Internet Addiction Spawns US Treatment Programs
When Danny Reagan was 13, he began exhibiting signs of what doctors usually associate with drug addiction. He became agitated, secretive and withdrew from friends. He had quit baseball and Boy Scouts, and he stopped doing homework and showering. But he was not using drugs. He was hooked on YouTube and video games, to the point where he could do nothing else. As doctors would confirm, he was addicted to his electronics. “After I got my console, I kind of fell in love with it,” Danny, now 16 and a junior in a Cincinnati high school, said. “I liked being able to kind of shut everything out and just relax.” Danny was different from typical plugged-in American teenagers. Psychiatrists say internet addiction, characterized by a loss of control over internet use and disregard for the consequences of it, affects up to 8 percent of Americans and is becoming more common around the world.
“We’re all mildly addicted. I think that’s obvious to see in our behavior,” said psychiatrist Kimberly Young, who has led the field of research since founding the Center for Internet Addiction in 1995. “It becomes a public health concern obviously as health is influenced by the behavior.” At first, Danny’s parents took him to doctors and made him sign contracts pledging to limit his internet use. The “Reboot” program at the Lindner Center for Hope offers inpatient treatment for 11 to 17-year-olds who, like Danny, have addictions including online gaming, gambling, social media, pornography and sexting, often to escape from symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Reboot patients spend 28 days at a suburban facility equipped with 16 bedrooms, classrooms, a gym and a dining hall. They undergo diagnostic tests, psychotherapy, and learn to moderate their internet use.