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Hypnosis for Internet Addiction Disorder

As a hypnotherapist in London, one growing area of concern I am asked about is internet addiction. This can be related to excessive smartphone use or obsessing over stats and “likes” on various apps. Other times, the focus can be in the form of pornography, gambling or exposing oneself to extreme views.

As you will no doubt have noticed, the proliferation of the internet has reshaped how we live our lives! But this new tech would always have obvious (and not so obvious) costs.

Many psychotherapists of all disciplines have treated clients presenting with issues related to their online use. And it seems things will only get worse…

Facts About Internet Addiction

According to the Office of National Statistics, 99% of adults between 18 and 35 consider themselves regular internet users. The internet has had extremely positive uses. This does, however, come at a cost. Some people report that their lives have become compromised because of their internet use.

Cyber-Disorders: The Mental Health Concern for the New Millennium

Research into internet addiction is obviously in its infancy. One interesting report in 1999 written by Young, Pistner, O’Mara and Buchanan called Cyber-Disorders: The Mental Health Concern for the New Millennium (1999) has been quite notable in its attempt to identify and explore the issue.

Although the report was anecdotal, therapists interviewed reported an average range between 2 to 50 clients who had been treated within the past 12 months who they believed had issues related to internet addiction.

Hypnotherapy for Internet addiction

Maladaptive Internet Use

They proposed a model that they hoped could explain the aetiology of internet addiction. They named this model the Accessibility, Control and Escape model or the ACE model for short.

This model is based on how excessive internet use rewards three factors.

(1) How accessible information, interaction or images may be

(2) Personal control and possible anonymity

(3) The dopamine rewards that a user may experience are related to their behaviour online.

Within this model, in an attempt to escape the boredom and normality of life, a user may develop problematic internet using the internet as a means of living out unrealistic fantasies. 

5 Types of Problematic Uses of the Internet

The most problematic uses of the internet can be broken down into 5 subtypes:

  • Cybersex
  • Cyber-relationships
  • Online stock trading or gambling
  • Information surfing
  • Computer games

Internet Anonymity

Research suggests that one of the biggest factors is the anonymity that the internet affords.

Internet anonymity can encourage maladaptive behaviour, which can be further broken down into 4 sub-categories: 

  • Encouraged deviant, or criminal acts such as viewing illegal images.
  • Provided a means for shy or those lacking social skills to avoid developing real-world social skills.
  • Allowed adultery to become easier, as online friendships developed into extramarital affairs. This is a growing trend and with it all the complications and fallout that entails.
  • A way to develop an online persona that allows a user to escape an unhappy life. An alternative personality can provide a way for someone to feel momentarily like someone they would rather be. But, as with all behaviours, will end up reinforcing the need to escape in the first place.

Conclusion of Research into Hypnosis for Internet Addiction

As the report states:

“Not surprisingly, respondents strongly agreed that addictive use of the Internet is a serious problem akin to other established addictions, felt that the problem was underestimated and that more attention and research in this area was necessary.” (p4)

Limitations of Research Into Internet Addiction Disorder

The paper recommends that as internet use is still not fully understood, it may be advisable for public bodies to develop support groups, recovery programs and workshops to help those who may be affected.

It has been suggested that standard diagnostic measurements should be developed to assess an individual’s likelihood of developing a cyber-disorder. There may be a correlation with other psychological or psychiatric disorders, such as alcoholism, depression or ADHD.

Also highlighted were the potential dangers to children online, and the risks posed by potential predators.

Is Internet Addiction Disorder a Real Disorder?

Although Internet Addiction Disorder is not a recognised disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), as research grew, in 2013 the DSM included Internet Gaming Disorder under a section entitled Emerging Measures and Models: Conditions for Further Study. 

Internet Gaming Disorder is also included in the World Health Organisation’s diagnostic manual the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

In the DSM, the term Internet Gaming Disorder is used synonymously with other related concerns such as internet use disorder, gaming addiction and internet addiction. (p3 Effectiveness of Hypnosis)

Similarly, in 2018 the ICD-11 described them as impulse control disorders furthering the case for investigation of the disorder by public bodies and health professionals to help understand, and manage exacerbation. 

