A young girl has had to go to rehab to deal with a so-called ‘digital addiction’ after her obsession with sites like YouTube lead to multiple suicide attempts. To be clear: it wasn’t her interaction with these sites that lead her to attempt to take her own life – that was caused by her own struggles with depression, but the sites did play an important part in her downward spiral.
Doctors found that the girl used her obsessive consumption of online media as a way to numb her depression. In other words, she used online media like a drug, in order to suppress her inner turmoil. This lead to her being completely immersed in her phone, to the point where she was isolated for hours. “She started just laying there not moving and just being on the phone,” her mother said. “I was at a loss about what to do.”
The girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, originally started watching YouTube because she wanted to be cool in school, and she observed that the ‘cool kids’ all knew a lot about YouTube, so she started watching as much as she could. This then lead to a life-consuming obsession.
After attempting to take her own life on a number of occasions, she finally found answers from psychologist Jeff Nalin, who specialises in substance abuse. He diagnosed her with depression that led compulsive internet use. He observed how she retreated into the internet as a coping mechanism, which in turn isolated her, creating a dangerous cycle.
Nalin says that addiction to the internet can be very difficult to treat, because in today’s modern world, it is not something that you can simply cut yourself off from. “The best analogy is when you have something like an eating disorder,” he says. “You cannot be clean and sober from food. So, you have to learn the skills to deal with it.”
So-called ‘digital addiction’ is generally not treated in the same regard as conventional substance abuse, but some researchers say they are increasingly seeing signs that a dependency on the internet may be capable of forming the same type of issues as drugs. Only time will tell how this modern phenomenon is dealt with, but for now we can take solace in the fact that the girl discussed in this article is now receiving the treatment she needs.