In this day and age of brand new technologies and increased connectivity, time spent online is not only encouraged, but at times is a necessity. It seems as though the whole world is run on a computer screen. But recently there has been a staggering increase in the amount of people whose time spent online has become problematic. This addiction to having an online presence or spending exuberant amounts of time online has been classed as an impulse control disorder. A condition that mirrors the same symptoms and behaviors as drug and alcohol addiction without using a harmful substance.
Now just because you spend a fair amount of time on the internet, whether it is streaming videos, social media, online shopping, or playing an online game. Doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an issue. But when these activities start to interfere in everyday life and cause problems, whether financial, social, or mental. These may be indicative of a larger problem.
For many, creating an online avatar or posting opinions on a somewhat anonymous level is very appealing. For online gamers it provides a platform and community that they can create and design themselves. Attaining and attributing skills they they may feel cannot be achieved in the real world. For many gamers it allows them to be confident, outgoing, and gives them something for them to feel a part of. It helps those who have feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and an overall feeling of disapproval, a place to go and thrive. In this online world it gives users the ability to control and create a world suited to them.
Social Media Addiction
Social media has also played an increasing role in our lives, and for some it is pretty consuming. Also, social media is designed in a way that you can share opinions, post pictures, and take a look into the activities of others. But there are some who take this level of expression and casual updates to an extreme. There are several factors that lead to harmful uses of social media and addiction.
For some these platforms are used to gauge their overall popularity and self-worth. If their opinions and pictures are well received, if many people comment positively, then they feel good about themselves. If received poorly then they experience feelings of remorse, or self-pity. Adversely, scrolling through page after page of other peoples’ vacation photos, birthday celebration, or get together. All while sitting at home can leave you with feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, or low self-worth. This starts a cycle of people trying to create the most exciting post, or vibrant picture, even if it’s only manufactured. People start to look for validation through social media interaction rather than build self-confidence through real life interactions.
Signs of Internet Addiction
Like any other addiction or obsessive behavior there are signs, or red flags that can tell you if a person may have an issue with the internet. Some of the behaviors include obsessively checking for updates on a cell phone or computer. Spending more and more time online in order to be satisfied. Becoming moody, restless, irritable or depressed when internet use is decreased or stopped altogether. Also, if internet use directly effects relationships, education, or job performance there may be a problem.
Spending large sums of money very quickly online. Or if the internet serves as an escape from real life problems or relief from a bad mood, are also signs that there may be an issue of dependence on the internet. Now of course it would be near impossible to list all the factors and behaviors that result from an addiction to the internet, but these are some of the more prevalent ones.
Precautionary Signs of Internet Addiction Disorder
Now that we have a better grip on what the brain goes through while on the internet, let’s see some signs that come with Internet Addiction Disorder. With any addiction, a set of signs and symptoms are also associated. As stated in a previous article, signs and symptoms differ from addict to addict. These can be both physical and mental.
Some precautionary signs to look for include some of the following:
- Decreased productivity in the work and professional environment.
- Excessive time spent in online activities such as gaming, trading of stocks, gambling, and even auctions often leads to overspending and problems at work.
- Excessive use of social networking sites to create online relationships rather than real-life relationships.
- Disassociation from reality.
- Losing close friends.
- Disconnection from family.
- Lying to others and oneself about the amount of time spent on the internet.
Psychological Symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder
Any kind of addiction can carry weight on an individual’s shoulders. Some psychological symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder include some of the following:
- Constant guilt after spending a large amount of time online.
- Difficultness avoiding the internet for entertainment for more than a few days.
- Losing sense of time when online.
- Feelings of frustration and anxiety when unable to go online.
- Irrational explanations for unhealthy levels of use.
- Avoiding the negative effects of excessive internet usage.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities.
- A sense of serenity and happiness only when online.
- Feeling a negative attitude when not on the internet.
Physical Symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder
Even more than psychological symptoms, physical symptoms can appear and tire you out as well. Some physical symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder include some of the following:
- A constant backache.
- Weight gain or loss.
- Troubles sleeping.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Difficulty in vision. Blurred or strained vision.
Internet Addiction Help
So, for those who do indeed suffer from internet addiction, and have a problem moderating their usage there is help. One avenue is to seek out a therapist that deals exclusively with addiction. Many addiction therapists recently have expanded their practice and understanding to include internet addiction and how to help clients that suffer from it.
Another method is cognitive behavioral therapy. This works by identifying the specific usage patterns and implementing new schedules in order to interrupt previously developed patterns. Interruptions that act as external stoppers that require actually detaching from the internet. It also helps to establish realistic goals for how much time is spent on the internet. The most drastic measure that can be taken, one that is gaining popularity, is a residential inpatient treatment center where trained staff can work with and help the addict. They can help identify and specifically deal with the symptoms related to addiction. Recovery happens in a supportive and medically supervised environment.
Moderating Internet Usage
Unlike the treatment of other addictions which support complete abstinence, the trick with internet addiction is creating a healthy level of moderation and control. The use of the internet is a fact of life. There is no real way around that. But on the other hand, it should not be all-consuming. The internet and the time spent online should not be the extent of all social interaction. It seems a quick fix to life’s problems, a world where a person can be who they want to be, how they want to be. But at the end of the day one needs to realize that, that is not reality.
Life is an experience that needs to happen in real life. So much can be missed when life is spent behind a computer screen or staring into a cell phone. With new technologies being created and produced at faster and faster speeds. This type of addiction is becoming more and more prevalent. For people who do have a problem with the internet, who do have trouble moderating their online presence there is help out there.