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Randomized Controlled Trial
, 8 (3), 530-536

Reducing Compulsive Internet Use and Anxiety Symptoms via Two Brief Interventions: A Comparison Between Mindfulness and Gradual Muscle Relaxation

Randomized Controlled Trial

Reducing Compulsive Internet Use and Anxiety Symptoms via Two Brief Interventions: A Comparison Between Mindfulness and Gradual Muscle Relaxation

Cristina Quinones et al. J Behav Addict.


Background: Compulsive Internet use (CIU) refers to those individuals who experience a loss of control regarding their online use. Although suffered by a minority, a much larger proportion of adults report to be experiencing early signs of CIU, which can become more problematic if sustained over time, especially when used as a coping mechanism for stress. Since compulsive behaviors are characterized by executing behaviors on "automatic pilot," mindfulness techniques, which help individuals relate more consciously with their environment, could help develop a more adaptive relationship with technology. However, mindfulness interventions are often lengthy hence not ideal for busy individuals with early signs of CIU.

Aims: This study tested the effectiveness of a brief mindfulness intervention (10 min a day for 2 weeks) to reduce CIU and anxiety and depression symptoms, in relation to an equivalent length classic arousal descending technique (i.e., gradual-muscle-relaxation), and a wait-list control group.

Methods: A randomized controlled trial (RCT) was used with assessments at pre- and post-phases. Participants showing initial signs of CIU were allocated to a mindfulness-group (n = 343), gradual-relaxation (n = 301), or a wait-list control group (n = 350).

Results: The mindfulness and gradual-muscle-relaxation participants were equally effective in reducing anxiety and depression. The mindfulness intervention was more effective reducing CIU symptoms.

Discussion: Given the large sample sizes of this RCT, these results are promising, although follow-up studies are needed. Considering health hazards of the "always-on-culture" and the popularity of bite-sized learning, the effectiveness of easy-to fit-in daily life health practices is a positive development.

Keywords: always-on-culture; anxiety and depression; compulsive Internet use; gradual muscle relaxation; mindfulness; randomized controlled trial.


Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Flow diagram of participants through study stages

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Funding sources: This research was funded by the Richard Benjamin Trust.