Internet addiction is not recognized as a separate disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, and treatment is not generally covered by insurance. But there are many such treatment centers in China, South Korea and Taiwan — where Internet addiction is taken very seriously — and many psychiatric experts say it is clear that Internet addiction is real and harmful.
The five-acre center in Fall City, about 30 miles east of Seattle, can handle up to six patients at a time. Alexander is so far the only patient of the program, which uses a cold turkey approach. He spends his days in counseling and psychotherapy sessions, doing household chores, working on the grounds, going on outings, exercising and baking a mean batch of ginger cookies.
Whether such programs work in the long run remains to be seen. For one thing, the Internet is so pervasive that it can be nearly impossible to resist, akin to placing an alcoholic in a bar, Cash said.
The effects of addiction are no joke. They range from loss of a job or marriage to car accidents for those who can’t stop texting while driving. Some people have died after playing video games for days without a break, generally stemming from a blood clot associated with being sedentary.
Psychotherapist Cosette Dawna Rae has owned the bucolic retreat center since 1994, and was searching for a new use for it when she hooked up with Cash. They decided to avoid treating people addicted to Internet sex, in part because she lives in the center with her family.