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Adolescent Internet Addiction Disorder – Recent Medical Findings

This past week the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting took place. A literature review of 13 published articles was presented.  These articles showed people with Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), especially those addicted to internet gaming, show certain brain abnormalities. 

Studies found an increased blood flow is actually seen in the areas of the brain involved in pleasure and reward centers.  These findings support a 4-year study involving more than 80 experts in neurology and addiction medicine that was released by the American Society for Addictive Medicine (ASAM) in August 2012.  The ASAM study defined addictions as a chronic neurological disorder involving many brain functions most notably an imbalance in the so-called “reward circuitry.” 

Sree Jadapalle, MD, a 2nd year psychiatry resident of Morehouse Medical School, presented the summary of literature review findings at an APA press conference in New York. She reported the prevalence of Internet Addiction Disorder is present in about 26.3 percent of adolescents!  Her report further concurred with my own clinical observations in treating adolescents on two continents for the past 20 years.  While parents would bring me their children when they discovered illicit drug use, often, I was way more concerned for what was going on with technological devices in the child’s bedroom with texting, sexting, social media, webcams, and video gaming on the internet.  Her findings conclude Internet Addiction Disorder statistics are higher than illicit drug use.

These behaviors disturb the dopamine delivery systems.  Basically, when involved in these behaviors, dopamine is delivered at rapid expense rates and the brain gets depleted that allow one to mood regulate appropriately.  It would be like using all your water at the beginning of a hike in the desert without the ability to replenish supply appropriately. 


IAD is not currently an established mental disorder but a variety of screening tools can, and should, be used for screening among adolescents with mental health problems given the increasing prevalence of suicidal behavior in this age group.  Depending upon the degree and length of exposure to internet addiction, an adolescent child may demonstrate an indifference to consequences which can include psychological, social, and work difficulties.

The presented research shows a significant correlation between IAD and mental health problems, including depression, suicidal behavior, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, as well as alcohol and illicit drug use disorders, said Dr. Jadapalle. Some studies show that IAD may increase suicide attempts in the presence of depression.

The therapists at Relationship Recovery Center have specific training in process and chemical addictions (ie. Internet, Sex, Shopping, Gambling, and Gaming).  If you are seeing problematic signs or symptoms in your family members, we are here to help with cutting edge assessment and treatment.

Good Grief! Making Holidays After Death or Divorce

By Cindy Martin, LAMFT, ASAT (2), EMDR


As we near the end of the year, everyone is telling us to be happy! But what if we have experienced the loss of a loved one or the loss of a family as we have known it through divorce?  How do you manage to be happy then?  I suggest 4 things to think about:

1.    Create a New Family Tradition

2.    Surround yourself with Support

3.    Come to grips with feeling sad, but be open to feeling joyful

4.    Take steps to welcome Healing in the New Year

The holidays can often be something where we just survive rather than thrive-especially if we are in a BLENDED FAMILY!  There are only so many hours in a holiday season and the question then becomes, “who do we spend it with?”  The children often ask, “Will Santa know whether to deliver the gifts to Mommy’s house or Daddy’s house?”  Even the best plans for the holidays can be tinged with sadness because someone or something is missing that was there before.  As human beings, we don’t like CHANGE!   Statistics tell us that 20% of children live in step families, so it’s important to address these issues rather than ignore them.

1.    Create a New Family Tradition-every family has holiday assumptions, so rather than be sad that they cannot be fulfilled as in the past, make new ones that can soon become family memories as warm as the old ones.  Do what is best for your current family and your current situation.

2.   Surround yourself with Support-if certain family members are insensitive to your new circumstances, perhaps this is the year to spend time with those people who you feel supported by.  Or maybe you need to communicate to family members what makes you feel supported.  You can’t expect that they will automatically know.

3.   Come to grips with feeling sad, but be open to feeling joy- don’t be afraid to cry.  Sometimes the release is good for you.  There's no avoiding sadness when your heart is broken, but neither is there a complete absence of joy. Sometimes you're afraid to feel joy when you're grieving; it can feel like a betrayal to be happy. Or you fear that if you're too happy, those around you will think you're officially "over it" and your sorrow will no longer be tolerated.  In modeling for children, it’s good sometimes to see parents cry and then be able to be happy again afterward.  That way they can understand their own conflicting emotions.

4.   Take steps to welcome Healing in the New Year-a new year can mean a new beginning.  The holidays may bring moments of pain along with moments of happiness, but resolve to take steps to care for yourself and those you love by increasing visits, learning to listen to each others’ emotions, and perhaps getting support from professional counselors who can guide you into forming new traditions that will stabilize the family when the next holiday season rolls around.

