People use technology and the Internet in their everyday lives. Our world has become dependent on the assistance of technology. Without it, we don’t know how to do the simple things that once were expected of us. Where we used to use maps to get around, we now we have GPS to navigate our every step. It is quickly consuming the time and energy of the adolescents of this world.Not only is it grabbing the attention of the younger generation, but also it is influencing the world on a global scale. Internet use and excessive use of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., have grown to become a behavioral addiction. This topic is extremely relevant because social media is having negative effects on mental health, such as increased depression and decreased self-esteem (Kircaburun, 2016).
In this article, I will offer an overview of Internet addiction, as well as the consequences of this problem. I will also address the best approaches for counseling this issue and discuss spirituality pertaining to healing addiction.
Internet Addiction: Overview and Consequences
The new accessibility and convenience that the Internet provides to society influence people to engage in online activities and social networking to gratify needs. With people constantly trying to fill these needs, the use of the Internet has become excessive.
Cheng and Li (2014) describe excessive Internet use as Internet addiction (IA), which is “characterized by an inability to inhibit Internet use that exerts an adverse impact on major life domains (e.g., interpersonal relations, physical health)” (p.755). Social media is a specific type of Internet addiction and research suggests that Internet users are also social media users as well (Kircaburun, 2016).
Social media can be defined as an environment in which certain groups of people gather using internet communication channels to share data, relationships, and content, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
Internet addiction is defined as a behavioral addiction and seen as an impulse control problem. Internet addiction is also referred to as Problematic Internet Use (PIU) or Compulsive Internet Use (CIU). Examples of Internet addiction activities include pornography, online gambling, online shopping, blogging, email, and social networking.
Additionally, it is important to add that IA is currently not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5). However, because of the neural abnormalities and cognitive dysfunctions of this issue, it is closely related to substance and behavioral addictions.
Also, research proposes that Internet addiction is often comorbid with mental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression, insomnia, social phobia, suicidal ideations, aggression, substance use, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder as well.
Research has been conducted to study the relationship between self-esteem, depression, and daily Internet use and social media addiction. Studies showed that there were significant correlations between depression, self-esteem, daily Internet use, and social media addiction. The findings suggest that as an individual’s daily use of Internet and social media increased, their depression did as well.
These results imply that this relationship is due to the lack of social interaction daily Internet use and social media addiction creates. Isolation is a byproduct of this relationship, which feeds depression. Overall, internet addiction in any form is inversely related to quality of life.
Internet addiction is important to be aware of because it is affecting adolescents’ lives the most. “Adolescence is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood that brings a number of psychological, physiological and cognitive alterations into the individuals’ lives” (Kircaburun, 2016).
During this vulnerable period, adolescents are at risk of being influenced negatively by the Internet and media. This period of time for an individual’s life is crucial for healthy development. Forming an addiction of any kind during this stage of life is detrimental to their well-being and overall development.
Research provides plenty of evidence of the detrimental effects of Internet addiction such as negative impacts on identity formation, changing structure of the developing brain, poor cognitive functioning, poor academic performance, increased engagement in risky behavior, poor dietary habits, and lower interpersonal relationships. These findings suggest that Internet addiction has both negative physical and psychosocial ramifications.
Counseling and Treatment Approaches for Internet Addiction
It is common for people to think that they do not need internet addiction counseling because they don’t know how it would help. When treating Internet addiction there are several ways to approach this issue. Person Centered Counseling and Motivational Interviewing (MI) have been shown to be effective when treating addiction.
Person-Centered Counseling provides clients with a therapeutic environment that allows them to be themselves without fear of judgment. It is a counselors’ responsibility to offer acceptance, unconditional positive regard, and congruence to the client. This allows clients to diminish their defenses, come to appreciate themselves, and grow in choosing more flexible and creative behaviors.
Person-Centered Counseling coincides with Motivational Interviewing because there are similarities in approach that allow the counselor to be a support rather than an authority figure. Carl Rogers, the founder of Person-Centered Counseling, believed that people have an innate ability to self-direct, self-understand, and self heal.
Motivational Interviewing also believes that clients are responsible for their own change and it is a counselor’s duty to assist clients in their process of change. MI counselors respect and honor clients as people of worth with a capacity for personal growth and change. Through engaging, focusing, evoking, and planning counselors are able to connect, clarify direction, identify motivations, and move toward action.
Both Person-Centered Counseling and Motivational Interviewing therapy strive to move people through ambivalence through self-awareness and acceptance to reach the end goal of making positive changes. Both therapies are collaborative and foster an accepting environment that allows clients to self-direct and change.
Also, using a person-centered approach works toward not problem solving but facilitating and helping. Addicts do not respond well to counselors with a “fix-it” mentality. Counselors using Person-Centered Therapy and Motivational Interviewing help clients grow in their self-awareness, emotional-regulation, independence, and the development of better coping mechanisms for facing life’s challenges, rather than turning toward their addiction for comfort.
Moreover, it is important for your counselor to discuss treatment guidelines for identifying what function the computer serves for clients struggling with IA and the feelings associated with its excessive usage. Finding the motivation behind the usage will bring perspective and awareness to clients’ addictions and will foster change in return.
Focus on Spirituality
Spirituality can also serve as a motivator for the counseling process. Jesus was the prime example of love and acceptance. Just as Jesus accepts and loves, we therapists are to do the same. We are to imitate his example, eating dinner with prostitutes and tax collectors while seeing them through a grace-filled lens.
People entering the world of counseling who are suffering from addiction do not need judgment. What they need is love. They need a place where they can come as they are, as hurting individuals in need of support and care. Jesus’ reaction to the adulterous woman in John 8 shows how counselors are called to approach individuals struggling with addiction.
We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We should not stand in judgment of those sinning differently than us. As a Christian counselor, I offer acceptance and love in my approach to counseling.
I strive to sit in the subjective realities of my clients with compassion and concern. Loving people like Jesus loved people is how I can reach those who are hurting. Often, people struggling with internet addiction just think that means pornography, but as you’ve read, it is so much more than that. If any of this resonated with you then please reach out for internet addiction help.
Cheng, C., Li, A. Y. (2014). Internet Addiction Prevalence and Quality of (Real) Life: A Meta-Analysis of 31 Nations Across Seven World Regions. Cyberpsychology, Behavior Social Networking, 17(12), 755-760.
Kircaburun, K. (2016). Self-Esteem, Daily Internet Use and Social Media Addiction as Predictors of Depression among Turkish Adolescents. Journal of Education And Practice, 7(24), 64-72.
Mushtaq, A., Shafiq, M. (2015). An overview of empirical evidence of internet addiction disorder among adolescents. Indian Journal of Health Wellbeing, 6(4), 441-444.
Miller, W. R. Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational interviewing: Helping people change (3rd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press
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