving them feeling addicted. Released only last month, it has over 5 million downloads. While it’s free to get, in-app purchases are costing players a lot. Within 5 days of its release, the game’s developer earned over $1.6 million, which shows just how much people are spending – purposely, accidentally, and perhaps unknowingly – just to get ahead in the game. Parents are finding their children in distress, and adults are questioning themselves.

How Is This Rapid Game Addiction Possible?

Self-control is something more easily talked about than done, and clever design and interest can be enough for people to put self-control – and logic – aside. Without realizing it, a seemingly innocuous habit, like playing a simple game, can become more when the right conditions are in place.

A psychologist’s breakdown of the Hollywood app reveals that everything from the graphics, colors, activity type, and structure lures players in keeping them engaged. Levels are initially easy, so progress is quick. Players get instant gratification from it and from the virtual cash received by constantly tapping the screen. Brains are wired to like that which gives satisfaction. The game also makes players wait to continue for resources to replenish, which is where those in-app purchases factor in. People don’t want to wait for things, so they make a purchase or two. As people invest more time into a game, the more difficult it is to quit. The result? Possible internet and game addiction.

Addressing Internet and Smartphone Addiction

If adults are getting lost in smartphone games, then young people are just as susceptible – if not more so in part due to their still-developing minds. Also, today’s celebrity-obsessed culture leaves many wanting “to get rich and famous,” and reality TV makes it seem possible. Thus, much about Kim and her family appeals to a young audience, and those aspects appear in the game.

What happens when things go too far? Depending on the person, a weekend detox can be enough. However, others may need more. Games offer an escape, which is as aspect of any addiction. Some adolescents or young adults with a video game or internet addiction may need to address underlying issues that may be fueling it.

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy excursion

Wilderness therapy, like Pacific Quest, can be the solution for addressing the variousaspects of these addictions. Wilderness therapy offers young people an environment where they can break away from technology, be involved in different activities that don’t require a smartphone or computer – and learn to enjoy them, and also get the therapeutic help to get them back on track. They obtain understanding in individual and group therapy and learn life skills that enable them to better cope with the technological temptations back home. The holistic approach at Pacific Quest wilderness therapy tries to offer a more complete perspective on how negative habits have mental, emotional, and physical consequences. With time at Pacific Quest wilderness therapy, internet- or game-addicted teens can find hope of a more balanced life.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

A Mom’s Contract with her Teenage Son: iPhone and Life Lessons

Smartphones are compact computers. With them owners can contact anyone at any time through calling, texting, and private messaging or posting on social media. They enable online search just as any other computer. That is a lot of power at someone’s fingertips, especially for an adolescent who’s beginning to test the limits of growing independence.

Perhaps it was with that in mind that a mom gave her then 13-year-old son a new iPhone but also gave him a contract, a set of rules to follow if he wanted to keep it. This story may be from 2012, but it’s still a good illustration of so many things – internet addiction, smartphone use, responsibility, common sense, social etiquette, and life lessons.

In 18 points, the mother succinctly addresses everything about having access to such a powerful piece of technology beginning with who actually own the phone (she does).

Adolescents, the Internet, & Smartphones

Cyber-bullying, pornography addiction, internet addiction. It’s quite a varied list, but each has been aided by the internet and smartphones just as much as face-to-face interaction and communications have been hampered.

7. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
9. …Censor yourself.”

It seems like common sense to not text things you wouldn’t normally say in front of that person or someone’s parents. However, that’s exactly what people do – adults and teens alike. This hits right at one of the issues of the internet: the power of anonymity. Even if using your own account, you feel much more empowered to say things to someone else because distance creates an invisible wall that “protects” you. So-called Twitter wars ensue, or comment threads quickly deteriorate as people “trash” or pick on each other.

She also cautions against sending certain private photos. “12. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you.”

“14. Leave your phone home sometimes… It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than…fear of missing out.”

