Video Game Addiction

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

Importance of Stopping Video Game Addiction Early

Video game addiction is a unique phenomenon of the new millennium in part because of how new computer and internet technology still is. It’s changed how we work and even how we play – whether an adult or child.

Video games as we know them were introduced in the 1970s and ‘80s and were initially in arcades. They were relatively simple for a while, and any other players were sitting right next to you – even if you eventually got Pong at home. Obviously much has advanced. Game concepts are much more involved. With the aid of the internet, a person can be playing alone in his room yet be interacting with multiple other people across the world taking part in the same game with a common goal. Yes, children still play outside, but it’s important to be aware of the effects of too much time with technology.

The Draw of Video Games, the Drawback of Addiction

World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of the most enduring and involved video games. Players create online personas – or character – then join with others across the globe to accomplish various quests in WoW’s virtual world. The more they play the more they can develop their characters, gain skills, and are rewarded. Accomplishing quests with other players makes one feel connected and important. Thus, it’s easy to see how quickly one can become absorbed into these virtual worlds trading real-life relationships and experiences for online ones.

In a 2012 NBC news story, a 28-year-old man described the hold WoW had on his life. He first got involved at age 11 and began logging in 16 hours a day by the time he reached his twenties. “Whenever I was on the computer I would feel great,” he described. “I was in this whole other world. I was excited. I was happy for that brief moment, but whenever I’m lying in bed at night, I would always … just think about how that day I hadn’t accomplished anything, about how I wasn’t what I wanted to be in life and that I was really, you know, miserable.”

It’s that type of scenario that differentiates over-use or a casual interest from addiction-like behavior. Personal relationships suffer; other hobbies, responsibilities, and commitments are neglected; players experience emotional highs when they play and lows when logged off. Also studies are showing that technology does have biological effects on us –from changing the ways our brains work to basic health implications. Children caught in this cycle may have more difficulty quitting than adults who face similar issues because they are still in the midst of developing mentally, emotionally, and physically when they begin playing.

Providing Hope for Those with Video Game & Internet Addiction

Getting therapy for a personal struggle that has you feeling down doesn’t necessarily meanthumbs_Excursions - Vista boy you’re depressed, but you realize you need outside help to get you back on track. The same is true of those who overuse technology: getting back on track means learning to balance real life with time online as well as addressing the emotional aspects of their attachment, which could include depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem.

Of course, not every child will develop a video game or internet addiction. But should it be a problem, wilderness therapy like Pacific Quest can be a great resource for adolescents and young adults who need to learn to live without the game and their online friends and need to build new habits. Wilderness therapy gets them away from the source of their issue and in an environment that supports change and growth. They develop real connections with people directly in their lives and reconnect with family and friends back home. The virtual world should never replace the real because one shouldn’t wake up one day to realize life has passed by.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

Internet Addiction: More than Overusing the Online World

Man at computer crop

Much of the power wielded by addiction comes from the seemingly innocuous nature of whatever you’re using or doing. Because of the ubiquity of cyberspace in our everyday lives, most of us expect to use the internet for a sizable portion of the day – both for work and for play. Oftentimes, this use is quite productive as well as necessary.

The above reality, however, can easily start you or someone you love on the road to internet addiction. If you have certain underlying issues, this propensity is highlighted and puts you at greater risk for compulsive internet use. If you find yourself using the internet to the detriment of other things in your life, then the time being spent is unproductive and you may need help.

Common Misuses of the Internet

It’s important not to think of internet addiction as mere “overuse.” For example, if you school work online, then there are times when you need to be on almost nonstop during a project period. The problem arises when internet use becomes compulsive, to the detriment of other daily activities. Consider a handful of common progenitors of internet misuse:

