Depression, Anxiety and Co-Occurring Screen Addiction
We Help Folks With Mental Health Conditons and Screen Dependence
Internet Addiction with Co-occurring Disorders is a very clinical way to talk about what we treat at reSTART. Being less clinical, we can just say that most of the folks who come to reSTART have more than one problem. Yes, their lives have fallen apart because of their gaming and other Internet activities, but when they come to reSTART most of them are depressed, anxious, and many have been diagnosed with ADHD. Some of them show traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). And many have physical problems such as severe sleep deprivation, under weight or over weight, and physcially deconditioned.
Our philosophy of care is to take a holistic view of each individual and address the whole person. The difficulties that our clients have are usually social, physical and psychological.
For those with a Video Game Addiction, Physical Health is Foundational
If you’re sleep deprived, sedentary (yet highly aroused), eating an impoverished diet and not taking care of your self-care needs like brushing your teeth, your health will quickly deteriorate. If this has been going on for years, you’re likely to be in bad physical health. You may find that you can’t sleep even when you try; you’re severely underweight or overweight; your body is not physically fit; and your teeth may be rotting. There are some gamers who have lost control to such an extent, gaming nonstop for 40 plus hours at a time, that they collapse dead at their computers from throwing a blood clot or from organ failure. If you’re someone whose absorption in digital media has caused you to lose appetite (or, not pay attention to hunger), you could end up like one of our clients who arrived at reSTART weighing 115 lbs. He was 6’2”. Another client was so chronically sleep deprived that he had waking hallucinations. Another had to have caps put on all his teeth.
So, one of the first things we address are these physical health needs. Regular sleep, healthy diet, lots of physical exercise, all in an environment that is screen free and stress free, go a long way toward restoring a sense of physical and emotional well-being. Our Naturopathic physician checks vitamin and mineral levels, blood sugar, and other components of health. She has consistently found low Vit D levels, and she has been successful in helping a number of clients reverse their pre-diabetic condition.
Without Mental Health We Cannot Attain Our Full Potential for Happiness
Along with the physical problems that our clients typically have, there are mental health problems beyond their compulsive Internet use. The vast majority of our client arrive depressed (sometimes suicidal) and anxious. Many come with a prior diagnosis of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). About a third show traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We’ve come to anticipate that some of these diagnoses will change over the course of their stay with us. Most of those who are depressed report not feeling depressed after the first month or so. This is because they are detoxed from screens, their physical health is being restored, and they are connecting to others. Those with ADHD may find that they really don’t need medication, or can reduce it, for the same reasons. Symptoms of anxiety and ASD often reduce, as well.
Self-esteem is built on, among other things, a sense of competency. As our clients gain mastery over the many simple things that they must do (like caring for the animals, learning to cook, caring for their physical living environment) they begin to feel better and better about themselves, which, of course,
contributes to a sense of wellbeing reversing the depression and anxiety they were experiencing before coming to reSTART. As they advance in the program, going into the Open World transition program and, perhaps, beyond that into Sustainability, their competencies accrue. They learn time management so they can get up in time for their paying jobs. They learn to be good, responsible employees. They learn to function as independent adults and, wow, does that ever feel good!
We All Need Real-life Social Connection, Face-to-face
Another component of self-esteem and well-being is being able to connect socially in a positive way. Many of our clients, from spending too much of their childhoods in front of screens, have either never developed good social skills or have lost confidence in their skills. They have friends online, in gaming communities, but those communication skills are often not pro-social and, even if pro-social, they may not translate into face-to-face social competence.
A beautiful thing happens at reSTART. In safe and intimate spaces, first at the Ranch and later at Heavensfield and Open World, our clients learn the skills of friendship-making. And their friendships are not the usual male-bonding friendships just covering gaming, sports and other external things. Instead, our clients learn to be honest and vulnerable with each other. They develop a capacity for real intimacy, a deep level of friendship that is unusual in our culture. This lays the foundation for the future, both in building friendships with men and women, but also in developing healthy, romantic relationships.
Treatment for Screen Addictions like Internet Video Game Addiction Improves Health and Happiness
Long-term happiness and well-being are built on developing health in the realms of the physical, the mental, and the social. reSTART understands this. By providing the ingredients necessary to build health in all of these realms, our clients are able to grow and flourish in the rich environment we offer.