A sign of internet addiction is emotional attachment to technology. Adolescents today have no reference for daily life without a cell phone, so it’s about actively learning to be without it. With internet addiction, people also lose touch with the people and activity around them. Saying, “[#13] Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos… Live your experiences,” this mom takes a shot at social media and the obsession surrounding it.  While she doesn’t mention online gaming, it still fits; the virtual world will never replace reality. “17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you.”

Wilderness Therapy: When the Internet Takes Over

Most people rely on and enjoy technology. That’s OK. For some, the internet becomes a crutch or comfort laying the groundwork for addiction. Research indicates internet addiction is the result of other factors, such as depression. To overcome the grasp of technology, the underlying issues must be resolved. Some adolescents or young adults may find the best help comes through a wilderness therapy program like Pacific Quest.

Pacific Quest’s therapeutic model is based on personalized clinical care with a holistic approach. Each student’s needs are assessed then addressed during individual and topic-specific group therapy time. The underlying issues for their internet addiction can be discovered, discussed, and worked on to be resolved. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy also includes horticulture therapy, which is a tool for getting students active and learning life skills like goal-setting in a calming community setting. Just as with that teenager’s mom, Pacific Quest’s hope is that they provide lessons and skills that can be carried forward into life beyond the program, so students can be successful for years to come.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

Did You Know June Was Internet Safety Month?

Having an internet safety month seems silly because the internet is now an everyday tool with which most of us are comfortable using. We don’t think twice about logging on or the information we may come across. However, it’s important to remember that the internet is powerful in what it enables us and others to do.

To help remind us to be mindful of our internet habits, the National Cyber Security Alliance, a non-profit public-private group focused on cybersecurity awareness and education, uses this time to encourage all internet users to, “Stop. Think. Connect,” each time they log on.

Children, Adolescents & the Internet

Internet safety month is as much about what adults should to protect themselves, their information, and their computers as it is about teaching children about it – from security to the stuff they may find while surfing the net. Understanding better online safety is begins with good judgment and behavior that is exercised daily, all year long.

Now that school is out with several months of summer freedom ahead, children and adolescents will likely be spending much more time online or playing video games. It’s such an easy way to be entertained with all the content, games, and social interaction the Web has to offer. Even if it’s “just Facebook,” it is important for kids of all ages to be aware of their actions. For example, cyberbullying has become an all too common occurrence. Children are verbally abusing each other whether they’re instigating it themselves, succumbing to peer pressure to send hurtful messages, or perpetuating the cycle by sharing the information instead of trying to stop it.

Another reason to teach internet safety is because research, by the Pew Institute or other sources, shows that the vast majority of children have access to the internet in their own homes. Also increasing numbers of adolescents have their own computers and even their own smartphones. Unless parents are vigilant, put safeguards in place, and spend time educating their kids about internet safety, these children have easy access to every corner of the Web.

Internet Addiction and Troubled Adolescents

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy adolescent internet addiction

If your adolescent is spending extra time online this summer, it may be fine. It’s when online activities interfere with emotional, intellectual, and social development that help should be sought. Even if it’s just reading, the endless supply of links can occupy a person for hours, along with social media and online games. Get teens involved in other activities to avoid excessive time online.

Internet addiction is characterized by a dependence on the internet and computers. Internet-addicted adolescents exhibit signs of preoccupation or anxiety when away from their computers and irritation when online activities are interrupted. They forego other hobbies in favor of being online, withdraw from family and friends, and experience physical side effects from hours spent sitting in front of a computer.

Several solutions exist for treating internet addiction – from a self-imposed digital detox to programs designed to help you deal with addictive behaviors. The trouble with most cases of internet addiction is their root in other issues, such as anxiety and depression or low self-esteem. These must be treated along with the dependence on technology in order to see long-term success. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program has been able to help troubled adolescents and young adults in the journey to understanding and recovery. An individualized clinical care program is key to helping each student whether it’s for internet addiction or adoption issues, etc. A wilderness therapy program gets young people away from the temptation of technology, so they learn to function without it.

