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Chatroom addiction: When does it become a problem?

How much time each day do you spend in chatrooms? Do you find you stay on late at night? Or frequently check during the day? Perhaps you feel your use is affecting your work or relationship? If you think you are spending too much time online and want to stop, then read on.

The coronavirus lockdown has changed our lives significantly. Staying indoors for long periods of time with very reduced social contact has been difficult. Some have resorted to using the internet to touch base with others, while others have used it to reduce boredom.

Of course, this may mean that many people have been using the internet more than they used to. Most are visiting sites for information, contacting friends and family and chats. But for some, this use can become compulsive.

Professionals that are members of the ATSAC (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity) mainly work with clients on issues such as the use of prostitutes or 'random hook-ups' and also the excessive use of porn. But there are other addictions to be aware of.

Chatroom addiction

One activity that falls between the two and is, perhaps, considered innocent is the use of chatrooms or social network sites. Few of these site users think of what they are doing as being potentially addictive, but over time, this can become a problem. A problem can develop when there is a constant need to check if someone has contacted you, waiting for you to respond. Then there is the stimulation if an explicit picture is sent and the excitement of sending one in return and waiting for, hopefully, a positive comment.

Over the past three months of lockdown, although there are no official statistics available, I would suggest that there has not only been a significant increase in the number of visits to these chat sites but also the length of time spent on them. And this is likely to lead to some serious compulsions, if not addiction.

Bird's eye image of hands typing at a laptop

Have you noticed since using these apps that you have found it difficult to get aroused without going online? Have you found yourself avoiding physical intimacy with your partner? Or maybe your performance in bed is suffering? All of these effects may be due to excessive chatroom use. However, it is not quite straightforward to lay the blame completely on your visits. The flat-lining of being with someone 24/7 in lockdown may have also affected your sexual desires.

Because of the exchange of explicit conversation, photographs and videos these sites could be considered as pornographic (the use of sexually explicit visual materials such as videos and pictures to encourage sexual arousal). However, there are those who genuinely visit them looking for partners and can get sucked into doing things they would not normally consider doing. For these users, they need to be extra vigilant. For those looking for potential partners, it might be best to use other sites or to go ‘organic’ - meet face-to-face through friends, family or work.

When does it become a problem?

If you went online to relieve your boredom, or as a form of enjoyment when you weren’t able to get out of the house but have concerns that this use has become a problem, now is the time to act. The first step is to recognise that you may be addicted. The test is to delete the app. How do you feel at this possibility? If you say you don’t need to because you are in control, then stop and think if this is the real reason. Or is it that you don’t want to? If it’s the latter, then you may have been dependent on the app for sexual satisfaction. Try to reduce the time you spend online and if you feel you can’t, then you may have a problem.

Professional support

ATSAC therapists are expecting an increase in enquiries after lockdown. At the moment it is difficult for a lot of people to have private conversations. Being in lockdown in a one or two-bedroom flat is not very conducive to open conversations with a therapist. Quite a few people also prefer face-to-face therapy and feel better talking about these issues with someone they can see. Although, some people do find it liberating to be able to talk to someone online rather than being in the same space.

Talking about sexual issues can be challenging for people. But to open up to someone else, even if they are a therapist, about concerns of addiction to certain websites takes a lot of courage. Although, it's common to find that after talking about your concerns, you find a sense of relief. Talking to someone who you know won't judge you and is trained to support you is hugely beneficial, and the relief of finally getting this worry out in the open can be liberating.

A qualified therapist can help you by working on the recognition of your triggers - helping you to understand why do you need to be on these sites, what was the cause and how you can manage triggers. They can support you in changing old habits, and work with you to find new outlets for increasing your happiness. Taking back control is possible and many before you have done so.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Owen Redahan. MBACP. B.Sc.(Agr)

Owen works with individuals and couples. He focuses mainly on issues around self-esteem, relationships, sexual addiction and work problems using CBT and person-focused therapies. He has a diploma in Counselling and is a member of ATSAC (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity). He is based in Canary Wharf, London E14.… Read more

Written by Owen Redahan. MBACP. B.Sc.(Agr)

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