  1. Online Dating and Social Media Interaction: the presence of a plethora of social networking sites can contribute to gross overuse of cyberspace. If you find yourself compulsively checking Facebook status updates every few minutes throughout the day, and constantly making alterations to your social media profiles, then it may be time to step back and evaluate the time you’re spending with virtual friends versus the time you’re spending with real-life friends.
  2. Cybersex Compulsion: this is one of the biggest problems facing people online. Studies show that immersion in online fantasy role-playing games, chat rooms and other forms of adult entertainment have a deleterious effect on how you deal with a partner outside of the virtual, idealized world. Self-evaluations can be difficult here, and if you suspect that you or someone close to you is suffering from this addiction, there is help available – without commitment.
  3. Dating and social media aren’t the only forms of internet addiction; if you’re constantly perusing e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, then an evaluation might be in order as you notice your finances start to take unsustainable hits. Gambling, online slots – even stock-trading – can be signs you’re not in control.
  4. Gaming: Although this refers mostly to teenagers, a sizable portion of the adult population is adversely affected by an online compulsion for gaming. With so many fantastic games on the market and many of them requiring a full-investment of time, gaming is an addiction that can creep up surreptitiously as your allotted time goes from a few hours a day to half a day and even more. Playing any game online for 10 hours a day is simply unsustainable (even for an adolescent with fewer responsibilities than most adults) and is a sure sign that help is in order.

Getting the Help You Need with Wilderness Therapy

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program understands that online addiction is a serious issue that may be a sign of an underlying condition – such as depression, for example. In teenagers and young adults, it can contribute to a lack of social growth and ability to deal with real-world problems. That’s why Pacific Quest places such emphasis on robust outdoor activities and interactive exercises to help you or a loved one regain your social health and sense of life-balance. To learn more about how wilderness therapy has successfully treated adolescents and young adults with internet addiction, please contact us.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

The Plight for Girls Addicted to Social Media

Adolescence marks the developmental stage of rapid and intense emotional and physical changes in girls. For these teen girls there is an even increased value placed on peer acceptance and approval and a heightened attention to external influences and social messages about cultural norms. Body image and related self-concept emerge as significant factors associated with health and well being during this developmental phase. Negative correlations have been statistically proven between media usage/addiction and social well being. Video, video games, email, social media, text/instant messages, and phone and video chat all constitute media. The 24/7 nature of social media and Internet addiction places huge pressures on girls, which in turn can lead to significant emotional issues and disorders.

Self-esteem Linked to Appearance

Social media and popular mainstream culture promotes specific images and standards of beauty and attractiveness that contradict good health practices and young girls’ ability to achieve a specific body type or image. It’s uniformly accepted that the U.S. society places great value on looks and exalts images unachievable by most. Unfortunately, the use of social media is not a healthy way for girls to seek acceptance or validation.

It seems that an entire generation of adolescent girls will fail to fulfill their professional potential because they are suffering from low self-esteem about their appearance. Why? Because one in four females aged between 11 and 17 are weighed down by pressure to conform to the ‘ideal notion’ of how they should look. “Whether it presents as a lack of confidence about their ability, their body or their worth, these deep-seated anxieties really hold girls back from achieving their potential.”

Many young girls believe physical appearance is a major part of their self-esteem, and their body image is a major contributor to sense of self. The experience of body dissatisfaction can lead to poor health habits and low self-esteem. These negative feelings may contribute to a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem among girls and affect health behaviors associated with poor eating habits, dieting, depression and anxiety, and eating disorders. “According to the National Women’s Resource Center, more than 7 million American women are affected by eating disorders each year, and 1,000 of those will die from complications of anorexia. Up to 80 percent of female college students have admitted to binge eating, a predecessor to bulimia.”

Differentiating Eating Disorders

There’s no single type of eating disorder as habits present themselves in various ways:

  • Anorexia nervosa is self-starvation. Girls with anorexia have an intense fear of body weight, and eat very little even though they are thin.


  • Bulimia nervosa is characterized by cycles of binge eating and purging. Girls with bulimia fear body fat although their weight may be normal.


  • Binge eating disorder means eating large amounts of food in a short period of time without being able to stop when full. Bingeing is often accompanied by feeling out of control and followed by guilt or depression.
  • Disordered eating refers to troublesome eating behaviors, such as restrictive dieting, binging, or purging, which occur less frequently or are less severe than those required to meet the full criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis.

