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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Edge, LPC

Adults Struggling With Internet Addictions: The Need for Escape and Tips to Respond



Many adults struggle with an Internet addiction. Online gambling, shopping, or pornography are a few activities I’ve seen my clients fight against. The more I’ve worked with adults struggling with problematic online activities, the more I’ve seen their desire for escape. Escape from physical or mental pain, boredom, and/or financial pressure. What started off as a small, insignificant activity, turned into something they can’t control.


The need to escape is in all of us and from time to time, a healthy escape is needed. We are busy, hard-working adults who will become overwhelmed if we don’t take a break every now and then. Escaping isn’t the problem, it’s what’s going on around this escape that causes problems.

 

For example, let’s take a 47-year-old male stuck in a frustrating and overwhelming job. He makes good money but not enough to where he should be at this stage in his career. He sees where his peers are and can’t help but feel behind the curve. He would love a promotion but fears the extra hours needed to be successful in the position. He’s already stretched thin working 10 hours per day, taking his kids to sports practices, and spending some time with his wife before going back to work in the evening. He wants a break. He wants an escape.


He's seen how sports betting made his friends a lot of money and wants to give it a try. He gambled a little in college but never won any serious money. But with all the information with betting odds and stats online, maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time he could make some good money. And if nothing else, it will be a fun relief from his monotonous life.


Over the next few weeks, he bets on baseball games. Nothing crazy, just $50 - $100 per bet. He doesn’t win all of them, but does win a few. He can’t believe how good it feels to win, to see his profit. The rush from the entire process is new and intoxicating. Not only did he get away from the pressure from work and life, but he made some money!


Before long, he’s spending all of his extra time researching and betting on every sport. He bets on basketball, football, soccer, golf, even cornhole. Gradually increasing his bet amounts every time. He finally makes a big win. This solidifies his pursuits and continues his obsession. He just wants to make some extra money and escape from work and stress. And gambling seems like a viable option. Until he loses big and can't stop. Until he's in dept and in a worse place than he started.


Gambling can feel like a way to make a quick buck. However, it is the most consistent way to lose money.

 

Let’s take another example of a 31 year old males struggling with porn use. He’s been married for five years and for the most part it’s a great marriage. They communicate well, share common goals, and are great parents. However, their sex life is not what it once was. Their sex-life the first year of marriage was passionate and often. But that didn't last.


As time went on, sex became less of a priority for his wife, leaving him feeling alone and frustrated. He’s never had a physical affair but started increasing his porn use around his second year of marriage. He doesn’t want to push the issue of sex with is wife because it will result in a fight. But he can’t deny his sexual desires either.


He's conflicted. He wants an escape and be pursued. He wants to be wanted and loved sexually. So, he gives up trying with his wife and resorts to porn. He seeks an escape from pressure and enjoys the chase of finding that perfect video. He starts to build deep resentment towards his wife but keeps it inside because he doesn’t see any benefit in addressing it with her. What started off as a way to relieve stress has lead him to disconnection and tension with his wife. Escaping to porn is not working.


Tips to Respond


These two men escaped into exciting online activities that got out of hand. They are experiencing natural challenges most men face. The desire for financial freedom, a satisfying sex life, and relief from stress are all normal things to want. It’s inevitable we are going to seek escape from something in our lives.


If you notice you're consistently gravitating towards a certain behavior to escape and it's causing problems, here are a few things to do in response.


Identify What You’re Escaping From


The first thing we need to identify is what we are escaping from. Are you escaping from stress, pain, a relationship, depression, or anxiety? Maybe it’s a feeling of inadequacy, lack of control, or unresolved anger.


Be curious and non-judgement when exploring what you’re escaping from. Ask those closest to you to see what they notice. This is simply an invitation for you to gain more self-awareness. The more self-aware you are, the more power you have in moving towards a healthier place.


A good way to explore what you’re escaping from is to think back when you first engaged in the activity. What was the initial reason to do X? What was the hope, feeling, or thought from doing what you did? What made you go back a second time? Again, answering these questions will help you move towards a healthier relationship with escapism.


Identify What You’re Seeking


It’s also good to identify what you’re hoping to gain from this online activity. Besides feeling good, what else are you seeking? Are you trying to make some extra cash, feel cognitively stimulated, or experience risk? Does life feel out of control and you’re seeking a sense of control through online activities? Are you seeking a sexual outlet?


What are the positive traits of what you’re seeking? Again, seeking money or sexual satisfaction in and of itself is not wrong. Knowing this gives us direction.


Identify Different Behaviors to Seek


Now that you know what you’re escaping from and what you’re hoping to obtain, think about other ways to fill those needs. If we are seeking extra cash, what other opportunities could you pursue to earn extra money? What opportunities are within your career or what side hustle can you do?


What do you want the money for? If you’re wanting the newest Tesla just because it’s cool, then this could be an opportunity to shift your priorities. But if you are looking to buy a house to provide for your family, then how can you save appropriately to afford that?


If you’re seeking sexual satisfaction, work on your relationship with your significant other. Work on compromising. Sex twice a month with your spouse is better than no sex at all. Are you speaking the right love language with your spouse? How can you love your spouse more? Explore couples counseling to help move towards a satisfying sex life for you AND your spouse.


If you’re trying to escape from boredom, try a new hobby. Learn something new or develop a relationship with someone you respect. Move towards activities and relationships that bring you life rather than take it away. Viewing porn or gambling online might feel like it helps in the moment, but it leaves us with more problems in the long-run.


Work Through Challenges You’re Escaping From


This is an invitation. Rather than defaulting to escaping from problems, learn from them and better yourself. Professional counseling has been proven to help move through challenges that keep us stuck. I’ve seen it personally with my clients. Rather than repeating the same problematic behaviors as before, make the choice to do something different. You don’t have to be complacent and stuck forever.


Work with a professional counselor who knows the issues you’re struggling with. If it’s relationship issues, try a couple’s counselor. If it’s depression, seek a counselor specializing in depression. If you’re turning towards the Internet for escape and unsure why, reach out to us at Escapingthe.com. We can help in this constant pursuit of breaking free from online confinement and control.


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