Tom Russell - Heritage Christian Counseling Ministries
Every Thursday between 8 and 9 a.m. during the Wally Show, WVMC General Manager Scott Saunders and Tom Russell from Heritage Christian Counseling Ministries sit down and talk about issues facing the family.
This week, Tom and Scott talk about the newest addicition in our world: Internet Addiction Disorder. Their scripture for the week is Galatians 5:1: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage". Some versions use "slavery" in place of "bondage". An addiction really is that. Slavery. The article that follows is part of a blog series by Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd, published on line with the American Association of Christian Counselors, http://www.aacc.net.
“When I’m online I forget about my problems – it doesn’t matter that I hate my job or that my wife and I are always fighting. I forget all this and escape into a world I have control over. But eventually, I have to return to the real world…” John, age 43
“I always plan to play for just a few minutes – an hour at most. But before I know it I have been playing for hours. The whole night is gone and I am exhausted the next day.” Jason, age 18
“My children argue with me and tell me to stop. I know that I am not giving them the attention that they deserve, but I convince myself that it is just a harmless distraction. I hate how I’m behaving, but I just can’t stop.” Regina, age 35
Can you identify with any of these people’s statements above? If so, you are not alone. In our digital world today it is not so much about “if” you are addicted but “how bad” do you have it. If we are honest, many of us are addicted to our digital gadgets and online applications. On an average day, most people spend 8.5 hours looking at a screen, which meets the criteria for a digital addiction.
The much-anticipated DSM-5 will be released this week, and not surprisingly, will include Internet Addiction Disorder. Many believe this is the most common and fastest growing addiction in our modern time.
The following serves as a definition of Internet Addiction Disorder as defined in the DSM-5.
- Excessive use often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives, starting at 38 hours a week
- Withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible
- Tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use
- Negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue
So why is Internet addiction considered a serious national health crisis? One of the main reasons is because our digital technology is both useful and destructive at the same time. Our digital technology that makes our life easier and offers so much entertainment is also damaging our bodies and our relationships.
For example, Internet addicts have 10-20% smaller brain areas responsible for speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory processing, and other information. This loss is cumulative so the more you use, the more you lose. Digital stress keeps our cortisol levels raging and this excess cortisol can cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, and depression. With Internet Addiction Disorder also comes an increase in ADHD, OCD, and Impulse Control Disorders. It impacts our relationships, and oftentimes, our virtual relationships are superseding our real life relationships, leaving many isolated and depressed.
Internet addiction among children is also a growing concern, with adolescents being twice as likely to become addicted. This addiction is similar to drug and alcohol addictions, in that it offers children and adolescents a way to escape painful feelings or troubling situations. They sacrifice needed hours of sleep to spend time online and withdraw from family and friends to escape into a comfortable online world that they have created and shaped.
This is how the digital addiction cycle is played out. Every time you get a text, email, tweet or Facebook post, your brain gets a hit of dopamine…and just like a gambler you keep looking for the next hit. So, you keep checking your Smartphone to see if you will get a hit. It’s called intermittent reinforcement and it is fertile soil to produce a digital addiction.
Licensed psychologist and researcher Dr. Kimberly Young shares, “Researchers have noted that the consequences of technology addictions are similar to the consequences of chemical addictions such as drugs or alcohol and can include financial problems, job loss, and relationship breakdowns.”
Dr. Young provides a case study that demonstrates the financial and relationship problems that can occur as the result of addiction. Addictions are dangerous because they remove us from our true feelings and provide a form of escape from the unpleasant aspects of life. In many cases, one uses the Internet excessively in order to cope with social situations that are out of control. For instance, a husband who is unhappy with his marriage could swamp his life with Internet activities. Similarly, someone who is not performing well at work could find an escape in the digital world.
Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd works as a counselor, Flourish in Real Life and Relationships Coach and coach trainer, and is also certified in Internet Addiction. Her newest book co-authored with her father Dr. Archibald Hart is entitled The Digital Invasion: How Technology is Shaping You and Your Relationships. She has also published a workbook called Overcoming Digital Addictions: A Digital Wellness Plan. Sylvia is a presenter at the World and National Conferences for the American Association of Christian Counselors and is featured on the Life Coach Training DVD’s. She lives in historic Fredericksburg, Virginia with her husband Russ of 29 years; they have 3 children, Ashley 23, Robbie 21 and Daniel 18. For more information about The Digital Invasion, visit TheDigitalInvasion.com or e-mail DrSylvia@TheDigitalInvasion.com.
If you would like to talk with Tom Russell more about this week's program, please contact him at Heritage Christan Counseling Ministries, or call 419-526-5523. His website is http://www.heritagechristiancounseling.com.
You can also send comments to WVMC General Manager Scott Saunders HERE.