Prevention is the best medicine. This summer prepare your kids by teaching them internet safety as well as other activities to stimulate them until next school year rolls around.

Smartphones: Sources of Stress & Internet Addiction

SmartphoneHow do you feel when you get a text message or a new Facebook notification? If you’d say “anxious” or “stressed,” then you’re not alone: Preliminary research indicates that some smartphone users are feeling higher levels of stress due to smartphone activity. Why is this?

Smartphone Ownership

Approximately 91% of American adults own some type of cell phone, and as of 2013, new data (Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project) reveals that the majority of American adults now own a smartphone. As ubiquitous as smartphones have become, it’s possible to see how a trend in reports of related stress and anxiety could develop.

How does this apply to teens and young adults? The average age for getting a first cell phone is now 13. Cell phone technology keeps progressing towards smartphones, and as older generations become incredibly affordable as soon as the latest model is available, it’s easier for parents to get their kids smartphones. Also, teen’s today are tech savvy and to have anything less than a smartphone isn’t “cool.” So if adults are feeling the smartphone strain, then it’s likely adolescents are, too.

The Smartphone-Stress Findings

Though a small sample, one British study included college students, retail industry employees, and government workers. Findings showed that using smartphones for work purposes didn’t cause as much strain as the social obligations that smartphones presented, such as constantly managing social networks. Higher usage for social purposes correlated with increased smartphone user stress. Considering all the social apps, games, and instant access, it’s no wonder that smartphones are increasing stress levels – and self-described internet addiction by nearly two-thirds of teens and over a third of adults.

Wilderness Therapy: Helping Troubled Adolescents and Young Adults Overcome Internet Addiction, Stress

Research about internet addiction, smartphones, and the resulting issues brings up a lot of information and articles. Pathological internet use is beyond spending too much time online. Research relates increased levels of anxiety, withdrawal from friends and family, and a drop in grades or work performance as some of the signs of internet addiction.

More studies are required to find out the true connection between smartphones, internet technology, and stress and anxiety. It may be that people who are already experiencing a form of anxiety or depression turn to the internet for an outlet rather than the internet being the main cause of their issue with depression, anxiety, or stress. Still, it is important to realize these issues are real and definitely play into each other.

Through programs like Pacific Quest wilderness therapy, students are offered a chance to get to the root causes of their issues – from internet addiction to substance abuse, mood regulation issues, and family conflicts – and then begin to understand them. Pacific Quest wilderness program incorporates horticulture therapy, which has been shown to help calm participants, increase self-confidence, and overall life satisfaction. Anxiety and stress are decreased through time spent in and interacting with nature. Another great feature is that troubled adolescents or young adults dealing with internet addiction can have time to get away from the source of their stress. Wilderness therapy is a time for students to put down the technology and smartphones and to get back to themselves.

A New Definition of Self through Social Media

“I share, therefore I am.”
–Sherry Turkle

Social media is still a very new technology, but it has quickly changed a lot about our social lives and even how we think about ourselves. Before social media, people paid attention a bit more to the moment – to the activity and people in front of them. Maybe it was because cell phones weren’t constantly ringing or alerting us of new texts and posts. Cameras were a separate device, and no one took pictures of her lunch – then dinner, coffee, and new shoes – and shared it with the world. Even with the advent of digital cameras, people weren’t compelled to constantly carry one around to capture any random moment.

Now the moment is often about social media activity. How often have we heard, “If it’s not on Facebook, then it didn’t happen”? (Admit it: perhaps even you’ve said it.) Let’s not get it all wrong. Social media isn’t all bad. It is its own industry; people are creating jobs out of blogging or developing social apps. (Snapchat, anyone?)  However, social media sharing shouldn’t be a measure of our activity and involvement in life, nor should the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers.

Posting, sharing, and tweeting have gained a bit more importance than sharing an experience in the non-virtual world. (How many of us now say, “Stop! I want to take a picture for Instagram!”) It’s all about balance. What happens when we can’t figure out that balance?