Wilderness Therapy Can Help

The wilderness therapy program at Pacific Quest offers a unique whole-person, nature-based model for healing from the effects of the various addictions associated with today’s social media surge. Pacific Quest uses the healing power of nature and practices complete wellness, with qualified staff working together on every aspect. One reason Pacific Quest works is because it has an individualized, comprehensive and neuro-developmentally informed approach: Everyone is different. At Pacific Quest we can design strategies that reach our students and move them through a deep and lasting process of change.

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy girlsWe are passionate about our social mission and want to continue to help young girls and women develop a positive relationship with their bodies. Students have discovered the healing powers of horticulture therapy (HT), a formal practice involving the use of plants, the garden and horticultural activities to “promote well-being for its participant.” The benefits of horticulture therapy can take many forms, from physical and cognitive to spiritual and emotional. The garden uses horticultural principles to teach clients about food security, provide skills training, and nurture self-confidence and healthy leisure activities. The use of sustainable growth, horticultural therapy and gardening, focus on health and wellness, and peer culture, complement the individual treatment plan providing the foundation for developing personal awareness and cultivating tools for personal development teens and adolescents with eating disorders.

In many cases, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy techniques are very effective in addressing Internet addiction issues being faced by our students. This approach helps the teenagers examine their anxiety, anticipate situations in which it is likely to occur, and understand its effects. This can also help them recognize the exaggerated nature of their fears and develop a corrective approach to the problem. They learn to replace negative and unproductive thought patterns with more realistic and useful ones.  Treatment often involves facing one’s fears as part of the pathway to recovery. Interpersonal therapy and problem-solving therapy are also effective.

Contact Pacific Quest to find out more about our dynamic medium for therapeutic growth and whole person wellness.

Isolation: Side of Effects of Technology & Internet Addiction

One positive aspects of modern technology is how easily it enables us to connect with other people – whether it’s texting or playing an Xbox game with someone in Tokyo. In some ways, we’ve never been more social.

However this incredible power does have a down side: isolation. It seems contradictory, but true socialization has taken a toll. Something about talking to another person face-to-face is less natural to us. We’d rather text something than talk, and it’s not uncommon to see a group of people together but hardly looking at each other because they’re each using their smartphones.

We think we’re socializing, but in many ways, it all may be separating us from the real interaction we crave leading to feelings of isolation. Video games illustrate this problem well.

Connected to the Computer, Disconnected from the Real World

Today’s video games, like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, and Call of Duty, testify to technology’s advancement. Many are incredibly vivid, complex virtual worlds that draw millions of people into playing. They’re highly interactive with vast environments populated by a variety of characters with specific backgrounds, abilities, and duties from which players choose. Players can interact with other players by teaming up their characters to go on quests or into battles together. They communicate via headsets, which is necessary in order to strategize and accomplish a common goal. There is much to explore and do in these games even if a player is on his own, and getting lost and caught up in all of it can be easy. However, hours or days are easily lost, too, especially as these games are designed for long-term play.Pacific Quest wilderness therapy

“Who cares?” you say. These gamers are still interacting. What’s really lost if they’re forming connection that happen to be through a game? The problem is that time online is time away from family and friends who aren’t a county, state, or continent away. It’s time not spent productively attending to professional and personal responsibilities. These things cannot be taken for granted and be expected to be there waiting when you’re ready to step away from the computer. But as the video game takes on importance, little else matters.

Real relationships are hard to come by (think about how many people you consider a confidant) because they take time to build, and virtual friendships can’t truly replace them. People can feel isolated when they’re not online because they may have let real relationships crumble or realize they’ve not accomplished all they’ve wanted due to their online activity.

Wilderness Therapy for Video Game & Internet Addiction

Excessive internet use or game play carries with it a variety of issues, and feeling isolated is only one of them. If someone has few friends and feels alone, online activities and “friends” can fill a void. In this case, he may be additionally dealing with depression, anxiety, or social issues. For others depression may settle in later when they’ve realized what gaming has cost them – relationships, money, a job.

