Problematic Internet Use

Although “Internet addiction” is debated as a useful term, research-backed methods exist for helping people with problematic use of the Internet.

My work with clients includes problematic Internet gaming, mobile phone use, Internet-based gambling, and online pornography. Assistance is offered primarily through cognitive behavior therapy, group counseling, and case management.

People who use the Internet problematically may have co-occurring physical and mental health challenges. Clients are encouraged to seek medical care and receive physical exams and lab work. Assessments are conducted and individualized treatment plans are co-created with clients. Clients may be referred to specialists for psychological testing to gain further information for treatment planning.


Internet use is normal. As Kuss et al. state about gaming, it is “a normal, enjoyable, and often beneficial sociocultural practice.” Persistence in use despite negative consequences is the definition of addiction. I assist clients in helping themselves to reduce or eliminate negative consequences from Internet use.

This 2014 systematic review details the current issues with terminology and definitions. The authors found that “a number of core symptoms (i.e., compulsive use, negative outcomes and salience) appear relevant for diagnosis, which assimilates Internet addiction and other addictive disorders and also differentiates them.” This 2017 systematic review further challenged the precision of the definitions of “Internet addiction” and “Internet gaming disorder.” This 2017 review adds “excessive and dysfunctional use” as criteria.

According to King et al., 2014: “Four cognitive factors underlying IGD [Internet gaming disorder] were identified. Factors included (a) beliefs about game reward value and tangibility, (b) maladaptive and inflexible rules about gaming behaviour, (c) over-reliance on gaming to meet self-esteem needs, and (d) gaming as a method of gaining social acceptance. It is proposed that IGD-related cognition may be more complex than ‘preoccupation’ (i.e., criterion A of IGD). IGD cognition may involve the persistent overvaluation of video gaming rewards, activities, and identities, combined with a need to adhere to maladaptive rules governing use and completion of video games.”

According to Sescousse et al. (2018), cognitive distortions, i.e. “biased processing of chance, probability and skill” are “a key psychopathological process in disordered gambling” and may include “counterfactual thinking deficits.”

Factors correlated with problematic Internet use may include attachment style and insufficient interpersonal effectiveness skills.

Similar brain mechanisms are present with problematic substance use, gambling, and use of pornography.

If I can be of service, please learn more about appointments and fees, then contact me. I will send you an email to register as a new client through the client portal.