Starting September 9th, the nation’s first hospital–based Internet addition program is set to open at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Internet addiction isn’t officially recognized as a disorder yet, but it’s a “condition for further study” according to the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the “bible” of psychiatric symptoms in the mental-health industry.
The voluntary, 10-day in-patient treatment program will admit up to four people who have been diagnosed with severe Internet addiction. First, they’ll undergo an extensive evaluation and a “digital detox” that prohibits phone, tablet or Internet use for at least 72 hours. Then they’ll attend therapy sessions and educational seminars to help them get their Internet compulsion under control.
The program is run by Kimberly Young, a psychologist who began studying Internet addiction in 1994 after watching her friend’s marriage disintegrate while her husband spent 50 hours a week in AOL chat rooms. The divorce made Young curious about how this then–embryonic thing called the Internet was affecting the population. In 1995, she founded the Center for Internet Addiction, and as the World Wide Web became more pervasive, her phone started to ring. “I received calls every week asking if I knew of a clinic or hospital to treat this condition, but there weren’t any in the U.S.,” Young told Fast Company.
Young defined Internet addiction by the consequences of Internet overuse rather than the number of hours spent online. She said there was a difference between people who depended on modern technology but could balance their online life with their offline life, and people whose obsession prevented them from functioning normally.
“Like any other addiction, we look at whether it has jeopardized their career, whether they lie about their usage or whether it interferes with relationships,” she explained.
Young said typical Internet addicts were young, male and highly intelligent. They often struggle socially and have low self-esteem, she said. The majority are obsessed with such games as “World of Warcraft,” not social media or pornography.
“They go online because they can become someone else and be admired for their skills,” she said.
The goal of the program is to allow patients to get back on the Internet but in a healthy way, Young explained. Computer use is so essential to modern life; Young doesn’t believe it’s practical for someone to stay completely offline.
Patients will have to pay the program’s $14,000 fee out-of-pocket. Because Internet addiction isn’t recognized as a mental health disorder by the psychiatric community, treatment isn’t covered by insurance.
While there are several Internet addiction retreats across the country that offer a break from the web, none of them are hospital–based. These “digital detox” programs often help patients with therapy and coping mechanisms, but they don’t medicate patients or diagnose and treat the underlying problems that often accompany addiction, like depression or anxiety disorders.
The internet addiction program at Bradford is the first of its kind. The center’s treatment programs are tailored to a patient’s specific needs. They will meet with therapists and attend classes to understand their addiction and how they can overcome it going forward. They’ll also learn about “what they can be doing in terms of sponsorship and support,” Young says.
If your loved one is in need of addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.