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Internet Addicts Get Their Own 12-Step Program

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While the medical community is still divided over the legitimacy of Internet addiction, another group is taking matters into their own hands. ReSTART, the first residential treatment program for Internet addicts, opened its doors in July. Similar in format to the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, reSTART is the first treatment center in the U.S. for this specific addiction. Located in Fall City, Washington, the treatment center is, ironically, no more than a drive away from Microsoft headquarters.

For $14,000, residents are offered a 45-day program that includes household chores, exercising, baking and one-on-one therapy sessions—just a few of the activities planned each day to help keep addicted users away from the Internet. The five-acre center can hold up to six patients at a time, but so far there has only been one patient. Ben Alexander, 19, who had just begun college at Iowa State University. Alexander quickly flunked out of school, simply because he couldn’t pry himself away from his “World of Warcraft computer video game. For Alexander, there is no question that his was a full-blown addiction to the Internet. Spending hours upon hours playing the game, he missed classes, lost friends, and alienated his family. However, Internet addiction is not considered a psychiatric condition according to the American Psychiatric Association and treatment is not covered by insurance. Nevertheless, it seems the U.S. may be eons behind other countries that do take the addiction very seriously: China, Taiwan, and South Korea have already opened dozens of centers for the internet-addicted.

Mental health expert John Grohol, the founder of the mental health website PsychCentral, argues that Internet addiction is not a disease of its own. Rather, he believes that excessive Internet use is a symptom of a much larger condition—say, for example, depression. Hilarie Cash, the founder of the first U.S. Internet addiction treatment center, thinks otherwise. From what she’s witnessed, Internet addiction is a serious problem that can lead to loss of job, marriage, and car accidents (for those who can’t stop browsing the internet on their cell phone or stop texting). Some people have even died as a result of their excessive Internet use: playing video games for days at a time without stopping, players can develop a blood clot and die as a result of being sedentary for too long.

Cash provides the following 11 signs to look for if you think you may have an Internet addiction:

  1. Increasing amounts of time spent on the Internet.
  2. Multiple failed attempts to control behavior.
  3. Heightened euphoria while on the Internet.
  4. Craving more time on the Internet, restless when not using.
  5. Neglecting family and friends.
  6. Lying to others about use.
  7. Internet interfering with school or work.
  8. Feeling guilty or ashamed of behavior.
  9. Changes in sleep patterns.
  10. Weight changes, carpal tunnel, backaches or headaches.
  11. Withdrawal from other activities.

Please visit the reSTART website for more information on Internet addiction and treatment options.

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    Sounds a lot like any other addition, hope it gets addressed and dealt with, I had read about this a little earlier today and was thinking I wanted to know more, thanks for the additional information.