For Charlie, it was clear that rehab was necessary when, after months of obsessively playing a smartphone game called Spirit Lords, her mother called her at college worried that she had taken up gambling. Her savings account was drained. Multiple overdraft notices had arrived at her parents’ house. Over five months, she had blown $8,000 on “spirit upgrades” and in-app purchases like rare weapons to help her beat the game.
“I thought that at some point I would probably stop and say, ‘This is enough.’ But it didn’t happen,” Charlie* told me. “That was a sign to my family and myself that I had an addiction.”
But 19-year-old Charlie wasn’t just addicted to Spirit Lords. Screens ruled her life. She spent hours on Tumblr talking to people she’s never met that she counts as her “closest friends.” She idled on Reddit. She chatted in forums. She Skyped. Online was where she felt most herself.
“My mom had…
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