The digital disconect by Tyrone Beason

The digital disconnect: In relentless pursuit of 'connecting,' we miss out on each other

While communication and gaming gadgets have convenienced and connected us in ways never before possible, they may also be profoundly hurting our ability to be social, emphatic and involved with each other. The signs are everywhere — from the near collisions on city streets where drivers are too busy texting to pay attention to the virtual relationships on Facebook and the addiction to video games.

By Tyrone Beason

By the time people reach the forested Internet addiction recovery center outside of Fall City known as reStart, the time for pre-emptive action has long since passed.

This is where counselors Hilarie Cash and Cosette Rae treat clients who are holed up in their Internet bubbles, sometimes after losing partners, jobs and homes because of their problem. ReStart, which opened in August, is the first rehab center in the nation aimed solely at helping a new category of addict that researchers are still working to understand. By February, eight people had completed the program.

What's not new, perhaps, is the reason people come to depend on their virtual tools and worlds. "I think what we do is seek emotional satisfaction through texting or the Internet," says Cash, who became intrigued by the Internet obsession in the mid-1990s after meeting her first video-game addict. The problem is "it's like satisfying hunger by eating sugar."

It becomes a vicious spiral...

Read the full article at the Seattle Times



Game developers use intermitten reinforcement to keep people hooked

March 8, 2010
Is there such a thing as internet addiction?

Can the internet be as addictive as drugs or alcohol, and should online games addicts be treated in the same way?

Smallwood, who doesn’t need convincing, interprets addiction as being “any substance or process that is continued despite increasing negative consequences. Addicts always do it more and more,” he says. “So a child plays internet games for two hours a day, then four hours, then eight ... I’ve had people doing 11 hours on it, but I don’t blame World of Warcraft — if someone is an addict, they are an addict.”

However, some people believe that software companies should take partial responsibility. Hilarie Cash, a mental health counsellor in America who runs ReStart, a treatment clinic for internet addiction, believes that games makers deliberately give their products an “addictive quality”. Many, she says, use the principle of intermittent reinforcement — “you have to be rewarded often enough to stay engaged but not so predictably that you get bored” — in the same way that fruit machines are designed to pay out to gamblers at certain intervals, to make the games more attractive. “Game-making companies hire psychologists to help them to design the right intermittent reinforcement schedule, but there is little effort on the part of these companies to put out warnings.”

Elizabeth Woolley believes that the suicide of her son Shawn in 2001 was the result of , , ,

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World of Warcraft gamer chokes mother

Guy Shot Over Gaming Noise, Beating Up Mom

3:30 PM - February 17, 2010 by Kevin Parrish 

  • A World of Warcraft gamer apparently lost his cool when Mom told him to keep the noise level down. 27-year-old James Swan was still living with his mother when he tried to choke her to death Sunday night.

Before the incident, he shared a room with his five younger siblings and played World of Warcraft in his little corner of the room. Other than the siblings and his mother, PC gamer James Swan also shared the house with his grandfather.

On the night of the incident, the mother was jolted awake by shouts coming from Swan's room. Concerned, she entered to find him drunk and playing the MMORPG around 10 p.m.


Read the full article at Tom's Guide




As the SMS epidemic reaches its fever pitch, avid texters might be at risk

By Stephanie Musat 

Weekend plans? Check. Homework? Check. Harmless flirting? Check.

But it becomes a problem when texters take it a step further.

A clear sign of texting addiction is constantly checking for messages and engaging in conversations all the time, despite negative consequences.

Hilarie Cash, co-director of reSTART, an Internet-addiction recovery program that treats Internet, gaming, texting and video game excess, said the biggest consequence is seen in brain functions and social interaction . . .

Read the full article at the Daily Orange


Does treatment for Internet addiction miss the mark?

Does treatment for Internet addiction miss the mark?

By Hilarie Cash and Cosette Dawna Rae

According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction, the most effective way to treat addiction is to treat comorbid psychological problems concurrently. This is certainly the case at reStart: Internet Addiction Recovery Program in Washington. Some argue that programs designed for Internet addiction are too narrowly focused and that pathological use of computers is only a symptom of other problems. We argue that Internet addiction may reflect other issues, but that is a legitimate, specific disorder in itself that requires targeted treatment.

It is not uncommon for people with a technology-related behavioral addiction to report depression and anxiety, but it is not always clear whether these co-morbid conditions are the cause or the result of an impulse control disorder. Other co-morbid conditions that we commonly find as we work with people on an in-patient or out-patient basis are Asperger's syndrome, social anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The first phase of treatment involves an in-depth assessment and evaluation. By taking a thorough individual and family history we can begin to formulate ideas about co-morbid conditions. Our clinical experience has been that after several weeks away from video games and the Internet, our clients generally begin to improve. Depression and anxiety begin to lift.

Many of our clients come to us after having seen other mental health professionals who did not deal directly with the addiction, choosing, instead, to see the addiction as a manifestation of other problems that needed to be addressed first. We also hear from clients and their caregivers that many therapists have dismissed the possibility of a behavioural addiction, and in some cases, have actually encouraged individuals with excessive use patterns to continue their problematic behaviour. This failure to treat the process (behavioural) addiction directly, as one would deal with a chemical addiction, is, in our opinion, reminiscent of the early days of chemical dependency treatment when co-morbid conditions went untreated until someone was "clean and sober." Perhaps it is because so many professionals in the mental health field are not trained to recognize, assess or treat technology-related behavioural addictions that this situation persists, despite growing evidence that Internet addiction disorder (IAD) is a new and fast-growing disorder.

The following case study illustrates our approach.

Bill (not his real name) was a 17-year-old client whose family had been living on the East Coast. He appeared to have been a well-rounded kid who played the cello, participated in sports, socialized with friends and did well in school. Bill's world turned upside-down when his father left the family and maintained little contact with his children. Bill's mother moved with her children to a new state to be closer to relatives. It was at this point that Bill began playing video games. The games were clearly an escape from the pain of losing his father, friends and all that was stable and familiar to him. His mother tried, ineffectively, to control his excessive gaming. Prior counselling proved ineffective as Bill's video game use, depression and anxiety intensified. When his mother sought our help, Bill, who was about to turn 18, was flunking out of high school and refused to participate in any meaningful family activities, including meals and chores. He was unwilling to communicate with his mother. The only time he left the house was to visit friends with whom he could game.

Bill only agreed to come to reStart after a family intervention, where he was given the choice to either come to reStart or leave the house. He decided to join our program. His assessment identified him as depressed and anxious. The treatment plan we developed for him involved, among other things, teaching him about the nature of addiction and preparing him to re-enter a life that would involve moderate use of computers, helping him understand and express his feelings about what had happened with his parents and helping him develop real-world social skills and constructive skills for managing his emotions.

Over the course of the program, Bill made progress in all areas. When he left, he was much more socially confident and engaged, he was not depressed, and he had a relapse-prevention plan in place. He reported that the mindfulness training he had received had been the single most useful tool he had acquired.

It seems that the underlying problem is not whether Internet addiction treatment centres are too narrowly focused, but whether individual providers are skilled in assessing, evaluating and treating technology-related behavioural addictions along with other co-morbid conditions.

Hilarie Cash, Ph.D, and Cosette Dawna Rae, MSW, LSWAIC, are co-founders of reSTART: Internet Addiction Recovery Program in Washington.

Featured in the last word A blog for CrossCurrents: The Journal of Addiction and Mental Health


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