The term “Internet addiction disorder” refers to a problem that develops when an individual becomes dependent on the use of the Internet, or other online devices, as a way to cope with life’s stresses. An increasing number of people are becoming addicted to the internet, especially in countries where it affects large numbers of people, like South Korea, where it is viewed as a national health issue. Asian researchers have carried out a large amount of research on the topic of Internet addiction. North America and Europe are also seeing a rise in this issue.
What is internet addiction?
Are you addicted to video games played on the Internet? Do you shop online compulsively? Do you have trouble stopping yourself from checking Facebook? Are you experiencing negative effects from excessive computer use on your physical, mental and academic well-being? Answering yes to any of those questions could indicate that you are suffering from an Internet addiction disorder, also known as Compulsive Internet Use (CIU), Problematic Internet Use (PIU) or iDisorder.
Originally considered a “real thing”. The original model was satirically compared to pathological gambling by Dr. Ivan Goldberg, MD in 1995. Several researchers, mental health counselors, and doctors recognized this disorder as a serious condition after it gained ground through a hoax. Although not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), it affects over 8.2% of the population in American and European cultures
However, it’s estimated to affect up to 38% of the population. It could be that there is no standardized or true criterion for Internet addiction disorder, which might be contributing to the widely varying prevalence rates. Researchers conduct studies in different ways depending on their field of study. Researchers also conduct research in different ways depending on ethnicity.
The lack of standardization in this field has negatively affected the advancement of the study of Internet addiction disorder. The research community generally accepts, however, that Internet Addiction is a subset of all forms of technology addiction. There are other types of media addiction outside of the Internet, such as television addiction, radio addiction, and others. As the name implies, its focus is on compulsion with the Internet.
Technology addiction has taken over the role of being the top culprit in the digital era due to the explosion of the internet age. Technology is all around you if you suffer from this disorder, which makes it even more troubling. It’s no surprise that the Internet now dominates our lives. Our daily lives can be greatly improved by using the Internet.
Have trouble finding the shirt you’re looking for? Don’t worry, you’ll find it on the Internet! Would you like to order a pizza? Why not order online? Order now! When you suffer from insomnia and cannot sleep, how are you supposed to call a friend to play a video game at 3 am? I bet there are people around the world who are awake and looking forward to playing! That’s why this illness can be difficult to treat – even if the symptoms aren’t as severe. Nowadays, it would be almost impossible to live without the Internet. It surrounds us constantly – and we use it every day.
Compulsive internet use does not involve frequent use of the Internet – watching a lot of YouTube videos, shopping online often, or checking social media. Instead, it involves becoming dependent on the Internet in ways that negatively impact one’s daily life. There are several types of Internet addiction disorder.
There are a number of categories of Internet Addiction, including gaming, social networking, emailing, blogging, shopping online, and inappropriate use of Internet pornographic sites. It’s not how much time you spend on the Internet that’s problematic – it’s how you use it. It can be just as important whether Internet use is risky as how much time is spent on it. Is your teen using a dating site that may be used by child molesters?
Internet addiction disorder has multidimensional features. This is one of them. There are additional multidimensional risk factors associated with problematic internet use, including impairments of physical and mental health, impairments of social functioning and emotional impairments.
Read: Brief Psychotic Disorder
Regular vs. problematic internet use
There is a difference between regular and problematic internet usage. You might spend several hours per day browsing in your free time as well as lengthy hours online for school or work.
Problematic internet use interferes with your social, professional, and personal lives as a result of excessive use of screens.
Internet addiction causes
Because Internet addiction disorder is not known to have an exact cause, it is unlikely to be precisely identified. There are several contributing factors to this disorder. The brain makeup of people suffering from Internet addiction disorder is similar to that of people suffering from chemical dependence, such as drug addiction or alcoholism.
Studies suggest that Internet addiction disorder may alter the structure of the brain physically – particularly by altering the amount of gray and white matter in prefrontal brain regions. Various skills associated with this region of the brain include remembering details, concentrating, and prioritizing. Internet addiction disorder is thought to be caused by structural issues in the prefrontal region of the brain that prevents the brain from prioritizing tasks in your life and preventing you from prioritizing your life, i.e., Internet use takes priority over necessary activities.