Losing Ourselves in Internet Addiction, Finding Life through Wilderness Therapy

New research about the consequences of excessive computer and internet use continually
emerges, along with questions about internet addiction. It all has a basis in reality. People are experiencing higher levels of anxiety and depression among other side effects, and studies show they are related to excessive use of technology – from computers, video games, smartphones, and social media. Also as we – especially adolescents and young adults – define ourselves through social media, depression sets in due to cyberbullying, etc. All in all, Facebook friends and social media “likes,” are not living up to face-to-face connections and the benefits those give us.

Many people know where to draw the line, and they know when they need to take a step back. Unfortunately, some people can get lost in the technology and what it seems to offer. Because of that, internet addiction seems to be the result of people using the internet as a comfort or escape. It comes to define part of who they are since the internet is filling some void in their own lives.

Wilderness therapy can help those who can’t seem to break the internet addiction cycle and who are dealing with deep issues related to their internet over-use. Wilderness therapy is different than other forms of therapy because of its use of nature as a therapeutic source. When incorporated properly, nature and nature-based therapy has calming and curative effects.

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy excursion

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy is one such program. Horticulture provides one means students interact with nature. By working in organic gardens, students learn to create true connections as they work together to build and tend to the gardens. These connections are further deepened in group therapy sessions, where they learn to share, listen, and contribute to face-to-face conversations about mutual struggles and experiences.

Before social media, we talked to others about our day. Now that’s truly sharing. Pacific Quest can help troubled adolescents and young adults redefine themselves in a healthy way.

Constantly Connected: Effects of Internet and Smartphones on College Students

Spurred by the observation that college students are seemingly glued to their smartphones, Kent State University researchers conducted a study of 500 university undergraduate students to determine what effect, if any, smartphone use may have.

The study equally represented freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and the group reported a wide variety of majors. For the survey, researchers recorded students’ daily cell phone use as well as clinical measurements of their anxiety and life satisfaction (the technical term for happiness). Lastly, researchers also looked at students’ school records for their cumulative grade point average (GPA). The results?

Cell phone use showed statistically significant relationships to GPA, anxiety, and happiness. Cell phone use had a negative correlation to GPA but was positively related to anxiety. Findings also showed a positive relationship between happiness and GPA and – understandably – a negative relationship between happiness and anxiety. In layman’s terms, those of the 500 students who reported higher smartphone use had a lower GPA, tended to be more anxious, and have lower life satisfaction when compared to the students who used their cell phone less frequently. (It would make sense that bad grades would make someone feel anxious and unhappy.)

Why did the researchers choose to look at GPA, anxiety, and happiness? Well, they’re all necessary for student success. So, if a student is spending too much time fiddling with her smartphone, then she may be more likely to have lower grades and suffer from anxiety.

The Age of Smartphones and Internet Addiction

Smartphone use is essentially internet use because the internet and the technology used to access it are what give smartphones their computer-like abilities. An important note is that internet addiction is different than excessive internet use. While excessive use can have negative consequences, as shown by the Kent State study and other research, internet addiction presents other unique issues:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Neglect of personal hygiene &/or personal responsibilities, such as work, school, or household chores
  • Loss of interest in other hobbies, etc.
  • Anxiety when away from computers/internet
  • Anger and irritation when internet activities are interrupted

What Can Help – Digital Detoxing, Wilderness Therapy

Some people are able to overcome their technology and internet addiction themselves. This may be especially true when there is mainly a matter of over-use. However, some research is showing that internet addiction is rooted in other issues, such as depression. This means that people, such as troubled adolescents and young adults, are turning to the internet to escape issues that are bothering them. In this case, a simple digital detox, the setting aside of computer and internet technology completely for several days, may not work.

Wilderness therapy may be able to help the young people who have developed an internet or video game addiction because they’re not sure how to properly deal with other issues in their lives. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program incorporates traditional individual and group therapy into its therapeutic model as well as horticulture therapy. This unique blend of intervention in a safe community setting enables troubled young adults to open up about their struggles.