The Importance of Family Traditions

By Nina M. Laltrello, MFT, CCAADC, CSAT-S, CMAT


Family traditions are an important element to family continuity and togetherness.  All families have important rituals and traditions whether they know if or not.  Family traditions say a lot about a family and what creates special meaning to its members.  The holidays that a family chooses to celebrate with flourish, says what is important to a family. 

·        Traditions give meaning to a family and define what is important in a family.

·        Traditions and rituals define who is in a family by their attendance at the celebration.

·        Family celebrations contain elements of what is important to a family by including special foods.

·        Family rituals or celebrations allow a family to make sense or meaning of change in family structure like in the case of weddings or funerals.

·        Religious holidays like Christmas and Passover transmit important symbols and images but link our family to the outside world with friends, community, and the world.

·        Family rituals voice beliefs and make meaning.

·        Rituals tap into a family’s creativity and appeal to people of all ages.  They create a way for families to bond across the generations.

·        Rituals allow families a way to pass history, meaning, and culture to the next generation. 



So when you sit down to that family holiday meal, think about what you have gotten from the generations that have preceded you.  On this holiday, think about which traditions are important to your family and why.



Source: The Intentional Family:  Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties.  Dougherty, William J. (1999)


By Cindy Martin, LAMFT, ASAT (2), EMDR


Just the sound of it conjures up images of being in the kitchen with a smoothie recipe.  You put each ingredient in the blender:  the banana, the berries, the apple, the yogurt, the skim milk.  Then you turn the blender on, wait a few seconds and what comes out looks nothing like what went in!  It doesn’t even have the same texture or taste of the original separate ingredients.  It turned into something very different.  It is much the same way with blended families.  We are each very distinct individuals and yet when we come together by the marriage of two individuals who want to spend the rest of their lives together, the families that follow them are expected to gel, mold and generally become one as well!  This is not an easy task. 

          Statistics tell us that more than half of all Americans living today either have been, currently are, or will be in a step or blended family one or more times in their lifetime.  Remarriage rates have dropped while co-habitation rates have increased.  I have observed that many single parents feel that re-marrying and putting two families under one roof is too hard and brings too many problems, therefore they just don’t do it.  They get used to their own unique set of problems and don’t have the energy or desire to tackle anyone else’s.  In these instances, I believe they are short changing themselves and their families. 

          Mary Pipher, a noted psychologist says that “while families are imperfect institutions, they are also our greatest source of meaning, connection and joy.”  And although a single parent family is still very much a family, blending two families together successfully can double the meaning, connection and joy!

          The complex structure of blended families cries out for quality integration of the relationships between individuals within each of the family units.  It requires developing a skill set of valuing diversity and differing opinions, tolerance of various traditions, and acknowledgment of accepted boundaries. 


          Blended families need not achieve the “ideal” to become successful, but they must foster a sense of belonging, an “us against the world” mentality, where each member is supported, validated, valued and LOVED! 

          So go ahead and taste that concoction in the blender, you might find out that merging all the various ingredients together is actually more pleasing to the taste buds than it is to have just a banana, a berry, an apple or yogurt all by itself!   

Facing Heartbreak Spouse Treatment Group

At the Relationship Recovery Center, one of our primary missions is to help families heal from the damage of addiction.  While almost everyone is familiar with chemical addiction (drugs, alcohol), until recently sexual addiction has flown “under the radar” and gone under reported and untreated for the most part.  Primary reasons for this include:  1) lack of understanding of the illness (or the belief by many mental health professionals that it isn’t an illness at all), 2) lack of treatment resources (paucity of mental health professionals trained to treat the illness), and 3) failure of the mental health industry (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or DSM; insurance companies) to recognize and legitimize the illness.  AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) groups began in 1935, and the DSM did not recognize alcoholism as an illness until 1968.  SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) groups began in the mid 1970’s, and DSM, as of this writing, has still not recognized sexual addiction as an illness.  The overreaching opinion of the staff of RRC is that the participants in these groups are indeed “pioneers.”

The staff at the Relationship Recovery Center has taken steps to meet the needs of the community by initiating treatment programs for both sex addicts and their spouses.  On March 25th a small group of brave spouses came to the first meeting of the Facing Heartbreak Spouse Treatment Group.  Our group focuses on helping spouses heal after they have discovered that the person they loved and trusted the most has been hiding a secret life as a sex addict. 

The group uses a 12-step, task-oriented, recovery model based on the book “Facing Heartbreak” by Stefanie Carnes, Ph.D.  The group will offer practical therapeutic advice and specific tasks to educate and empower the partner of the sex addict through the recovery process.  The group will be limited to six participants, but currently there are openings remaining.  Please call the RRC at 770-676-7748 if you would like to schedule an assessment with one of our staff.