What is Internet Addiction?
Now-a-days, almost everyone uses the internet. In fact, it’s pretty hard to live now without it. Around 90% of Americans use the internet regularly. The internet has expanded our world and has helped us evolve as humans. We are now able to access information, shop, chat and play games with just a click of a button or a tap. Our education and knowledge has become more advanced with the endless access to information. We are able to communicate with people that live across the world, across different time zones and stay connected with them on a daily basis. The entertainment world has also exploded with the internet. These advancements are all wonderful but there are downfalls to the internet and internet use can become too much for some individuals. Some people can’t stop playing computer games, compulsively shop online or they cannot escape their social media life. Internet Addiction Disorder occurs when excessive internet use starts to affect the daily lives of individuals negatively and relationships begin to deteriorate. This disorder is also known as Compulsive Internet Use or Problematic Internet Use, or iDisorder. Internet Addiction Disorder was identified in the mid 1990’s after researchers studied pathological gamblers. Since then, this disorder has become more prevalent and common, especially as technology advances. In one study by Standford, researchers concluded that 1 out of 8 participants admitted to having some sort of issue with the internet. Adolescents are more prone to this disorder because of the mass increase in social media and easy access to the internet. Furthermore, females tend to admit to using the internet too much. One is diagnosed with an internet addiction by a mental health professional and must meet the criteria in the DSM. Internet addiction was just recently added to the DSM and there are also new and widely used assessments as well. There are many negative effects from having an internet addiction. Physical effects include weight gain, back aches, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and vision problems from so much screen time. Other effects include, incomplete tasks, neglected responsibilities and mistreated relationships. Furthermore, those with online shopping and internet gambling issues may face consequences like financial loss and bankruptcy.
There are five types of internet addiction:
|Cybersexual: Cybersex and Internet porn
|Net compulsions: Online gambling, shopping, or stock trading
|Cyber-relationships: Social media, online dating, and other virtual communication
|Gaming: Online game playing
|Information Seeking: Web surfing or database searches
What are the symptoms?
There are many symptoms that can elude to an internet addiction, including the above effects like poor relationships and physical effects like back pain. Additional symptoms include depression, dishonesty, anxiety, long hours spent on the internet, euphoric reactions from being on the internet, feelings of guilt, isolation, poor time management, defensiveness when discussing internet use, avoidance, agitation, loneliness, procrastination, insomnia, and poor personal hygiene.
What causes internet addiction?
Like most mental health issues, there is not one way to pin point the cause. However, individuals who are more prone to addiction biologically are more likely to develop an internet addiction than others. Some studies also suggest that internet addiction changes the brain structure which can make recovery more difficult. Internet addiction can be even more addictive than other substances because it provides so many rewards so quickly. Others who are deficient in dopamine and serotonin are also more prone to developing an internet addiction. It is common for those with an internet addiction to have a dual diagnosis of anxiety and depression. For example, someone with social anxiety may cope with those negative emotions by going online. Furthermore, environment plays a big role as well. It is important that children grow up in a safe, nurturing and stable environment with rules around internet and technology usage.
Some of the treatment options for internet addiction include the following:
- Medication such as anti-depressants.
- Individual and group therapy
- Support groups
- Behavior modification
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Art Therapy
- Reality Therapy
- Recreation Therapy
- Equine Therapy
Often times, a number of these modalities are used all together when treating someone with an internet addiction. Treatment centers and professionals that specialize in internet addiction have increased throughout the years. It is possible to recover from an internet addiction!