A wilderness program like Pacific Quest offers young people, like college students, an opportunity to get away from the source of their troubles (smartphones and internet) plus the resources to get help, understand underlying issues, learn how to cope in a healthy way, and develop life skills. The internet – and smartphones – is a fact of modern life. If we know more about ourselves, we can learn to balance technology and be happier and healthier.

Internet Use: Weighing the Pros & Cons

Computers and the internet are an integral part of daily modern life. People use them for work; kids for their homework. Along with tablets and smartphones, they help us keep in touch with friends and family, provide entertainment with games and videos, and keep us informed instantly with online news sources.

young woman with laptopPeople are now used to sitting at a computer for hours on end. Taking time to steal a glance at Facebook, a gossip site, or look up a song doesn’t seem to be a big deal – until two minutes turns into twenty. So, when does productivity and a bit of fun turn into an internet usage problem or addiction?

Pathological internet usage in children and teens is characterized by excessive time spent online accompanied by changes in mood –irritability when they’re not online, preoccupation with thoughts of being online, anger and agitation when online activities are interrupted. Also, other aspects of their lives suffer – from friendships to personal responsibilities, such as household chores and academics.

Research also shows that internet use, especially excessive internet use, can rewire the brain’s pathways. As a type of behavioral addiction, it also shows signs of having similar effects as substance abuse.

The pros and cons of using the internet and technology like computers, video games, and smartphones should be considered. They can also be used as a guide for understanding if your internet use is causing more trouble rather than productivity. While it may not be possible to fully get the internet out of daily life, it is possible to monitor our habits, so that we can better enjoy the people and non-digital world around us.

Getting Away & Breaking the Addiction: Wilderness Therapy

Internet addiction can at times be the result of other issues, such as depression. In searching for comfort or an outlet, someone suffering may turn to the internet. Ultimately, technology is definitely impacting our lives, relationships, and habits – for better or worse. And when it’s for worse, we should do something to change it.

For young adults or adolescents who are struggling with internet or gaming issues along with the possibility of depression and anxiety, getting away from the source of their trouble is a great start. Wilderness therapy can be a great opportunity for a digital detox and a time to discover what is at the root of internet addiction. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program is a unique mix of outdoor therapy, standard therapy, healthy living, and a wellness program. The Pacific Quest’s holistic approach gives young adults and adolescents an opportunity to learn life and healthy coping skills, apply those skills and ideas, and then understand how those help learn to lead balanced lives – lives in which they know how to better balance internet and technology use.

Internet Addiction: Trading Real Relationships for the Virtual Community

“I share, therefore I am.” –Sherry Turkle

The world as it is today is more connected than ever. Yet, people are somehow missing on the real life connections around them – family, friends, coworkers.

Before the constant digital connectivity, people gave their attention to the moment: to the activity and people in front of them. Cameras were a separate device; no one regularly took pictures of lunch – then dinner, coffee, nails, and new shoes – and shared it with the world. Now we have constant distraction that we think keeps us in touch.

Of course, people can argue that nothing has really changed and that we still connect with those around us. But is it really connecting when you text, comment, or tweet while a friend is talking, and you realize you haven’t heard half of what he said? It calls into question our ability to be good listeners and friends.

The irony is that we are probably more disconnected than ever – from life, family, friends, and in some ways even reality. Social media sharing shouldn’t be a measure of activity and involvement in life, nor should the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Unfortunately, many people seem to care more about these fleeting moments of “sharing,” especially today’s adolescents and young adults who have always had the internet, rather than true relationships and connections. As a result, young people don’t fully understand how to be a real friend or develop a real relationship through direct communication.

Wilderness Therapy for Adolescents: Learning to Reconnect

Withdrawal from family, friends, and hobbies is a sign of both internet addiction and depression. Internet addiction or overuse should be taken seriously as it can often be an extension of other issues, such as depression. As real relationships crumble, internet activity, social media, or virtual gaming can continue to take on more importance.

