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Internet Addiction Disorder: Worried You May Have It?

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These days, we seem to be spending more time on our phones, tablets and computers than ever before. We are social beings and there’s no doubt that we need technology. Also, we want to be part of the craze. Whether it’s social media, internet gaming or meeting on-line friends, we all want a piece of the pie. But is this leading to internet addiction, the same way that some people get hooked on heroin or cocaine?

Internet Addiction Disorder: What Is It?

Internet addicts use the net compulsively. They may experience withdrawal symptoms and mental health problems (including intense negative emotions and anger outbursts) when they’re not able to connect. As a result of this compulsive behavior, they might find that their home and work lives are taking a beating.

Why Do People Develop Internet Addiction?

We know that the internet is more accessible than ever, but what else leads internet users to become addicted?

Addictive Personality

Some people get hooked more easily than others. If you have an addictive personality, you’re more likely to become addicted to the internet, among other things.

Shyness

The internet allows for anonymity. This can make it safer for people who are shy and awkward in social situations to reach out to others through social media etc. Shy individuals generally find it easier to have conversations with people in chat rooms than to talk to others in real-life social settings.

Escaping

Drugs and alcohol help some people to achieve a sense of relief and disconnection from the pressures of real life. In the same way, cyber reality and various types of gaming often provide a sense of diversion and escape.

Instant Gratification

Whether you’re racking up “likes” or making money from online gaming, the internet may provide a sense of excitement that keeps people coming back for more.

Biochemical Responses

Playing games, watching videos or scrolling through a news feed can lead to a rush of “feel good” chemicals (like dopamine and endorphins) in the brain. This chemical rush makes addiction much more likely.

The Different Types of Internet Addiction

Internet addiction comes in many possible forms which can all affect your psychosocial well-being.

Cybersexual

This involves viewing pornography or visiting sex-chat forums.

Cyber-Relationships

Cyber-relationships are about more than just sex. You’re using the net to establish actual romantic relationships (which may or may not end up materializing in real life).

Net Compulsions

Net compulsions include out-of-control online shopping, gambling or trading.

Online Gaming

Gamers may spend huge amounts of time online, sometimes to the detriment of their physical and mental health. They get caught up in an online reality of role-playing games and all sorts of video games. Gaming is a very social experience that can bring comfort to those who are lonely.

Information Seeking

Information seeking may become a destructive addiction when someone becomes fixated on online searching. The search for information often happens at the expense of living life in the real world.

Social Networking Addiction

This form of internet addiction involves compulsively engaging in social media and cyber forums that give the user a sense of social connection.

Internet Addiction and Mental Health Problems

A 2017 study found that people with internet addiction are more likely to experience mental health concerns or even develop a mental illness. This could include anxiety and depression, dysphoric mood, alcohol use, and suicidal behavior.

Internet Overuse

Signs That You May Have Internet Addiction Disorder

Look out for these signs and symptoms, which might suggest that your internet usage is bordering on addiction.

You Get Moody, Irritable or Depressed Without Online Activities

Internet addicts experience intense feelings of sadness or grumpiness when they’re not connected.

It’s Affecting Your Relationships

People with internet addiction often spend so much time online that their real-world relationships and their social lives in general take strain.

Your Academic or Work Performance is Suffering

Are you finding that you’re not meeting deadlines at school or work? Internet addicts spend so much time online that their academics and work performance suffer.

Lying to Friends and Family Members to Conceal Your Addiction

You feel ashamed about your internet use and you take steps to prevent people from knowing just how much time you spend online.

You’re Preoccupied With Being Online

People who are preoccupied with being in the virtual sphere often start neglecting their social lives. If you are constantly thinking about being online, even in real-life social settings you may have a problem.

Going Online To Escape Sadness or Loneliness

The net has become one of the few things that provides relief from the pressures of the “real world.” Sadly enough many people feel less lonely online than in their real social environment.

Internet Addiction Treatment Options

If you feel like you are experiencing symptoms of addictive behavior, you could look into getting addiction treatment. These are some of the most common treatment options for people who are addicted to the internet.

Creating Boundaries and Balance

Your time spent online needs to be reasonable. It’s important to have explicit rules guiding your internet use.

Group Therapy

In group therapy you can learn new social skills while connecting with a supportive community.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

This is an effective form of talk therapy that helps you to change the problematic thinking patterns that fuel addiction. It can be very helpful to make someone realize the reality of their situation. This type of treatment can also help people out who have developed mental disorders like depression or anxiety.

Medication

Some doctors recommend certain medications (such as antidepressants) to help people who are addicted to overcome their internet addiction.

Regular Exercise

Exercise has mood-boosting properties and it can help you to improve your sense of self control.

Tips for Taking Control of Internet Use

These steps can help you to regain control:

  • Document the reasons for your internet use (including thoughts and feelings that appear to trigger your addictive behavior).
  • Think of other, healthier ways to deal with your problems. These may include goal-oriented approaches such as eating healthier and exercising if you’re worried about your body image. You could even talk to a friend about any negative emotions you’re experiencing.
  • Try meditation techniques for relieving stress and anxiety.
  • Spend more time consciously enjoying the “real” word. Reconnect with your loved ones, take your dog for a walk, get social or take up a hobby.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from a mental health professional if you feel you need the extra support.

Internet Addiction: Mental Health Fad or Serious Psychiatric Concern?

Internet addiction is a new type of control disorder that is still being researched. It was only recently listed by the American Psychiatric Association as a condition that requires further study. Although excessive time spent online is a prevalent and problematic issue, careful consideration is required so that it doesn’t become yet another mental health fad. At the same time, internet overuse is a very real concern for many. We need to be sensitive to the massive issues that it can cause in a person’s life.

The tips that we’ve covered today can help you to identify the issue and take back control. Take back your social life, take back your mental well-being, break the chains of internet addiction. Know that help is available!

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5714733/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822035/
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-exercise-help-conquer-addiction-2018122615641
  4. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/internet-addiction
  5. https://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/risky-business-internet-addiction
  6. http://valiantrecovery.ca/5-types-of-internet-addiction.html
About The Author Daniel Sher
 

Hi there, my name is Daniel. I’m a clinical psychologist, registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. My professional interests as a therapist include long-term psychodynamic work, as well as cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness-based interventions. In my practice, I work as a sex therapist with men who struggle with sexual dysfunction. I also work closely with people who have diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Finally, I have a keen interest in neuropsychology and neuropsychoanalysis. When I’m not practicing, I enjoy writing on the topic of psychology, surfing, hiking and practicing martial arts.

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