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Disease & Conditions >>> Addiction Articles & News



Suggestions to Help you Manage Internet Use: Ten Steps to Reclaim Real-Time Living

By DAVID GREENFIELD

1. Consider taking a technology holiday
Turn off the computer. Donít use it on a daily basis. If you have to use it, use it only for necessary tasks. Force yourself to go off-line, and say 'goodbye' temporarily (or possibly, permanently) to those people you are conducting a life with on the Internet. You can start this in a gradual way by creating a computer-free day, gradually extending this to include larger periods of time. Start by designating one day per week that you will not turn on the computer or log onto the Internet. The reason for this is simple. You want to begin to train your nervous system to recognize that you can tolerate a day or an evening without something that you use on such a consistent basis. Until you prove to your body and mind that this can be done, you're going to continue in the repetitious cycle of your behavior. This acceptance and acknowledgement of the possibility of your having a problem allows your personal resources to be focused on the possibility of change. The important thing to remember is that change has to start somewhere. If you make no changes in your life, time will continue to pass. It will pass just as easily as you begin to make small changes in how you expend your time and energy. Craziness is simply the resistance to change or, rather, the insistence that something be different, in spite of making no efforts to change.

2. Find other interests. Preferably something that has nothing to do with computers or the Internet
Try a new activity or hobby. It would be even better if it could include your spouse, friend, or significant other. Force yourself to expand what you think you can do and try something new Ė it doesnít matter what. Donít give in the voice inside you that says you canít do it.

3. Exercise. There is probably no one single recommendation that I can make that can have as many positive implications for your life
Exercise offers a variety of potential benefits. Itís fun. It can improve your health; increase your longevity; improve your overall functioning on a daily basis; improve your energy; increase your mood; and improve your self-esteem. There is considerable research on the efficacy of exercise in improving psychological well being along with improvement in treating addiction problems. There appears to be evidence in the addiction literature that many addictive behaviors produce changes in the neurotransmitter Dopamine (among others). This is what may produce the Ďkickí or Ďhighí to behaviors such as gambling, compulsive eating, alcohol, or drugs. Dopamine is a responsible for changes in brain chemistry that "feels" good. It is this "good feeling" that contributes to the repetition of the behavior over and over. It seems plausible that Netheads' and Cybernuts' may be experiencing such chemical changes when on-line compulsively, although this is not fully understood. Before starting up any exercise program it is important that you consult your physician or healthcare practitioner.

4. Watch less television.
I am convinced that the use and abuse of television exacerbates many problems in our society. TV is a passive activity that takes your time and energy and gives you little in return. Although there are many positives about television, it has the negative probability to waste your time just as the Internet can. Further, it can take the time you could use to focus on your relationships or other activities in your life. It is also quite addictive. TV can also be a trigger to engage in other addictive patterns of behavior such as eating or sex. Try to reduce the number of hours you watch TV or better yet designate TV-free days.

5. Talk to your friends and family about what is happening in your life
Tell them that youíre worried about your Internet use. Shame, often associated with secrecy and isolation, further contributes the problem. Telling others offers the potential for support, decreases shame, stops social isolation, and promotes the healing process. All human problems exist in a social context and, therefore, so are the healing process. The hallmarks of any addictive behavior are often shame, secrecy, and isolation. Compulsive Internet use or addiction is potentially insidious because the Internet is a behavior that is typically practiced alone. The more you use it, the more isolated you become; the more isolated you become, the greater the likelihood that you will continue to engage in the self-defeating/addictive pattern due to guilt and shame.



