Internet Addiction: What is it?
What is internet addiction? When we think of the term addiction, we may reference alcohol, drugs, or even gambling. However, addiction can apply to continuing an activity or behavior despite it having a bad influence or negative impact on a person’s life.
Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is a behavioral addiction that involves compulsive internet use. Research shows that 93% of all adults in the U.S. use the internet daily. While our lives, careers, and hobbies may include using the internet on a daily basis. What is the difference between healthy and compulsive behavior?
When an individual feels they are unable to control their internet use, but continues to do so, this may be a sign of addictive behavior.
Excessive Internet use or addiction has not been recognized within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMV). Research from the National Institute of Health indicates that Internet addiction may have similar negative impacts on the brain as drug abuse does.
Younger populations are at a higher risk of developing Internet Addiction Disorder. Research shows that the average adolescent is spending 8-10 hours a day on their phones.
Negative health consequences from excessive internet/phone use may include:
- difficulty sleeping
- difficulty concentrating,
- irritability when there is a lack of access to the Internet,
What is Internet Addiction?
Types of Internet Addiction
Daily use of the Internet for occupation and academic purposes is common and often necessary. In addition to these pursuits, the Internet may also be used for social connections. Aside from necessary uses, individuals who spend the majority of their time on the Internet ‘unnecessarily’ or ‘unproductively’ would be associated with Internet Addiction Disorder. Different types of Internet addiction may include:
- Online Gambling
Online gambling is characterized as any type of betting or wagering over the Internet. Any type of gambling can be highly addictive, as well as detrimental to individuals, negatively impacting family life, work performance, and financial stability. Factors contributing to the widespread problem of Internet gambling include accessibility, convenience, and privacy, as many can ‘Anonymously’ play while conducting normal day to day functions.
- Cybersex Addiction
Cybersex addiction can involve using the Internet obsessively to view pornography, adult websites, adult chat rooms, and XXX Webcam services. These services can be harmful to an individual’s ability to form and maintain healthy sexual, romantic, or intimate relationships. Treatment may include a form of intervention, followed by ongoing counseling/treatment with a professional.
- Video Game Addiction
Video Game Addiction is spending excessive amounts of time playing online games and/or video games, resulting in significant decreases in productivity and function. Gaming addiction ranges from children to older adults, and has negative impacts on productivity, daily functioning, social interactions, and anxiety.
- Social Media Addiction
Symptoms of Social Media Addiction are difficult to identify, however, impacts on ‘real-life’ social interactions may decline. Individuals may compulsively check their social media apps, constantly post different aspects of their lives, and only communicate via social media apps. Another negative impact of social media addiction is that too much exposure to ‘unrealistic imagery’ or toxic content may lead to depression or anxiety.
- Information Seeking or Overload
This type of Internet Addiction may involve spending excessive amounts of time ‘surfing’ the internet for information. This may include an uncontrollable urge to gather and organize data, knowledge, and information. Author Alvin Toffler who researches Internet Addiction has coined the term ‘Infobesity’ to describe an individual who spends inordinate time collecting an abundance of information from the internet, or Web Content. Compulsive information-seeking may also be an indicator of an existing obsessive-compulsive disorder. Treatment options may range from different therapeutic modalities, developing coping methods, and/or medication.
Warning Signs and Risks
Within these types of internet addiction, there are ‘warning signs’ to compulsive behavior. Some of these warning signs may be:
- Checking various social media and messaging apps numerous times a day.
- Playing games online for hours on end and/or becoming irritated with any interruptions in game.
- Reading or posting comments online without a reason or purpose (for entertainment).
- Opening and re-opening different apps to indulge in for a long period of times.
- Surfing the internet late into the night every day.
Individuals who develop an Internet addiction may begin to experience distress over time, and as their behavior becomes more compulsive, the addiction and symptoms may become severe. Internet addiction can have harmful and significant negative effects including physical, emotional, and mental effects. In addition to this effect, living with Internet addiction can be isolating, and may result in a disconnection from society. Risks and symptoms associated with Internet Addiction may include:
- Disrupted and/or difficulty sleeping
- Weight Gain/Loss
- Neglect of Personal Hygiene
- Unhealthy/Poor Eating Habits
- Decreased Work or Academic Performance
- Vision Problems
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Body Aches
- Social Isolation
- Aggression/Mood Swings
- Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
Treatment for Internet Addiction
Intervention and treatment strategies are based on similar practices for substance use disorder. Depending on the severity of the addiction and compulsive behaviors of the individual, different types of therapeutic treatment are utilized including using Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapies, and medication. The first step to addressing addiction problems may include an intervention where loved ones may express concern over the compulsive behavior. Addressing co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder would be incorporated in treatment. Treatment for any addiction will focus on helping the individual overcome impulsive or compulsive behavior by identifying its connection to thought patterns, emotions, and other behavioral tendencies.
Alternate treatment options include:
- Behavioral Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Digital Detoxification
- Self-Help Groups
Seeking treatment for Internet Addiction may be helpful for individuals who feel they are unable to control or reduce their internet usage on their own, despite negative impacts and consequences. If you or a loved one is struggling with compulsive or addictive Internet use, please do not hesitate to reach out for a free consultation. A professional within our agency can help you to identify appropriate treatment options and find a plan that will meet your needs.