It takes time to unravel the issues behind video game and internet addiction, but wilderness therapy has been an invaluable resource for adolescents and young adults struggling with them. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program uses a holistic, clinical approach, which means that students get individual and group therapy to tackle their specific issues and also learn how to take care of themselves. Part of that includes learning to be part of their immediate community through activities like organic gardening without technology to distract them. They learn to cultivate deep, real connections unlike the superficial ones aided by technology.

Problems shouldn’t need to escalate to the point of addiction to make us realize that we’re missing out on the vivid world around us.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

Video Game Addiction: View From A Gamer’s Perspective

Picture this: your teenager sitting on the couch, mindlessly devouring junk food and soda, eyes glazed from hours of playing video games, day after day for the summer months. Summer is the highlight of the year for adolescents – no responsibilities and the taste of independence. All of the structure and scheduling that occurs during the school year is gone. With less structure and adult supervision, the summer is ripe with opportunities for teens to fall into bad habits, which can become larger issues like video game addiction.

A Teenage Gamer’s Perspective on Video Game Addiction

For 16-year-old Eli, gaming addiction, though he’s not comfortable with that term, is very real. Becoming aware of increasingly obsessive thoughts and behavior, understanding their consequences, and accepting that something has to change isn’t easy – even for an adult. Eli was forced to become aware of his issue after spending 14 hours straight playing his game of choice League of Legends.

Eli has been playing for almost a year along with several friends who got him into it. The initial difficulty required a lot of effort to get into the game, but it’s admittedly a growing priority in his life. Eli said, “[I’ve] wanted to play rather than go out to dinner. When I was swimming [on a competitive swim team], I was thinking about playing the game when I got home.”  When asked if he’s ever thought, “Hmmm, I should be doing [blank], but I’d rather play the game,” he responded with an unequivocal, “Yes.”

“It’s probably a bad use of time… it’s difficult to slow down”, confessed Eli.

With over 108 characters – or champions – to choose from, League of Legends uses teamwork, coordination and a lot of planning. Eli says he chooses to play certain champions because they are more powerful than others – thus more fun to play – and, “because it’s satisfying to win!”

Needing at least an hour to play the game and dealing with potential “conflicts,” as Eli calls them – i.e. if you perform badly other players bully or get angry, this game potentially hits the triggers of many a human emotion and character flaw. For example, if you are “AFK” (away from keyboard) thus leaving the game, there are penalties, and you may not be allowed to play in the future. Possible exclusion and angering fellow players creates incentive to continue playing.

As a consequence of his excessive gaming, his dad finally took away Eli’s phone after several previous empty threats. Though Eli got it back shortly thereafter, the message was received. Without going cold turkey, his dad has now limited the amount of time Eli is alone with too much downtime to play video games. Now Eli goes with his twin brother to their dad’s house some nights to read until they fall asleep. Not only is Eli’s video game addiction being curbed, but they get more quality family time.

Eli said, “It’s up to the parents [to monitor video game use]. They think we don’t know any better.” There is truth in that young people may not know better; teens becoming hooked on video games may not recognize their growing compulsion to play because the addiction grows gradually.

Choosing Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy for Video Game Addiction

Each day is a chance to practice good parenting skills. Parents have the ability to pull their teens out of a toxic situation when they’re beginning to head down the wrong path. But should outside help be necessary, placing troubled adolescents or young adults with video game or internet addiction in an environment like Pacific Quest wilderness therapy can be incredibly beneficial. Students have a chance to think about their life’s direction while receiving therapeutic support as they learn and grow.

Because teenagers’ brains are still developing, adolescence is an ideal time for outdoor Wilderness therapy rewardstherapy. Destructive thought and behavior patterns can still be modified, mental health issues can be managed, and behavioral issues can be staved off by getting treatment as early as possible. When asked Eli what he thought about outdoor therapy programs like the one at Pacific Quest, he emphatically said, “It’s a good idea. It actually sounds much more fun than playing the game!” While wilderness therapy is about more than providing fun, Pacific Quest’s program is engaging in ways that video games can never be. With horticulture therapy, gardening activities require team work, planning, and responsibility in order to be successful. They also provide tangible rewards unlike the inconsequential points earned in video games. Instead of wasting away in front of the TV or computer, adolescents experience the outdoors and life, eat healthfully, and are active participants in life and the community.

