Outside the U.S. it may be a lot easier to find a treatment center specifically for addictions to various types of technology; that’s because tech addiction, or the related term Internet addiction disorder (IAD), is classified as an official disorder in a number of other countries, including Australia, China, Japan, India, Italy, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
In the U.S., though, there are only a handful of digital detox facilities that treat patients who are unable to put the brakes on texting, tweeting, surfing, gaming and the like. Perhaps the three best-known facilities are the Center for Internet Addiction, in Bradford, Pennsylvania, founded by Kimberly Young, PsyD; the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in West Hartford, Connecticut, founded by David Greenfield, PhD; and ReSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program in Fall City, Washington, founded by Cosette Rae, LICSW, ACSW, and Hilarie Cash, PhD.
Even if there’s not a nearby, dedicated facility, you or a loved one can still get help. Most addiction specialists and treatment/rehab centers can tailor their treatment methods for addictions related to technology. And in fact some of the same principles used for treating other types of addiction, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and the 12-step philosophy, have been shown to be effective for treating Internet addiction. Treatment options for technology addicts can include inpatient, outpatient and aftercare (post-rehab) support and self-help support groups, as well as individual, group and family counseling and workshops for addicts and their families.
While there are no official 12-step recovery groups specifically for tech or Internet addicts, if you or a loved one is suffering from an online gambling addiction Gamblers Anonymous is a good resource. Cybersex/online porn addicts may benefit from sexual addiction recovery meetings held by Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and Sexual Recovery Anonymous. These support groups serve much the same purpose as group therapy, but on a longer-term and somewhat more social basis.
At the Center for Internet Addiction Dr. Young uses an approach founded on CBT. She created Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Internet addiction (CBT-IA), a three-phase approach that combines CBT with Harm Reduction Therapy (HRT), which is used to identify and treat underlying issues that are contributing to the addiction. Depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder is common among Internet addicts, as is an addiction to alcohol or drugs.
Patients first undergo a 72-hour “detox” of the Internet and digital devices and then technology is slowly reintroduced with a behavioral modification plan. For example, someone may be permitted to use a laptop for an hour per day, with monitoring. Dr. Greenfield developed a five-day, four-hours-per-day treatment plan, as well as a two-day, 10-hours-per-day accelerated program, that uses techniques drawn from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and Imago Relationship Therapy, a type of marriage therapy. And at ReSTART, therapists oversee a 45- to 90-day outpatient program to help addicts wean themselves from pathological computer use and “reprogram” their social skills. Some of the treatment methods used include CBT, the 12 steps, mindfulness-based stress reduction and relapse prevention.
Since technology addiction is an emerging problem and one that’s not very well-studied to date, it’s best to talk to your health care provider about treatment options. A person’s mental health history; what kind(s) of technology they’re addicted to; and personality can all play roles in deciding on the best approach. To learn more about treatment, visit the Get Help section.
Sources: Bradford Regional Medical Center; Center for Internet Addiction; Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, CNS Spectrums; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5); Elon University; Frontiers in Human Neuroscience; Journal of Addictive Disorders; Journal of Behavioral Addictions; National Institutes of Health; Pew Internet Project; PLOS ONE; Psychopathology; ReSTART Center for Digital Technology Sustainability; Stanford Medicine; Tel Aviv University; University of Gothenburg.