Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder

In the EMDRIA Journal of EMDR Practice and Research (Volume 6, Number 2, 2012), there is an article entitled “Desensitization of Triggers and Urge Reprocessing for an Adolescent With Internet Addiction Disorder” by Hwallip Bae and Daeho Kim. Both are working in hospitals in South Korea. They state that up to 18% of children and adolescents in developed countries are affected by Internet addiction.

They provide one case study of a 13 year-old boy who was addicted to the Internet. This boy identified 7 triggers that made him want to play games on the Internet. He would play Internet games for five hours per day, and sometimes up to whole days. This was going on for four years and was impacting his education in a negative way. When his parents tried to control with situation it created constant stress in the family. With only 4 sessions of modified EMDR, the boy had success with his “level of urge to use the Internet” decreasing significantly. He was able to restrict his use to one hour per day.

They applied the DeTUR model developed by Popky to address the issue of Internet addiction, and did a research study to see what would happen with this protocol. This protocol modified the standard EMDR protocol. In the standard protocol, the therapist works with past, present, and future issues. In the DeTUR model, the therapist makes a list of triggers and finds the “level of urge to use” for each of those triggers. The work only focuses on the trigger and does not go back into past issues, unless the client during processing moves into older material. In order to modify the protocol, the therapist only works with the body sensations and level of urge to process. It follows up with future work to help integrate what was processed. Popky does note that many clients with addictions have experienced earlier trauma and that earlier trauma can be addressed with the standard EMDR protocol.

There are 12 steps to the DeTUR protocol:

  1. Rapport
  2. History, assessment and diagnosis
  3. Resource
  4. Access internal resources
  5. Positive treatment goals
  6. Associated positive States
  7. Identifying triggers
  8. Desensitize each trigger
  9. Install positive state
  10. Test and future check
  11. Closure and self-work
  12. Follow up sessions

After the four sessions, the boy in the case study above reported that he felt less of a need to play, and using a timer helped him to stop at one hour. He felt less anger having to stop. They checked in with him six months later to find that he continued to have this success, and his mother confirmed that this was true.

Since this is only one case study, it will be interesting to see if they do more research what the results would show. With teens using computers and smartphones more and more, this seems like a real problem with children and needs to be looked at seriously, and EMDR maybe an important step in helping kids control their Internet addiction.