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In the last section, we discussed the concepts of internet time consumption. These concepts included: unchecked time flow; internet interference; and denial.
In this section, we will examine underlying emotional causes that trigger a client’s internet addiction. These underlying causes include: depression; low self-esteem; and anxiety.
♦ #1 Depression
Olivia, age 18, had recently been forced to move out of her parents' house and into foster care after her father had beaten her mother and Olivia. Even after being adopted by her aunt, Olivia became severely depressed. She stated, "I felt like I had nothing to live for. I didn't have a real home and I can't talk to my parents. There was nothing left to me. To distract myself, I went on the internet and lo and behold, there are other girls online with the same problems! We chatted for hours and days."
I asked Olivia, "Did you feel any better about life after talking to these girls?" She stated no. I then told Olivia, "This type of therapy replacement is only doing half the job of an effective support group. Instead of moving on with your life with new found hope, you become more entrenched in your bitterness towards the world. Without facing your troubles and gaining this new outlook on life, you will not be able to completely overcome your depression."
I referred Olivia to a teen's support group in the local area and also gave her tips to minimalize her online time. Think of your Olivia. What other ways could you address his or her depression? Is this one of the underlying causes of his or her internet addiction?
♦ #2 Low Self-Esteem
The nature of the internet use can vary by gender. Female clients seek companionship and relish the idea that no one can judge them primarily on their looks. Males, seeking self-esteem through power and domination, gravitate towards online war games in which they can be transformed into a strong, powerful soldier fighting in a futuristic world.
Jason, age 19, was awkward and shy around other people at his school. He never felt like he fit in. However, when he joined a game network, also known as MUD, Jason felt like a completely different person. He stated, "MUDs are like religion to me, and I am a god there. I am respected by all the other MUDders. I know that I am playing against other highly intelligent people, and developing the winning strategies and getting stronger at the game gives me a great high. Even when I’m not playing, I’m wondering if there will be more newbs for me to kill that night or which other guys will be playing."
I stated to Jason, "Although the internet may be fulfilling a superficial self-esteem need, your serious confidence problems will not subside until you have addressed them directly." Think of your Jason. Is he or she using the internet as a remedy for low self-esteem?
Technique: Transferring Positive Qualities
I stated to each of them in separate sessions, "While you’ve been using the internet to find yourself and to begin to climb out of your shell, you may have made a positive first step. But instead of limiting your social life to the faceless community, move on to real-life situations. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of caring support and respect from people you could see and touch?"
I then asked them to write a list of attributes they have discovered through the use of the internet. Olivia’s list included the following:
♦ #3 Anxiety
He soon found the escapist benefits of the news groups and message boards the perfect fit to his anxious feelings. Steven stated, "I got completely absorbed in these groups, and when I was there my pain and guilt went away. If one of my groups folded or got boring, I’d immediately find a new one to replace it. It was like having an insatiable thirst and never having enough water."
I stated to Steven, "Even though it may feel like the internet is numbing your pain, in fact it is still underneath the surface. Not only is your social life suffering, but your school work may as well. Doesn’t this cause you even more anxiety than before?" Think of your Steven. Is he or she using the internet to numb anxious feelings?
In this section, we examined underlying emotional causes that trigger a client’s internet addiction. These underlying causes included: depression; low self-esteem; and anxiety.
In the next section, we will discuss concepts regarding children who become addicted to the internet. These concepts include: susceptible clients; warning signs; and acceptance.
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