"It was so obvious these things were happening, but I couldn't see it because I was knee-deep in the problem."
The foreword for Van Cleave's book was written by Dr. Mark Griffiths, a professor at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom, who studies behavioral addictions in the School of Social Sciences. He says Internet addiction has five key criteria:
1. Salience: The Internet becomes the most important activity in the person's life, affecting feelings, behaviors and thoughts.
2. Mood modification: The person receives an emotional "buzz" from using the Internet.
3. Tolerance: The person becomes acclimatized, requiring increasing amounts of Internet time to get that "buzz."
4. Withdrawal symptoms: Abruptly ceasing Internet activity can cause the personal emotional or physical distress.
5. Relapse: The addict tends to fall back into the same behavior very easily, even after years of abstinence or control.
"When you see that behavior," says another recovering addict, Kevin Roberts, "it's only the tip of the iceberg. You're often going to find underlying issues."
In Roberts' case, the underlying mental health issues turned out to be ADHD and anxiety, which both went undiagnosed until his Internet addiction spun out of control.
It was good friends who had been through AA, dealing with addiction themselves, who recognized Roberts' categorical consumption with gaming had reached addictive proportions.
Unlike van Cleave, Roberts went on binges.
"I would go through periods when I wouldn't indulge," he says. Other times, he would play real-time strategy games for weeks at a time, at least eight to 12 hours a day. These binges were usually set off by an emotional trigger. "I would often be sleep-deprived, sometimes going a whole day or two without sleeping."
Roberts likened himself to a functional drunk.
"I held a job and paid my bills," he says. "I wasn't real successful at relationships, because of 'the screen,' but I didn't know that at the time."
While he was able to keep it together for a while, thanks in part to his being self-employed, Roberts eventually began to lose clients.
"I even lost money after performing work for someone," he says, "because I was too busy gaming to send out an invoice."
He lost standing in his profession that he may never gain back.
"I eventually stopped gaming," Roberts says, "because the thrill became less and less, even as I played more and more."
He and Van Cleave are among the minority of Internet addicts, experts say, who have been able to break their bad habits without an extreme intervention.
Roberts wrote a book about his experience, "Cyber Junkie: Escaping the Gaming and Internet Trap." Perhaps more importantly, he joined a cyberaddiction support group. "We're always there for each other," he says. "It's our 'Vitamin C,' C being for community."
It's that sense of camaraderie that Young hopes to evoke from her patients at Bradford General. "There's a group dynamic in having them be in a class together," she says. "There's a support system that builds up."
It's worth noting that reSTART, the country's first retreat center program for Internet addiction, opened in 2009. A 45-day retreat to "disconnect and find yourself" at reSTART costs $22,000, after which patients have the option to extend their retreat for $421 a day, depending on their individual treatment needs.
Van Cleave underscores the importance of getting professional help and learning, quite simply, how to properly think and function again in daily life. "Alcoholics can stay out of bars and restaurants that serve booze, but an Internet addiction is like an eating disorder," he says.
"They have to relearn how to eat, what foods to avoid, what stores to avoid," says Laroche, employing the same metaphor.
But Frances is worried a treatment regimen that could and should be applied to tens of thousands of people will instead be applied to millions. "I'm concerned there's so much publicity about these four lousy beds," he says. "This is being commercialized prematurely."