Internet addiction, also called “Internet Addiction Disorder”, centers on excessive internet use that interferes with a person’s daily life.
Activities that are often associated with internet addiction include but are not limited to:
- Online gaming
- Watching videos/movies
- Watching pornography
- Social networking
- Online bidding
Signs and Symptoms of Internet Addiction
For people who have an internet addiction, consequences such as poor academic and work performance, family and marital tension, job loss and debt might be experienced. When internet use is an addiction, these distinct signs and symptoms will be present:
- The person’s life, feelings and behavior are controlled by using the internet.
- The person experiences a sort of “high” when using the internet. The high often includes feelings of courage, self-esteem, open-mindedness, intelligence and assertiveness.
- The person must use the internet more and more to get the same high.
- If the person stops using the internet, they show signs of withdrawal.
- The person might lose control and relapse back into old patterns of excessive internet use after having stopped for a length of time.
- The person will display brain structure changes similar to those found in drug or alcohol addicted people.
Causes & Consequences
Internet addiction involves chronic engagement with the internet. It allows a person to escape reality. Some online activities have psychological effects that lead to disassociation, time distortion and instant gratification. Further, the internet has no limits and users have little accountability for their online behaviors.
A person with an internet addiction will likely have another clinical diagnosis. Internet addiction is often associated with depression, anxiety disorders, dissociative disorder, bipolar disorder and other addictions like sex addiction and substance abuse.
Some professionals believe that internet addiction might actually be an impulse-control disorder or an obsessive-compulsive disorder rather than an addiction. Others believe that when a person uses the internet for a specific purpose (such as gambling, social networking or pornography), the person’s disorder is with the activity itself not with the internet; the internet is simply another avenue with which to fulfill the compulsion to engage in the activity. Still others believe that internet addiction is not a true disorder but rather a symptom of another existing disorder; the excessive internet use is a form of self-medication for the true underlying disorder.
A clinical test for internet addiction called the “Internet Addiction Test” has been devised. When a person is diagnosed with internet addiction, a number of strategies can be used to help the person recover. Strategies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and content-control software can be utilized in addition to many other therapies and strategies. Some addiction treatment centers have started offering special programs or tracks specifically for internet addiction.