Pacific Quest relationships

It is a complicated situation, and therapy is one way to be able to understand how the internet became to be so important. Why did someone trade real connection for a virtual community? At Pacific Quest wilderness therapy, young adults and adolescents get an opportunity to get away from technology, learn to live without it, and learn what it means to be part of a real community. By working together in Pacific Quest’s organic gardens, they cultivate life skills as well as connections and relationships with others.

Pacific Quest offers students a chance to learn to reconnect because knowing how to properly communicate and listen are important for future success in both personal and professional relationships. Real sharing takes place. No amount of social media sharing or virtual world activity will ever be able to teach that.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction and Overuse

Technology and the Pressure to Be Cool

internet addiction wilderness therapyTimes have surely changed, but peer pressure has always been a factor in life for both adults and kids. There has long been that pressure to fit in and look “cool.” Whatever that ideal of cool may be, today it incorporates technology and the gadgets we own.

Apple had been the trendsetter for tech-savvy coolness with the introduction of its iPhone, the first smartphone. It was a revolutionary machine that was as much a computer, camera, MP3 player, and gaming device as it was a phone. Now Android-powered or Microsoft smartphones are getting the edge on the ubiquitous iPhone. iPhones, marketers say, are no longer deemed “cool” by the younger crowds. Those younger crowds are today’s teenagers. So when teens are trying to fit in, smart phones become a sort of status symbol as much as apparel brands have been.

The Trouble with Technology

But unlike fitting in with the latest styles, smartphones present a trickier situation. With web browsing capabilities, young children and teens have continual access to the internet through their smartphones. Research into the effects of today’s technology – from texting to surfing the web – shows that it is affecting how we – both children and adults – think, process information, behave, and communicate. In some cases, teens have developed internet addiction. With their smartphones in hand, internet addiction is able to flourish even when they’re away from a home computer.

Also, schoolyard troubles seem to have increased because of computers and smartphones. Expressing mean and hurtful things about others is easier when you don’t have to face the person you’re talking about but instead send something online in a social media post, on a blog, or through email or text. Termed cyberbullying, some kids may feel peer pressure to join in on bullying a fellow classmate – perhaps to try and fit in with or endear themselves to the popular kids or to avoid being bullied themselves. The results can be tragic; many teens have committed suicide because of cyberbullying. Many times, parents aren’t even aware there is a problem until it is too late.

It’s about Balance

Speaking of fitting in, not having a cellphone may make them seem socially excluded. In absence of cell phones, kids would need to talk in person or make an actual phone call versus texting. But since smartphones aren’t going anywhere, giving an adolescent a smartphone may be a privilege worth holding off until he is older, or perhaps limit their access to one.

Computers and cell phones are a fact of modern life. Taking either away isn’t a realistic answer. While monitoring software empowers parents, the most important tool is parent involvement. Talk to kids about responsible internet and social media use. Pay attention to their online activities. As parents become more aware, they can stop something before it becomes a problem – like internet addiction or cyberbullying. Though, considering the side effects of technology, we should all be setting aside technology a little more often.

Helping Troubled Adolescents

If a problem with school or internet addiction develops, getting help for your adolescent or young adult child is an important step. In cases of internet addiction, adolescents may be experiencing more than trouble with spending too much time online, such as depression, poor social skills, or bullying.

Wilderness therapy has become a therapeutic alternative for troubled teens and young adults. Nature is a great source of healing, and at Pacific Quest, students spend many hours working in organic gardens and exploring the natural beauty of Hawaii, where Pacific Quest operates. The program utilizes horticulture therapy, which combines gardening with traditional counseling theory. The results are amazing: decreased anxiety, reduced stress, improved concentration, increased motivation and overall life satisfaction. Pacific Quest aims to provide sustainable growth and change, so along with therapy, students learn life skills that can be used throughout their lives. Because, it’s all about balance.