Pacific Quest also helps families when necessary. For adolescents’ change to be sustainable, families also need an opportunity to express their feelings, ask questions, and receive help. Pacific Quest therapists can work with parents on how to develop parenting skills, communication skills, and ways to support their teen.

Technology is part of our daily lives, so it’s important to establish good tech habits early in order to live a balanced, healthy life.

Escapist Behavior Internet & Video Game Addiction

In recent decades video games have become a fixation with young people, especially as the video game industry expands into the mobile internet space, creating video game addiction. One of the issues of this is it can be very anti-social. It can also cause people to invest a lot of time into something that could be interfering with other goals in life or regular work. In some ways, video game addiction resembles drug addiction in how it consumes a person’s life and time plus how it affects human relationships.

Video Game Lifestyle & Addiction

Playing video games incessantly instead of working or doing something constructive can become a depressing narrative. Video games are not necessarily bad for people, but they can use up a lot of time and begin to take over a person’s life interrupting work, healthy eating, and sleeping. The rewards for investing so much time playing video games are improved scores and competitiveness; the costs are lost valuable time and real connections. Like a drug, at first it takes little to be entertained. It’s a recreation that evolves into an escape from the responsibilities of the real world.

Video games have shortened attention span similarly to television: Both are hypnotizing and an escape. However, video games offer an extra dimension that television doesn’t: participation. Since you become much more involved with a video game than a television show, it’s easy for your eyes to remain glued to the screen for hours. This activity creates physical as well as psychological issues. Its sedentary nature has many effects on our body – from blood circulation to weight gain and body aches, and excessive screen time strains eyes and can cause headaches.

Like Gambling

Though money isn’t necessarily involved, gaming mirrors aspects of gambling as both can potentially engross someone for hours, time that could’ve been used doing something productive or proactive – volunteering, learning something new, working, studying. Even though playing video games requires decision-making, those decisions have no application or effect in the real world. Much effort is wasted to be champion of a game that means nothing to others outside the gaming world, like employers or family. Like gambling, video game or internet addiction can affect personal and professional relationships and also mental and physical health as strain increases. The end result of both can be a very empty feeling.

A Fresh Perspective through Wilderness Therapy

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy health wellness

If you find that you’ve escaped too far into the video game world to the point that it is affecting relationships, school or career, an outdoor wilderness therapy program may help. Pacific Quest in Hawaii uses a holistic approach to point struggling adolescents and young adults toward healthier lifestyle choices and a new life. They learn the principles of Whole Person Wellness: improving nutrition, sleep, movement, and the connection between body and mind – ideas lost in the midst of video game or any addiction.

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy offers individualized clinical care and also incorporates horticultural therapy in its therapeutic model. Gardening places students in caregiver roles. They learn responsibility and goal-setting that produce tangible rewards for their time and efforts – fruits and vegetables that help feed themselves and others, which is unlike the inconsequential rewards of video games. Pacific Quest is guided by principles of healthy community living, which involves collaborating with others to reach personal and public goals. It’s all about learning to fit into a larger group and having access to mentoring, support and feedback. A real community is better than a virtual one. The Pacific Quest experience is considered a rite of passage in which clients leave their old identities behind, and they can replace feelings of emptiness with those of self-worth based on real accomplishment. Escaping in video games is no longer necessary.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

Wilderness Therapy: Walk in Harmony with the World

When it comes to internet addiction in teens, an inner transformation must happen first in order for an outer change to occur. Nature supplies the classroom with the greatest impact for engaging and changing teens in the deepest way. At Pacific Quest we provide opportunities for teens to take their lives into their own hands and out of the grip of internet addiction.