Is There Help for Internet Addiction?

Some research has been conducted on the benefits of psychological therapies with some mixed results. Although many benefit, others may feel the approach of some cognitive-based therapists to be offputting. 

This includes treatment requiring somewhere between eight and twenty-eight face-to-face sessions, which can be both financially and motivationally prohibitive. 

So what are the alternatives? Is there psychotherapy that could better manage maladaptive internet use in a much shorter timeframe?

The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy for Internet Addiction Disorders

The Effectiveness of Hypnosis-based Treatments for Internet Addiction Disorder: Systematic Review

Hypnotherapy has been recognised as a scientific, evidence-based alternative therapy, and is recognised by the National Institute of Health & Care Excellence (NICE). 

With evidence of the effectiveness of hypnotherapy in treating IBD, anxiety, depression and stress, and its support by General Practitioners, a case for hypnotherapy as a treatment for Internet Addiction – either as a standalone modality or as a complimentary adjunct to other approaches – would be most compelling. Especially when we consider the efficacy of hypnosis in regards to treating other addictions.

Because research into the treatment of Internet Addiction is so sparse, the paper had to rely on previous literature on hypnosis in other areas, otherwise known as a meta-analysis. But still, this is an intriguing starting point and a compelling hypothesis.

Hypnotherapy for Internet Addiction Disorder

A paper published in 2019 called The Effectiveness of Hypnosis-based Treatments for Internet Addiction Disorder had this to say:

“It is, therefore, fully justified to explore the use of a possible alternative psychological

therapy to provide a comparably effective treatment to clients in instances where

cognitive-based interventions have been less effective. It is proposed, therefore, that

through this article that hypnosis-based therapies, such as hypnotherapy or Hypno-psychotherapy, can be considered a viable alternative.” (p4)

Why is Hypnotherapy Overlooked as a Treatment?

One reason hypnotherapy may be overlooked despite its effectiveness is that NICE consider CBT the first recommendation for psychotherapies. This is despite evidence supporting the benefits of hypnotherapy. Often for treating many of the same disorders, often in a shorter timeframe.

The paper states:

“Serious consideration must now be given to hypnosis-based therapies as a viable alternative with individuals where cognitive behavioural therapy has been ineffective” 

Criticism of CBT for Internet Addiction

Despite some of the criticisms of CBT, not least in its protractive nature, high cost and early dropout rates, clients may feel that they have no alternative should they wish to continue therapy where one approach had been ineffective. They may be put off seeking further help if they feel that medication is the only alternative.

The paper concludes:

“It is of the utmost importance that psychotherapists and researchers of IAD adopt an inclusive approach in the treatment of IAD, rather than assuming a singular treatment approach model.

Throughout this article, evidence has been given for the inclusion of hypnosis-based therapies to be considered seriously as a viable and effective therapeutic intervention for behavioural addiction and impulse control disorders, based upon empirical studies of associated conditions.” (p12)

Hypnotherapy to Manage Internet Addiction Disorder

There will never be one therapy that serves everyone. Offering a choice of therapies would be the best way to ensure people are aware that help is available. This way, they can find an approach that will help them the most.

Thinking about what economist Noah Smith observed, it is more important than ever to break our online addiction:

“15 years ago, the internet was an escape from the real world. Now, the real world is an escape from the internet”

If you have any questions about this article, or hypnotherapy in general, please feel welcome to reach out to me.

Call me for a FREE telephone consultation on 0208 789 0992, or through my contact form. I look forward to hearing from you!

Adrian Jackson

Specialist in Anxiety & Depression (DipHyp, CNHC (Acc), HPD) I am a Cognitive Hypnotherapist in North London, providing hypnotherapy for anxiety and depression to clients in Pinner, Northwood, Harrow, and Rickmansworth. My flexible, modern approach helps clients relieve unwanted patterns of behaviour.