Internet Addictions are the latest psychological epidemic sweeping the developed world.

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The stories below illuminate what addictive and compulsive internet use may look like and the role counsellors, psychologists and therapists can play to help afflicted individuals overcome what can become destructive behaviour.

Help for internet addiction

Internet addictions are somewhat unique from other addictions in that they involve interactions with other people via a computer system. As a result, individuals who are struggling with internet addiction may feel as if they are receiving benefit from being online and from spending time in chat rooms, reading emails or playing games. While there may be real benefit from engaging in these activities, they may also result in isolating individuals from face-to-face interactions with family and friends, and may create complications more generally in life outside of the computer network. The stories below offer insight into how to come to recognise problematic internet use and what counselling and therapy can offer for internet addicts. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

Lisa's internet addiction story

A divorcee in her late 40s, Lisa had no children of her own. Consequently, after her divorce she found herself spending more and more time online. As a natural introvert, she found the innovation of the internet particularly suitable to the way she liked to interact with people. Her social interactions on the internet were quite wide and she had made many online friends, however, she virtually had no friends in real space. Initially, Lisa did not see anything wrong with this. However, when she discovered that someone she considered a friend had deceived her about their true identity, she found herself feeling very depressed. Further, she could not seem to stop herself from going into the same chat room they were in, even though doing so made her feel worse. She decided that perhaps it was time to talk to a counsellor about how much time she was spending online and about her inability to discontinue internet use despite wanting to do so. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

One of the first things that she discussed with her counsellor, Ronnie, was how she felt that her social life had flourished as a result of spending time online. Ronnie gently questioned her about how much time she spent online and what other types of activities she was engaged in, aside from the internet. He was then careful to point out that Lisa seemed to have very little social interactions outside of the internet. Ronnie challenged Lisa to discover what other types of activities she could turn to in order to supplement the time she spent in online chat rooms. He then asked Lisa to come up with a list of things she would like to do in place of going online, especially now that she was feeling somewhat disenchanted with her addiction.

With Ronnie’s gentle encouragement, Lisa soon began to understand that just because she felt the impulse to go online, she didn’t have to act on this impulse. Instead she learned about the many different types of activities that she could do instead. For example, after taking a gourmet cooking class, she learned that she was a good cook. She also began dating after over 10 years of being on her own. Soon she was spending almost no time online and more time out enjoying herself with friends in real space.

Greg's online gaming addiction story

Greg was in his early 20s and loved to play online games. He had been enrolled in university, but as soon as he discovered World of Warcraft, he started missing classes and failing. Instead of studying, he decided to defer from university and get a basic job so that he could spend all his spare time online. Even though it made his parents unhappy and made family get-togethers uncomfortable, he continued to play the online game. Soon enough he found that he preferred to play the game rather than see his family or friends and he simply stopped going to family gatherings and ignored most social invitations. Greg was soon playing in his online world late into the night, and was surviving on only a few hours sleep each night. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

When he reached his 24th birthday, he realized that he had not been on more than one or two dates in almost three years. He was always exhausted from lack of sleep, and he was already on his second warning at work. He hardly saw his family and rarely spoke to friends. Greg felt guilty for neglecting his family and was starting to recognise the negative impact of his gaming addiction. So he tried to cut down the number of hours that he spent playing his game. However, instead of being able to play his game less, he found himself feeling anxious and depressed until he gave in to the impulse and let himself go back to playing.

More and more, Greg found himself preoccupied with playing World of Warcraft and eventually lost his job because of being late and missing entire shifts. Without any income, Greg found himself unable to pay his rent and his electricity bills. Without intending to, he found himself cut off from his favourite game and from his online friends. His family begged him to get help and he gave in, thinking that maybe they had a point.

On his first visit to his counsellor, Greg was surprised to discover that Steve was quite willing to listen to him and let him tell his story, instead of moralising about how bad or selfish his behaviour was. Steve challenged Greg to make a list of what was great about World of Warcraft and where he could find those same things in alternative activities.

As they progressed through the therapy sessions, Greg found that Steve was compassionate and understanding and was even willing to play the game every once in a while to understand what Greg found really appealing about it. However, Steve also continued to gently challenge Greg’s sense of the world and point out that the world was bigger than World of Warcraft. He even pointed out that maybe one of the reasons Greg was not dating regularly was because the girls he dated did not want to compete against a game that was always present. After several weeks of thinking over this particular point, Greg had to admit that if the roles were reversed, he wouldn’t put up with it either. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

Once he made that admission, he then began to reexamine the amount of time he invested in the game and why he was playing it. It dawned on him that the reason he was so attached to the game was because he didn’t know how to relate to other people very well. When he talked to Steve about this, Steve offered to help teach him better social skills and how to deal with uncomfortable feelings of anxiety that drew him to playing the game instead of dealing with social situations which he found difficult. Soon, Greg was playing less and less and was out finding new friends and learning that he wasn’t such a bad guy after all.

Counselling & psychology for internet addictions

When a person begins counselling for internet addiction, often the counsellor will help educate the client about what an addiction is and how their behaviour fits into the criteria for the problem. Very often, counsellors will spend time with their clients learning to understanding the appeal of playing online games or spending time in chat rooms. Gently, over time, a counsellor will challenge those perceived benefits and help the client learn alternative behaviours that they can engage in when they are feeling anxious or experience the impulse to get online.

With time, clients usually begin to understand that there are negative consequences for their actions and that there are other ways with which they can feed their need for social interaction. Commonly, many therapists will help clients understand their strengths and explore ways in which they can meet others and engage in helpful and healthy relationships beyond the internet. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

Seeking help for internet addictions

If you or someone you love is struggling with internet or gaming addiction, you or they may benefit from a consultation with a psychologist, counsellor or therapist. If you would like to schedule an appointment in the Sydney metropolitan area or to get further information, please contact us at:

Associated Counselors & Psychologists Sydney

Central Booking Line: (02) 8205 0566

Common mispellings and alternative search terms used to find this page include: Internet Adict; Gaming Adict, World of War Craft; counselor for addiction; counseling online, Sydney Psycologist.


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