The pleasure center of the brain is also affected by Internet addiction disorder, as is the case with other dependency disorders. A reward for the addictive behavior is triggered by the release of dopamine, which promotes the pleasure experienced by the brain. Inevitably, the same pleasure is not induced with more and more of the activity, creating a dependency. It follows then, that if you find playing online games or shopping online pleasurable and suffer from an Internet addiction, you will need to engage in the behavior more and more to achieve the same sensation as you had before your addiction.
This behavior is also caused by the variable reinforcement effect of Internet addiction. Several theories regarding the origin of addiction to Internet activities (e.g., gaming, gambling, shopping, pornography, etc.) suggest that multiple layers of rewards are responsible for our addiction to Internet activity.
Thus, if you surf the web continuously, you can reap a variety of rewards that are unpredictable. Seeing Facebook updates may provide you with a repeating and unexpected source of good news every time you sign on. It could be that your good friend got engaged. A friend of yours has just given birth to a child when you sign on the next time! Perhaps the guy you are actually interested in just broke up with his long-term girlfriend and posted an update about it.
You’re always surprised by the results you get on each log-on, which will keep you entertained. The fact that certain games, such as MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) such as World of Warcraft and Everquest, never end is a contributing factor to Internet addiction.
There may also be some biological predispositions to Internet addiction disorder. The levels of dopamine and serotonin in those who suffer from this disorder are lower than those in the general population. It is possible to experience the same level of pleasure from Internet addiction by engaging in more behaviors than someone not suffering from that condition. People may engage in more behaviors to achieve this pleasure, increasing the risk of addiction.
There is also a link between Internet addiction and anxiety and depression. You may reach out to the Internet if you suffer from anxiety or depression already. Individuals who are shy or awkward may also be at an increased risk of becoming addicted to the Internet. You may turn to the Internet for solace if you suffer from anxiety or depression. It is emotional and rewarding, despite not requiring interpersonal interaction, that may make Internet use a good habit if you are shy or socially awkward.
Read: Disorganization Schizophrenia
What are the symptoms of internet addiction?
There are both physical and emotional manifestations of Internet addiction disorder. Here are a few of the most common emotional symptoms:
- Feelings of guilt
- Euphoria while using the computer
- Trouble setting priorities or keeping schedules
- Lack of sense of time
- Avoidance of Work
- Mood Swings
- Bored with Routine Tasks
The following are some physical symptoms of Internet addiction disorder:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Lack of nutrition (missing meals or eating too much to avoid leaving the computer)
- Personal Hygiene issues (e.g., not bathing to stay online)
- Neck Pain
- Dry Eyes and other Vision Problems
- Weight Gain or Loss
How does Internet addiction disorder affect a person? People who suffer from this disorder might find that it affects their personal relationships, work lives, finances or school lives. An individual with this condition is likely to isolate themselves from others because they spend much of their time in social isolation, and their relationships may suffer as a result.
It is also possible for Internet addicts to conceal their online activity or pretend they don’t spend much time online to cause distrust and dishonesty issues. Also, individuals may portray alternative personas online so that their online behaviors can be disguised. Financial difficulties can also occur when people avoid work, suffer bankruptcy or gamble online. Social withdrawal and difficulties developing new relationships can also be associated with Internet addiction because addicts are more at ease in an online environment than in a real-life situation.
Read: Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder
How is it diagnosed?
There is no standardized diagnosis for Internet addiction disorder, even as it gains momentum in the mental health field and is recently listed as a disorder in need of more research in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It has also been observed that this makes a significant contribution to the variance of prevalence across the population, ranging from 0.3% to a staggering 38%.