Internet Addictions in Review: 2013

2013 saw a huge rise in the social awareness of Internet Addiction as an actual classified “disorder”. The average American started to realize that it’s really not just about, ‘Oh, I just use my iPhone too much’. It’s really become a very pathological sensitivity. It’s actually now classified a compulsive disorder- something that you’re not able to control- that is now jeopardizing more and more lives.

2013 also saw the first hospital in the USA to treat severe internet addiction. Bradford Regional Medical Center, in Pennsylvania now has a 10-day inpatient program. Patients admitted to the voluntary behavioral health treatment center must first undergo 72 hours at least without Internet use, followed by therapy sessions and educational seminars to “help them get their Internet compulsion under control.”

Ding = Dopamine

We are currently a society fueled by the rapid-fire connectivity of pc’s, tablets, Ipads, iPhones, smartphones… obsessive internet behavior has basically become a cultural norm. At a certain point, an over reliance on internet—and the rabid need to distract oneself with online video gaming, shopping, tweeting, scrolling, “liking,” and blogging at all hours of the day and night—morphs into an addiction.

Addiction implies a pattern of use that you can’t stop. The compulsion continues, even though time spent online is no longer productive or enjoyable. An addict, by nature, is seeking a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of reward and pleasure. The rush one is now conditioned to get every time they hear a “ding” on their phone or computer. It is a critical aspect as far as what separates addiction from just a bad habit

2013:Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V)

Signaling a slow but steady change in how psychologists are defining variants of addictive behavior in recent years “Internet Gaming Disorder” did make it into 2013’s DSM-V (the “psyche bible”) as a condition for further study.

The DSM is “the manual used by clinicians and researchers to diagnose and classify mental disorders. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) will publish DSM-5 in 2013, culminating a 14-year revision process”.

In the diagnosis, the criteria are limited to “internet gaming” and do not include general use of the Internet, online gambling, or social media.

However, by listing internet Gaming Disorder in DSM’5 Section III, the APA hopes to encourage research to determine whether the condition should be added to the manual as a disorder. Progress, not perfection.

Review: Internet Addiction criteria

With 2013 studies showing that the average American teen is clocking in at over seven hours of daily Internet use, it might be useful to review what is commonly accepted as the five key criteria of Internet addiction:

1. Excess: The Internet becomes the most important activity in the teen or young adult’s life, affecting feelings, behaviors and thoughts.

2. Mood modification: The teen or young adult receives an emotional “buzz” from using the Internet.

3. Tolerance: They become acclimatized, requiring increasing amounts of Internet time to get that “buzz.”

4. Withdrawal symptoms: Abruptly ceasing Internet activity will cause them emotional or physical distress.

5. Relapse: The addict tends to fall back into the same behavior very easily, even after some abstinence or control.

When these types of behavior are seen, it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. You’re often going to find underlying mental health issues- like ADHD, depression and anxiety. All of which frequently go undiagnosed until Internet addiction spins out of control.

The real problem being that most people laugh, shrug it off and don’t consider it a serious thing.

2014: Digital Detox

Of course, not every person who spends hours surfing the web each day suffers from an internet addiction. But seriously, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, we might discover that many of our own online habits have more of a negative than positive effect on our lives! After all, what good really comes from checking one’s Facebook page 15 times a day, or avoiding the outside world to live in a virtual one?

Digital detoxifying, in wilderness therapy programs such as Pacific Quest, are a popular form of treatment for teens and young adults struggling with addictions of many kinds, including abuse or misuse of video games and the Internet. Pacific Quest has the advantage of giving teens, adolescents and young adults the constant access to mental and physical health care professionals and frequent therapy sessions, while removing them completely from the object of the addiction and the life situations that may have supported the addiction in the first place. At the same time, treatment centers give addicts a chance to get a hold on to underlying issues, such as depression and anxiety.

A wonderful “New Years Resolution” for people of any age, would be to start off the New Year by using some “digital detox”. Let’s try putting down the phone, powering off the computer, and making some real memories without the aid of an electronic device. We might be surprised by how much, or how little, we actually miss it.