How Wilderness Therapy Can Help Teens Struggling with Internet Addiction

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy for adolescents

The therapeutic benefits of wilderness therapy for teens struggling with internet addictions include nurturing the ability to trust one’s community through the experience of teamwork, developing a healthier relationship with the issues of control, taking responsibility for one’s actions and how those actions impact others, increasing feelings of self-esteem, joy and pleasure, and establishing a deeper connection with the natural world. One of the significant goals of our wilderness therapy program is to provide teens with the opportunities and skills to deal with difficult situations, so they can draw upon these experiences in the recovery process and long after program completion.

The addiction treatment aspect for internet addiction, video game addiction, or computer addiction lays in the obvious removal of the technological dependence and replacing it with healthier habits. In addition, those teens addicted to games, Internet, or computers often forget to take even the most basic level of care for themselves. That’s why our philosophy of health and wellness is routed in the principles of naturopathic medicine. An understanding and routine of basic physical health are the foundation of Pacific Quest. Proper nutrition and diet, plenty of exercise and adequate sleep are emphasized and supported. Adolescents also explore the body-mind connection as an integral part of this foundation.

For decades wilderness therapists and outdoor educators have been incorporating the healing and restorative powers of nature into programs designed to help troubled teens overcome addictions and personal challenges, to learn how to regain control over their lives, and to put themselves back on the path to health and happiness.

Wilderness therapy is a unique alternative to long-term residential schools and treatment programs. It has proven to be highly effective in dealing with many teen related issues, behavioral struggles and abuse problems.

For more information, please call us: 808.937.5806, or visit http://www.pacificquest.org.

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.

Greater Awareness of Behavioral Addiction & Internet Addiction

internet addiction gamingThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is released by the American Psychiatric Association and contains information on all mental disorders recognized by the US healthcare system as well as their diagnostic criteria. The latest edition, released last year, includes two interesting changes. First, the section describing substance-related and addictive disorders now includes gambling disorder. Second and perhaps more interestingly, the DSM-5’s Section III now lists internet gaming disorder, which designates it as a condition that should be researched further.

Including internet gaming disorder is a result of evidence coming from research done in several Asian countries of young people’s internet habits and preoccupation with the internet and online gaming. Known as “gamers,” these young people – mainly young males – play online games compulsively and ignore other aspects of their lives to their detriment. That research plus others are suggesting that mental pathways are being rewired in those people who exhibit high levels of preoccupation with internet gaming, and they’re experiencing pleasure and reward in much the same way substance addicts do.

The DSM-5’s changes are important because, as a group, behavioral addictions aren’t recognized as mental disorders, but now the DSM-5 is beginning to acknowledge the negative compulsive behavior behind some actions and that it may have greater mental health implications than previously thought. These moves create awareness and hopefully lead young people to check their own habits – and seek help if the problem is bigger than they realized.

Wilderness Therapy Helping Teens Overcome an Unhealthy Relationship with the Internet

From digital detoxes – weekends away from all technology – to internet addiction treatment centers, people are offering help and people are seeking help for excessive internet use. Though the DSM-5 has limited internet gaming addiction criteria to online games, it doesn’t mean people (non-gamers) don’t struggle with internet addiction issues that could include general internet use, online gambling, and social media.

Teens and young adults may be more susceptible to internet addiction issues. They’ve never known a world without the internet. Also, internet addiction may likely stem from other troubles in their lives, such as identity issues, low self-esteem, depression, or even ADHD, because the internet offers an outlet or escape, and they have not yet developed healthy coping skills.

Internet usage issues can quickly become complex, so where one goes for help dealing with it is important.  Wilderness therapy has been able to help troubled adolescents and young adults struggling with a variety of issues. The wilderness therapy program at Pacific Quest integrates a highly clinical approach with the holistic, using traditional clinical therapy with experiential learning through horticulture therapy to achieve healing and change. Beyond giving troubled adolescents a chance to get away from the source of their troubles, Pacific Quest’s unique approach that includes individualized care plans means it is equipped to help those struggling with internet addiction and the additional issues that may have contributed to it.