According to KW Beard’s 2005 article in CyberPsychology and Behavior, Internet addiction disorder is one of the more widely accepted diagnostic assessments. Internet addiction disorder is diagnosed by applying five diagnostic criteria:
- Always thinks about the past or future use of the Internet
- Uses the Internet for a prolonged period to gain satisfaction
- Aims to cut back, stop, or control Internet usage, but has not been successful
- Attempts to control Internet use with restlessness, moodiness, irritability or depression
- Spends too much time online
In addition, Beard (2005) mentions that Internet addiction disorder must also exhibit at least one of the following characteristics:
- Is in jeopardy of losing a significant relationship, a job, an education or career opportunity due to the Internet
- Disclosed their involvement with the Internet to other family members, therapists or others
- Makes use of the Internet as an escape from problems or as a means of coping with a dysphoric mood (for example, guilt, anxiety, depression, helplessness)
A mental test or questionnaire is likely to have been given to you if you sought help for Internet addiction disorder. These are some of the most common tools for diagnosing Internet Addiction:
- Young’s Internet Addiction Test
- Problematic Internet Use Questionnaire (PIUQ)
- Compulsive Internet Use Scale (CIUS)
Internet addiction treatment
Recognition of a problem is the first step towards treatment. The likelihood of you seeking treatment is low if you are not aware that there is a problem. Internet users are often not held accountable and have no boundaries. This is one of the big problems they face. There are some things you say and do online that you would never, ever say or do in person – simply because you are hidden behind a screen.
Whether treatment is needed in the first place is a matter of debate in the literature. Internet addiction disorder is considered by some to be a passing fad and it usually clears up on its own. There are studies that indicate that positive self-corrections are possible. Computer abstinence from the computer is not an effective method for correcting behavior, with the majority of professionals agreeing that software to control Internet use and sites that can be visited is an effective form of correction.
There are professionals who say medications can help treat Internet addiction disorder – since, if you are affected by this condition, you are also experiencing anxiety and depression. The general consensus is that treating anxiety and depression will often enable you to treat internet addiction as well. In some cases, these medications can lead to a reduction of online time from 35+ hours a week to 16 hours and have a profound effect on anxiety and depression. It has also been found that physical activity can decrease dependency on the Internet and increase serotonin levels.
Psychological treatments that are commonly used for Internet addiction disorder include:
- Individual, group or family therapy
- Behavior modification
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Equine Therapy
- Art Therapy
- Recreation Therapy
- Reality Therapy
Treatment centers have begun to spring up across the country and around the globe because of the prevalence of the disorder in society at large. Some electro-shock therapy methods were used to keep people off the Internet – these methods were banned in the past. Seattle, WA started ReSTART in 2009 as a residential treatment facility for pathological computer use. An application for USB-connected keyboards has been created to shock users visiting certain websites with a very low voltage shock. Individuals suffering from Internet addiction disorder have started de-addiction centers in other parts of the country and internationally.
Internet addiction disorder is commonly treated with multimodal treatments. This treatment method might involve both medication and psychotherapy for a person who suffers from this condition.
Read: Delusional Parasitosis
Consequences of internet addiction disorder
Addictions, whether to substances or behaviors, lead to detrimental consequences both for the person suffering from it and for their loved ones. IAD has both mental health and social consequences.
Several studies have found that a high percentage of internet users also have co-occurring mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. There is disagreement as to which occurred first, internet addiction or mental illness.
The excessive and compulsive use of the internet can also lead to social consequences because IAD can cause time disruptions. There is a possibility that IAD can adversely affect academic performance, work performance, and social participation. It is also possible to interrupt daily routines, such as maintaining good hygiene, keeping healthy diets, exercising, and spending time with family and friends.
There may be a superficial appearance that these disruptions are harmless, but they are not. It is possible for IAD to have a devastating effect on the life of an individual if left untreated.
Is existence ongoing or in doubt?
Internet addiction is now a real problem, despite being diagnosed as a hoax when the Internet evolved. Internet addiction disorder is not believed by many researchers to be a distinct condition in and of itself or rather a symptom of other disorders.
The fact that everything is online these days makes the interaction even more problematic. It’s hard to tell what’s happening online from what’s happening offline. Nowadays, everything takes place online. You can order food, converse with friends, play games, and even watch TV. Furthermore, other forms of digital technology are gaining popularity as well – which makes access to computers available to more people. Today, we can perform all kinds of tasks remotely using our phones, tablets, or other electronic devices – we don’t have to be physically seated in front of the computer anymore.
Despite this, other researchers continue to wonder if excessive Internet use is an addiction or an addiction-like disorder. It is accurate to say that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders acknowledges that there is still much to be studied about this disorder.