Addictions, Internet and Otherwise

Moving on regarding addictions and relationships. We can look at gambling, sex, or simply put, the Internet for enlightenment.

Addiction is all about being dependent. If you're an independent person and your partner is dependent, yet you don’t say anything to discourage your partner’s dependence, then you're co-dependent. You subtly contribute to the dependency by not confronting it.

There's got to be something wrong if you're afraid to discuss a situation that's bad for your partner, or bad for you.

The Internet has not become an "official" substance but certain kinds of "surfing" are dysfunctional, like frequenting chat-rooms with prurient intent that lures in kids.
Gambling sites are irresistible to pathological gamblers.

When a person has no power to resist certain sites it can cause shame, anxiety and distress, not only to the visitor, but to others in the family. It is social and occupational distress that mental health professionals hone in on when they assess dependent pathological behavior.

But what’s an addiction?

When it comes to alcohol and drugs, professionals don't use the word "addiction" to diagnose a dependency. We’re checking for compulsivity, a sign of dependency. We also check to see if using to excess is acute, meaning sporadic yet destructive, like wrapping onesself around a tree in a car while under the influence. Read the post on An Ordinary Guy.

Pathological gambling is a disorder (312.31 in your handy DSM-IV TR) in which a person is preoccupied with gambling and has repeated unsuccessful efforts to stop or control it.

There are many other possible symptoms, like the gambler needs to use increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement, or is restless or irritable when trying to cut down. If it serves as a way of escaping from problems or relieving depression, or lies are necessary to conceal gambling from a significant other, then it’s pathological.

Sexual disorders can be compulsive. Exhibitionists can’t stop from exposing themselves to strangers or thinking about it. Their fantasies and behavior have the potential to cause social and occupational distress. Similarly, fetishism, involving fantasies, sexual urges, and behaviors with inanimate objects can also cause significant distress and social impairment. There are more of these disorders, including pedophilia, obsessing about and acting upon fantasies with children.

The word addiction is most relevant to people who follow 12-Step programs, each with distancing “addicts” from compulsive behavior and obsessive thoughts about anything from food to sex.

And now, there’s the Internet.

So if your spouse says, let’s go to bed, but you’re on-line and just CAN’T get off, you’re in trouble. Therapy Doc sees intimacy in relationships as key. Intimacy with a computer screen just doesn’t cut it.

Of course, if you’re an emotionally intimate couple, there’s no stopping you from talking about your feelings and what you thought of what you saw.

What to do instead? Next time.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc


Doc's Girl said…
I love "rediscovering" your much to read, especially now that I'm doing my bachelor's in psychology. :) :)
It's always reassuring to see therapists acknowledge their limits and including other forms of support, even non-professional 12 step programs.

Nice read - thanks!

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