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6. Try Counseling or Psychotherapy to assist you in dealing with the addictive behavior.
A psychologist or other trained mental health professional can help you identify your options. The psychologist or therapist you chose should have experience in the treatment of addictions. Perhaps more importantly, the person you chose to work with should posses the ability to instill confidence in being able to assist you. Do not be afraid to ask questions of the psychologist with regard to his or her background and experience. Above all, find a person that you are comfortable with. The psychotherapy relationship is a very personal one, one which requires trust and honesty. Take care and time in finding the right doctor or therapist to work with. It will pay off in the long run. You can get a referral to a competent, psychologist by contacting your local or state Psychological Association. Most associations operate a statewide referral service, which can be found in the yellow pages. Try Counseling or Psychotherapy to assist you in dealing with the addictive behavior. A psychologist or other trained mental health professional can help you identify your options. The psychologist or therapist you chose should have experience in the treatment of addictions. Perhaps more importantly, the person you chose to work with should posses the ability to instill confidence in being able to assist you. Do not be afraid to ask questions of the psychologist with regard to his or her background and experience. Above all, find a person that you are comfortable with. The psychotherapy relationship is a very personal one, one which requires trust and honesty. Take care and time in finding the right doctor or therapist to work with. It will pay off in the long run. You can get a referral to a competent, psychologist by contacting your local or state Psychological Association. Most associations operate a statewide referral service, which can be found in the yellow pages.

7. Consider a support group.
There are several support groups for Internet abuse and addiction. Unfortunately many of these groups are on-line chat rooms. It seems contradictory to me to spend time on-line to try to spend less time on-line. However there may be good support and information in these groups. Other support groups for alcohol, drugs, or gambling may be useful as well. The principles of a 12-step recovery group can be applied to any compulsive behavior that is interfering with your life. Donít be afraid to use them. No one will judge you and there is often great support available.

8. Develop new relationships and friendships.
Developing new friendships can expand the inner satisfaction you experience in your life. Although technology is stimulating, it does not provide the personal/emotional connection that relationships do. The computer and the Internet may have the capacity to connect you to the world, and to make the world a smaller place; however, these activities are typically engaged in alone and can be socially isolating. The advances in technology create opportunity for new adventures, but they cannot create the intimacy of human contact. It is my belief (and I like technology) that the greatest inner peace and satisfaction is derived from such relationships. Develop new relationships and friendships. Developing new friendships can expand the inner satisfaction you experience in your life. Although technology is stimulating, it does not provide the personal/emotional connection that relationships do. The computer and the Internet may have the capacity to connect you to the world, and to make the world a smaller place; however, these activities are typically engaged in alone and can be socially isolating. The advances in technology create opportunity for new adventures, but they cannot create the intimacy of human contact. It is my belief (and I like technology) that the greatest inner peace and satisfaction is derived from such relationships.

9. Talk to other about your overuse of the Internet.
Donít keep it a secret. Secrecy breeds shame and shame adds to the isolation. If the isolation continues, depression can occur. The more depressed a person becomes the more likely he/she will resort to behaviors that will artificially elevate their mood. All addictive behaviors have the capacity to do this. Gambling, Internet drugs, alcohol, shopping, and sex can all have the effect of altering mood. The problem is that we tend to repeat those behaviors that make us feel good even if they have a cost or consequence. This creates the addictive paradox: doing something over and over that negatively impacts us.

10. Shorten your Internet sessions.
Because the Internet seems to distort the passage of time, steps need to be taken ground the user to the here-and-now. One way to decrease your focus and dependence on the Net is to spend less time on-line. This can accomplished by putting an old fashioned (analog) clock next to the computer to help you keep track of the time. The clock will encourage you recognize the reality of passing time and hopefully act as reminder of your "real-time" committments. Once you are grounded in real-time you can potentially make more reasonable decisions regarding time spent on the Net. It is easier to deny overuse when you donít keep track of the hours you spend. Keeping a log for a month will confront you with the reality of what is actually happening.

The key is to first acknowledge that you may have problem with the Internet. Remember that having a compulsive or addictive problem is not a sign of poor will power or weak moral character. It is a human problem that can impact any of us. The act of acknowledging this creates the context for the beginning of change. Making some small, but measurable, change in the pattern of your Internet use should follow this important first step. Do something different. Even a small change can produce greater changes in the future in your overall pattern of use. Donít be afraid to try something new.




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