This is a transcript of the podcast Distraction, your survival guide to our crazy-busy, ever-connected modern world hosted by Dr. Edward Hallowell, ADHD expert. Dr. Hallowell talks with his guest about his struggle with gaming and internet addiction.
DR. HALLOWELL: Hello and welcome to this mini distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. This week our full-length episode explores the topic of internet addiction. We feel strongly that internet addiction is such an important issue, so we also focused this week’s mini episode on the subject. These are both first-person accounts of young men who have struggled with this addiction and made it through recovery.
Ryan: Hi, I’m Ryan. I’m 19. I’m addicted to information technology and gaming, so that’s any form of electronic gaming or the pursuit of information without purpose. I’ve always been interested in video games, from a very young age. It never really started to get bad for me until middle school and into high school. As time progressed, it just continued to get worse and worse. It started to affect my school grades, interpersonal relationships, and things of that nature. Then I went off to college, planning on being very successful, and that’s when my gaming addiction kicked in. Towards the end of my first quarter, it got really bad. In my second quarter, I didn’t go to any classes. I just spent the entire time on the computer.
His Lowest Point
My lowest point was when I realized what I had been doing, that I was on the track to flunk out of college. This would result in me being homeless because my parents had said they wouldn’t support me if I didn’t succeed in college. At that point, I just decided something had to change.
People don’t take internet addiction seriously at all, and it’s extremely hard to have it accepted. I’m in a program called The reSTART Internet and Technology Recovery Program. You have to go to 12-step meetings and talk to people in your recovery group, and even other recovering addicts don’t accept it as a problem. Internet addiction is becoming more commonly accepted, but there’s still a huge culture of ‘It’s not a problem, just turn off the computer’ sort of mentality. It’s not that simple.
It’s the same with an alcoholic. You can set down the drink and never pick it up again, and that’s just the boundary that you need to have. With a behavioral addiction, like the internet addiction and food addiction, you have to engage in those behaviors in some way, shape, or form. For me, I’m currently working through a program where they help, walk over, and guide you to you reconnect into society with those technology aspects.
The reSTART Recovery Program
The way that reSTART works is it’s 45 days of inpatient detox. It’s really just living in a house with other guys who have the same thing, which is very helpful because some people have been in there for 30-40 days and are more calmed down. They can help guide you through the process of detoxing from technology, which is a thing. The problem with internet addiction, is insurance plans don’t recognize it as a health disorder and won’t cover it.
An alcoholic can go to a treatment facility and have that cost covered by insurance because it’s recognized as a physical and behavioral problem; it is an addiction, and it does make physical changes in the brain. The brain of an alcoholic is rewired to seek alcohol because it produces that dopamine hit, and it’s the same thing with internet addiction. It does the same exact physical processes, which is why if you just take computers away from people, it doesn’t work because they will have withdrawal symptoms. If all else fails, go to a 12-step meeting. At their core, addictions are all the same. You’ll hear stories that are going to be extremely similar to what you’re going through, and the only difference is, it will be alcohol addiction instead of internet addiction.
Setting Boundaries on Excessive Technology
What parents can do is have boundaries in place at an early age and be on the watch for early warning signs, like kids wanting to spend all their time on technology or games and definitely not exposing children to screen time at a very young age. Today, it is becoming more and more popular to entertain children with iPads and iPhones because it’s a fun distraction. However, what that teaches is that excessive technology is approved, so going forward, that’s what they’ll turn to.
DR. HALLOWELL: My thanks to Ryan and the folks at reSTART and their internet addiction recovery program. This issue of internet addiction is not going away, and in fact, it’s only going to grow, and grow, and grow. That’s why it’s critical to be aware of how much time you spend on your computer and other devices. It’s a very slippery slope and we should all take a lesson from Ryan. If you need help, please do get it. We’ll include a list of resources on our website at DistractionPodcast.com. Remember to subscribe to Distraction on iTunes and please do leave us a review. It helps us a lot, and thanks for listening.
This is a transcript of the podcast Distraction, “Addicted to Information & Gaming: Ryan’s Story”. Distraction is available on iTunes.