The internet has changed the lives of so many people for the better. It is now the norm to source most information online, and it is the first place many
individuals go to. However, with such easy access to the internet from devices such as smartphones and tablets, more people are going on to develop what is known as internet addiction disorder. But what is internet addiction disorder? Is it a real thing? Moreover, who does it affect?
What Is the Difference between Internet Addiction Disorder and Loving the Web?
Many assume that it is only substances such as alcohol or drugs that can cause addiction, but experts know that anything can be addictive if it begins to have a negative impact on a person’s life. There are so many substances capable of causing addiction and there are also numerous processes that can be addictive, including going on the internet.
With young people living their lives mainly through social media these days, it is not uncommon for them to spend many hours online. Some individuals become so attached to their phones that they can become irritable when unable to get online. With so much to do online, it is no surprise that so many youngsters are developing these attachments. But when internet use begins to interfere with everyday life, and when it starts to have a negative impact on health and social interaction with others, it can be said to be an addiction.
An internet addiction can be similar to a gambling addiction in that there is no use of a chemical substance but the individual has no control over his or her use of it.
Is There Only One Type of Internet Addiction?
The short answer is no. When discussing the question of ‘what is internet addiction disorder?’, it is important to consider the different types of internet addiction as not everyone will use the internet in the same way, but they can still develop the same attachments to it.
For example, some will spend hours and hours playing online games and may even start spending money to allow them to access extras to enhance their gaming experience. Others will become addicted to social media websites. The most common types of internet addiction include:
- online gaming
- social networking
- online shopping
- excessive email use
- internet pornography.
Just using the internet for the above does not mean a person has an internet addiction disorder though. It is only if their use of the above begins to interfere with their daily life that they can be classed as being in trouble.
Those who spend excessive time online can be negatively affected in many ways. They may begin to neglect responsibilities in their life, and their relationships with family members and friends can be damaged.
Do you think internet addiction is not a real problem? Check out this video by popular youtuber Boyinaband:
Another question: Do you think the supposedly argumentive opinion of a person you know nothing about matters? If you answered no, and just watched this nearly 20-minutes-long video, then you may suffer from a mild to severe form of an internet addiction disorder.
Signs of an Internet Addiction
It is easy to miss the signs of an internet addiction because most people spend a lot of time checking their phones nowadays. However, checking social media statuses and using the internet to shop is not necessarily a sign of addiction. But if you notice the following in yourself or a loved one, you should be concerned:
- Spending increasing amounts of time online to feel satisfied.
- Being preoccupied with the internet – i.e. thinking or talking about it whenever you are doing something else.
- Being unable to stop using the internet despite promising yourself that you would.
- Feeling irritable or agitated when trying to stop using the internet.
- Spending longer online than you had planned to.
- Neglecting family members, friends, responsibilities at home and at work.
- Missing work or school because of internet use.
- Lying to family members and friends about use of internet.
When the Internet Becomes a Harmful Addiction
The above are some of the signs of an internet addiction disorder, but there are a number of physical symptoms that could also indicate a problem. These include:
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- trouble sleeping
- neck pain
- weight loss – due to skipping meals in favour of being online
- poor personal hygiene and grooming
- vision problems.
Those who are spending too much time on the internet could be failing to attend school or work. This could then affect their ability to earn good grades or an adequate income. Financial problems can be a major catalyst in damaged family relationships, as can spending increasing amounts of time online rather than with loved ones. As with all addictions, preoccupation with the internet can lead to poor health, relationship problems, and financial struggles.
How Does Browsing Become Obsessive?
In the same way that it is not possible to pinpoint the exact cause of alcoholism or a drug addiction, experts have found that identifying a single cause of an internet addiction is also not possible. Where does the “Meme lord” cross the line between fun and obsession – it is impossible to give a one-size-fits-all answer. While most people use the internet to some extent these days, the majority will never allow their use to interfere with daily life.
Some studies have found that those affected by impulse control disorders such as internet addictions have a similar brain structure to those affected by other addictions such as alcoholism or drug addiction.
There are many different risk factors that could make a person more prone to addiction than others but that having these risk factors is not a guarantee addiction will develop. Those with other types of addiction, particularly gambling or gaming addiction, will have a higher risk for internet addiction, particularly if they use the internet to engage in other addictive behaviours.
Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety can increase the risk, as can social anxiety and shyness. Those who find it difficult to interact with others in the real world often find it easier to live in the virtual world, which can make them prone to addiction.
Where to Get Help for Internet Addiction?
If you have ever wondered ‘what is internet addiction disorder?’ and could you have it, you will no doubt be happy to know that help is available. The first step in overcoming such a problem though is to recognise that it actually exists. It can be difficult to come to terms with any type of addiction, and loved ones often notice that the problem exists long before the person with the addiction does.
Unlike with addictions to alcohol or drugs, abstinence is not usually possible with an internet addiction. The internet forms such a huge part of modern life that staying away from it permanently could prove to be extremely difficult. On top of this, most people use it as part of their education or work, so treatment usually involves helping the addict to learn how to develop healthy internet habits instead of abstention.
Those who do not have a severe internet addiction can often use self-help techniques to overcome their issues. Nevertheless, for those with a severe addiction, a programme of rehabilitation might be required.
When it comes to self-help methods, it can be useful to log internet time. Those who do this are often quite surprised at how long they actually spend online. By setting a timer before going online, affected individuals can reduce the amount of time spent using the internet.
Others find that whenever they feel the urge to go online, substituting it for something else such as reading a book, watching a movie, or going for a walk can be extremely helpful.
Are There Rehabilitation Programmes?
During rehab, it is important to identify the reasons the person became addicted in the first place. Counsellors and therapists will work closely with the individual to get to the root cause of the addictive behaviour and then help the patient to develop positive attitudes towards the internet.
Various techniques will be used, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, individual counselling, and group therapy sessions. Most patients will be encouraged to join a local support group on completion of their rehab programme. This is where they can meet up with other recovering addicts to help support each other to stay on the right track.
If you would like help for yourself or someone you love, please get in touch with us here at Addiction Helper. We are a referral service working in all areas of the UK to assist those in need of help for a variety of addiction types.
We will discuss your options with you to determine if you would benefit from an inpatient programme or a programme of outpatient treatment coupled with self-help techniques. Please call today for more information on how we can help you overcome your internet addiction for good.
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