Smartphones and computers have become an intrinsic part of our lives. They are a universal means of communication, entertainment and work.
However, some people allow these gadgets to overwhelm their lives. Internet addiction is a behavioural addiction wherein a person becomes dependent on the use of online devices to cope with life’s stresses. Internet addiction is now widely recognised and acknowledged as a significant concern.
Internet addiction can also occur along with other behavioural addictions, such as work addiction, television addiction, and smartphone addiction.
5 Things to Know About Internet Addiction
- While psychologists and researchers have formulated diagnostic criteria for internet addiction, it is not yet officially classified as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
- Broadly, three types of internet addiction have been identified: video game addiction, cybersex or online sex addiction, and online gambling addiction.
- Increasingly, addiction to mobile devices, such as smartphones and social networking sites addiction, such as Facebook and Instagram, are being investigated. There may be overlaps between each of these subtypes. For instance, online gambling may involve online games, and online gaming may have bits of pornography.
- Sending sexually explicit text messages, or Sexting has landed many people in trouble.
- Treatment for Internet addiction is available, with therapists who are trained and experienced in addiction therapy. The outcomes of internet addiction treatment have proven to be effective.
Causes of Internet Addiction
Whenever Internet addicts feel emotionally overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, lonely or anxious, they use the Internet to seek comfort and escape. Studies from the University of Iowa show that Internet addiction is quite common among males ages 20 to 30 years old who suffer from depression.
People who suffer from anxiety and depression are predisposed to developing computer or Internet addiction. Their lack of emotional support pushes them to the Internet to fill this need. Moreover, those who have a history of other types of addiction, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, sex and gambling, are also highly vulnerable. People who are overly shy and unable to relate to their peers are also at a higher risk of developing Internet addiction.
Symptoms of Internet Addiction
Since Internet addiction is not formally classified as an addictive disorder, getting a diagnosis may tricky. However, several experts in the field of behavioural addiction have identified the symptoms of Internet addiction. Internet addiction has the following four components:
Excessive Use of the Internet
Despite the consensus that excessive use of the Internet is a key symptom, there is no definite classification of exactly how much computer time can be defined as excessive. While some guidelines suggest no more than two hours of screen time per day for youths under 18, there are no official suggestions for adults. Moreover, two hours appears to be unrealistic for people who use computers for study or work. Of course, for internet addicts, all computer users can feel essential.
Check out these questions from internet addiction assessment tools that will help you to evaluate how much is too much.
How often do you:
- stay online longer than you intended?
- hear other people in your life complain about how much time you spend online?
- say or think, “Just a few more minutes” when online?
- try and fail to cut down on your online time?
- hide how long you’ve been online?
If any of these situations are coming up regularly, you may be addicted to the Internet.
Although originally referred to as the basis of physical dependence on alcohol or drugs, withdrawal symptoms are now being witnessed in behavioural addictions, including Internet addiction.
Most typical Internet withdrawal symptoms include anger, restlessness, and depression when Internet access is not available.
Tolerance, another hallmark of alcohol and drug addiction, seems to apply to Internet addiction as well. This can be viewed as wanting—and from the user’s point of view, needing—more and more computer-related stimulation. The individual spends ever-increasing amounts of time on the computer, so it gradually takes over everything they do. The quest for more becomes a predominant theme in their thought processes and planning.
If Internet addiction were harmless, there would be no cause for concern. But when excessive computer use becomes addictive, there are negative repercussions.
One negative impact of internet addiction is that you may not have any meaningful offline personal relationships, or neglect the ones you do have or begin to have arguments with them over your Internet use.
You may see your grades fall and neglect other activities while you devote your time and attention to computer use. People with internet addiction often feel exhausted from staying up too late and become sleep deprived.
Finances may also be adversely impacted, particularly if you indulge in online gambling, gaming, shopping, or cybersex.
How to Deal with Phone Addiction
Internet Addiction in Kids
Internet addiction is particularly concerning for kids and young persons. Today, the majority of kids have access to a computer, and most of them carry smartphones. Children don’t yet have the awareness and self-discipline to manage their computer use properly and don’t know the potential harms that the Internet can cause them.
On the upside, cell phones provide two-way contact with their child in case of an emergency. However, there are some risks that constant access to the Internet can expose them to.
- Children tend to spend increasingly extended periods connected to the Internet, disconnecting them from the real, surrounding world.
- Children who have unsupervised and unlimited online access are at an increased risk of getting involved in cyberbullying, both as a victim and as a perpetrator.
- Children who engage in internet users are more likely to use their cell phone for cybersex, mainly through Sexting, or access apps which may potentially increase the risk of sex addiction.
Internet addiction has proven to be disruptive to the development of healthy social relationships. Teenagers often spend long hours online due to peer pressure, supporting the group they are playing with. Excessive online time can also lead to isolation and a distorted sense of the real world.
That’s why children and teens, who are still learning the basics of social interactions, are advised to have no more than two hours of screen time per day.
What to Do If You’re Addicted to the Internet
If you recognise the symptoms of Internet addiction in yourself or someone in your care, talk to an expert about getting help.