Treating Internet & Gaming Addiction with Acupuncture

Ever feel like you’re constantly glued to your phone or computer? Scrolling through Instagram for hours? Candy crush got your hooked? For many, Internet and gaming addiction is a serious problem. And for some, acupuncture has been their solution. This week, recent DACM graduate, Diana Yang, shares with us what she’s been up to since graduating from ACTCM, her unique TCM specialty, and her advice for current students and new grads when times get tough.

Diana Yang, Acupuncture, Internet and Gaming Addiction
Diana giving acupuncture on the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Photography by Tory Smith.

Tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to since first graduating ACTCM.

I started my practice after getting my masters and getting licensed. I have a unique specialty, which is video game and Internet addiction. I went back to ACTCM for my doctorate to further focus on my specialty.

Internet and gaming addiction are becoming serious problems. I took advantage of the DACM to explore it in an academically structured way. The program is really focused on research–you read a lot of papers and you write a lot of papers. You can cover different topics, or you can cover the same topic from different angles. I chose to cover the same topic from different angles. Some of the papers I’ve written while in the program include:

  • “Treating Problematic Internet Use with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine: Case Reports on Internet Gaming Disorder, Social Media Use, and Pornography Addiction”
  • “The Effectiveness of Chinese Medicine on Pornography Induced Erectile Dysfunction: A Case Report”
  • “Internet Addiction and Acupuncture: Treatment and Effectiveness.” These are based on patients I have seen.

If you’re interested in learning more about acupuncture and internet addiction, I write regularly about it on my blog or follow me on Facebook for latest news and insights.

Was Internet and gaming addiction always your focus?

When I first started my practice, I planned to eventually focus solely on Internet and gaming. But as I started working with more patients, I found that I really enjoyed treating outside of my specialty, too. I saw firsthand how this medicine could really improve lives in a sustainable way. Because it’s not just about fixing a targeted problem; It’s about a whole lifestyle change which has long term benefits, long after they’re done seeing you in the office. Now I maintain a focus on Internet addiction, but also treat general health issues.

What does a typical treatment for someone with Internet and video gaming addiction look like?

It’s very individualized. It could go even as simple as just tongue and pulse. The most important thing is letting the patient know that they have your absolute support. When you treat these cases, there’s going to be ups and downs and your success as a practitioner is not only based on the positive outcomes, but also the whole journey. Relapse happens. And so it’s important when working with addiction to really stick with your patients and not become overly committed to the positive outcomes only.

What made you want to go to acupuncture school?

My father is an acupuncturist. When I was 11, a family friend who was seeing him at the time expressed to our family gratitude for my father’s work. It was the type of gratitude that I understood innately as an 11 year old, but not necessarily logically. Seeing how acupuncture was able to help someone so much made me realize I wanted to do the same thing.

When it was time to go to college though, my parents wanted me to become an MD because it’s easier to practice with a medical degree than with an acupuncture degree. But that wasn’t for me. Somehow we got off track and compromised over dentistry. So I was doing that for a few years, but it wasn’t what I wanted. So, I finally ended up going to acupuncture school.

During acupuncture school I spoke to my family friend again and learned that TCM was actually able to keep that friend off kidney dialysis. This person was so inspiring in not one but two stages of my life.

What has been the most challenging thing about starting your own practice?

There was a lot of self-doubt when I first started because I was inexperienced and I knew it. But that in itself allowed for an interesting period of growth in my life. I realized even though I was new, it didn’t mean I couldn’t help people. I had to get over the mental aspect where I was keeping myself back because I lacked confidence for no reason.

After I was able to move out of that phase, it felt really good. Just remember that in these moments of self doubt, you have to keep sticking to your work and passion, and pushing through it. Have faith in the fact that TCM is so helpful and valuable to a lot of people. It will definitely feel different when you’re running your own practice and calling all the shots, but after you get used to it, it is great.

Know also that ACTCM is super strong in academics. So even during those periods of self doubt, I knew that I had a solid foundation of TCM theory, acupuncture, herbs, and clinical skills. That was something I was really able to rely on, and that’s what ACTCM gave me.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned since starting to work as an acupuncturist?

We help a lot of people. I knew that logically going into this profession, but to actually see it happen and to be a part of people’s lives as they are changing their daily habits is so inspiring. Daily habits are the hardest thing to change and so, to be a part of that journey with other people and to see TCM in action is so great. I learned that on a whole different level when I started to practice on my own.

Is there something you know now that you wish you knew as a student?

I wish I could tell my student self that in the future, when you go into practice, you’ll be inspired. This is extremely inspiring work. Sometimes if you’re discouraged or feeling tired in school, just remember that this medicine will continue to inspire you.

What advice would you give to recent graduates about to enter the field professionally?

When you start working, don’t worry about competing with each other. A lot of people develop tunnel-visioned about competing with each other but the fact is most patients coming into my clinic have never had acupuncture before. And, there are plenty of people like that out there. So it’s not competition against each other for an existing group of patients. Focus on how you can reach people who have never tried our medicine because they can really benefit. That in the end helps all of us as acupuncturists, and helps other people.

The first year can be really challenging. But after you push through it, things do tend to get better. It also depends on how aggressive you are with marketing yourself. The first year is not a time for you to sit back and hope for referrals. You have to get out there and let people know that you can and want to help people. Talk with other healthcare providers, let them know that you are there. Meet and network with as many people as possible. One person leads to another.

Favorite acupuncture point and why?

I really like HT 7. I’ve had good experiences with it personally. I remember there was one time I was feeling really unsettled and I put HT 7 in. And it was like boom, calm and grounded. It worked so well and it works really well for patients, too.

Interview by Rachele Lam
Rachele Lam is a second year doctoral student at ACTCM with a background in design and marketing. 

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About American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) has provided affordable, quality health care to the public and trained professionals in acupuncture, massage and Chinese medicine since 1980. In addition to its graduate curriculum, ACTCM offers continuing education, public education, community outreach and clinical services in acupuncture and herbal medicine. ACTCM has been the recipient of many awards for its curriculum, faculty and clinic, and has been voted “Best of the Bay” by both the San Francisco Weekly and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. ACTCM is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization