CBT Effective for Internet Addiction

Internet gaming addiction is a growing concern internationally, and the number of patients complaining of serious problems that result from their uncontrolled internet use is on the rise.  A recently published study from Germany looked at Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) as a strategy to help these patients regain control of their internet use.

The study took 143 men who had come to clinics in Germany and Austria complaining of inappropriate or dysfunctional internet usage.  The group was divided in half and 72 men began the treatment while 71 were placed on a waiting list to serve as a control group. The problem behaviors reported by the men included online gaming (82 men), offline gaming (9 men), online pornography (23 men), and generalized internet addiction (29 men).

A program called “Short term treatment for internet and computer game addiction” was followed by the treatment group for 15 weekly group sessions, interspersed with 8 individual sessions.  The program attempted to teach the men to be cognizant of why they engage in dysfunctional internet use and provided skills to help them reduce and control their use.  After 15 weeks of this treatment/training, the treatment group showed a 69% remission of dysfunctional internet use, and the control group had only a 24% remission.

The study gave insight not only into how to help the individuals concerned, but also into the structure of internet and gaming addiction, and the functional value of the CBT approach.  The concepts of internet addiction and gaming addiction are not without controversy, but a growing body of evidence supports treating dysfunctional or excessive internet use as a genuine type of addiction.  Moodsurfing has also looked into the connection between internet use, or “screen time” and depression, as well as a growing concern with suicidal behaviors associated with internet use. That’s why the application of CBT to internet addiction holds out real hope: it is a tried and true approach to a variety of mental illnesses and significant experience is being gained in its application and use.

– Nancy