Short-Term CBT Shows Promise for Internet and Computer Game Addiction

Black man playing video game
A short-term cognitive behavioral therapy program was associated with improvements in self-reported symptoms, time spent online, and psychosocial functioning.

The use of short-term manualized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) could be an effective treatment strategy for internet and computer game addiction, according to results from a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Researchers conducted a multicenter randomized study of 143 men with internet and computer game addiction (mean age, 26.2 years). Study patients were randomly assigned to receive either manualized CBT (n=72) or wait-list control (n=71) for a total of 15 weeks. The study took place in various outpatient settings in Austria and Germany from January 2012 to June 2017. The primary outcome was remission of internet addiction at completion of the CBT program, measured using the Assessment of Internet and Computer Game Addiction Self-report.

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After analysis, the researchers found that 69.4% (n=50) and 23.9% (n=17) of participants in the treatment and control groups, respectively, showed remission. In addition, the researchers reported that remission was higher in the manualized CBT group vs wait-list controls after accounting for additional factors, such as age and baseline severity (odds ratio, 10.10; 95% CI, 3.69-27.65). The CBT group showed strong pre-post effect size differences on self-reported symptoms (d = 1.19), time spent online

(d = 0.88), and psychosocial functioning (d = 0.64).

One key limitation of the study was the self-reported nature of the data compared with use of clinical assessment.

“Further trials investigating the long-term efficacy of [short-term treatment for internet and computer game addiction] and addressing specific groups and subgroups compared with active control conditions are required,” the researchers wrote. They added that studies should consider the effects of conjunctive psychopharmacology.


Wölfling K, Müller KW, Dreier M, et al. Efficacy of short-term treatment of internet and computer game addiction: a randomized clinical trial [published online July 10, 2019]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.1676