The Internet has made life a lot easier by making information more accessible to all and creating connections with different people around the world. However, it has also led a lot of people to spend too much time in front of the computer, so much so that it becomes the center of their lives. This can lead to an Internet or computer addiction.
Computer/Internet Addiction Symptoms, Causes and Effects
An Internet or computer addiction is the excessive use of the former or the latter. The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) actually includes it as a disorder that needs further study and research. In a publication on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, the study, which was conducted by the Department of Adult Psychiatry in the Poland Medical University, showed that Internet addiction was seen to be quite popular and common among young people, especially those who were only children. In fact, every fourth child is addicted to the Internet. This is an alarming statistic that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Are There Different Types of Computer or Internet Addictions?
Internet or computer addictions manifest in several ways that cover various degrees and areas of Internet usage. They are the following:
- Information overload. Too much online surfing leads to decreased productivity at work and fewer interactions with family members.
- Compulsions. Excessive time spent in online activities such as gaming, trading of stocks, gambling and even auctions often leads to overspending and problems at work.
- Cybersex addiction. Too much surfing of porn sites often affects real-life relationships.
- Cyber-relationship addiction. Excessive use of social networking sites to create relationships rather than spending time with family or friends may destroy real-life relationships.
These are the most commonly observed types of Internet addiction. If you or someone you know is suffering from this kind of addiction, you don’t have to face it on your own. We can help you. Just call 1-888-997-3147 at any time to speak to one of our trained advisors.
What Causes an Addiction to Computers or the Web?
Whenever Internet addicts feel overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, lonely or anxious, they use the Internet to seek solace and escape. Studies from the University of Iowa show that Internet addiction is quite common among males ages 20 to 30 years old who are suffering from depression.
Certain people are predisposed to having a computer or Internet addiction, such as those who suffer from anxiety and depression. Their lack of emotional support means they turn to the Internet to fill this need. There are also those who have a history of other types of addiction, such as addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex and gambling. Even being stressed and unhappy can contribute greatly to the development of a computer or Internet addiction. People who are overly shy and cannot easily relate to their peers are also at a higher risk of developing a computer or Internet addiction.
What Are the Signs of an Online Addiction Problem?
An addiction to the Internet is manifested in both physical and emotional symptoms; however, these specifics may vary for each person. These are basically warning signals that an addiction may be developing. If you feel that you or a loved one has these symptoms, it is not yet too late. All it takes is a phone call to 1-888-997-3147 and we can help you.
Emotional Symptoms of Online Addiction
The following symptoms are typical of online addicts:
- Feelings of guilt
- Euphoric feelings when in front of the computer
- Unable to keep schedules
- No sense of time
- Avoiding doing work
Physical Symptoms of Online Addiction
The following symptoms are characteristic of someone who uses the computer for a very long period of time:
- Weight gain or loss
- Disturbances in sleep
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Blurred or strained vision
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of an Online Addiction
The short-term effects of an online addiction include unfinished tasks, forgotten responsibilities and weight gain. Long-term effects are seen more in the physical symptoms such as backache, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and vision problems from staring at the screen. It can also lead to bankruptcy, especially if the time spent online is focused on shopping, gambling and gaming.
According to Oberlin College of Computer Science, aside from being dependent on the Internet, addicts may develop technostress wherein they internalize how a computer works, such as accelerated time and perfect results. It can also cause social withdrawal, feeling more at ease interacting with people online rather than in person.
Is There a Test or Self-Assessment I Can Do?
A lot of studies and surveys are being conducted to measure the extent of this type of addiction. Dr. Kimberly S. Young has created a questionnaire based on other disorders to assess levels of addiction. It is the Internet Addict Diagnostic Questionnaire or IADQ. Answering positively to five out of the eight questions may be indicative of an online addiction. Here are the questions:
- Are you preoccupied with using the Internet? Do you think about your previous or future online activity?
- Do you have the need to be online longer to be satisfied?
- Have you made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to cut back, stop or control your Internet use?
- Do you become moody, restless, irritable or depressed when you stop or decrease your Internet use?
- Is your time spent online longer than what you originally planned?
- Did your online use negatively affect a significant relationship, education, career or job?
- Do you conceal the extent of your Internet usage from your therapist, family or others?
- Does the Internet serve as an escape from problems or relief from a bad mood?
Medication: Are There Drug Options for Internet/Computer Addictions?
These addictions may be triggered by underlying emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety, so medications used for those conditions can be given in the hope that treating the underlying cause will cause a cessation of the Internet or computer addiction. These medications are antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
Drugs: Possible Options
When the addiction gets out of control, medications are sometimes needed to keep Internet addicts from harming themselves by staying online too long. Escitalopram is a drug option that has been shown to be effective for Internet addiction, according to studies by Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Medication Side Effects
As with all other medications for psychological disorders, taking a medication for online addiction may cause adverse side effects. It’s important to consult with your doctor regarding any potential side effects prior to starting any medication.
Antidepressant Drug Addiction, Dependence and Withdrawal in Online Addicts
Taking an antidepressant for an online addiction may also lead to dependence on this medication. Withdrawal from an antidepressant should always be gradual and under medical supervision as is done with people who are being treated for depression.
The taking of medications should always be monitored and dispensed by a qualified health professional. Overdose of these medications may lead to further complications and can be extremely harmful.
Depression and Online Addiction
Depression is seen to be a risk factor and cause for online addiction. Treating depression may lessen the chance that an online addiction will occur.
Dual Diagnosis: Online Addiction and Substance Abuse
An Internet addiction and substance abuse often go hand in hand with each other. Most of the time, those who abuse alcohol or drugs are those with the predisposition to get addicted to the Internet as it serves as a means of escape from reality.
A study from Swansea and Milan Universities shows that when Internet addicts go offline or stop using the computer, they experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by drug addicts. This shows that these addictions are often interrelated.
Getting Help for an Internet Addiction
Any addiction is no laughing matter. It affects not only the addict but also everyone who surrounds them. If you think you need help for internet or computer addiction, or someone you know needs assistance to stop this addiction, we can help. Just call 1-888-997-3147. We are here to help you get back on the road to an addiction-free life.
There are no clear-cut definitions or defined causes of Internet addiction. Mainly this is because internet addiction is a newer phenomenon; there are not many precedents. However, that doesn't mean that someone can't have an addiction. As more research is completed around this topic it's likely some clear-cut causes will emerge.
How is Internet Addiction Defined
As noted above, there are few actual researched-based definitions available. Additionally, you can divide Internet addictions into categories - like online shopping addictions, an online gambling addiction, or cyber sex addiction.
That said, at the root of every addiction, whether it's drugs, food, or computer addiction, there's a common factor that suggests that the addiction is indeed an addiction, and not just a habit. That common factor is that the habit creates a negative impact on the person's regular life. A real addiction negatively affects home life, interpersonal relationships, work, and emotional health. Often an addiction will negatively impact a person's physical health as well.
Some signs of internet addiction according to the The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery (IIAR) include:
- A large preoccupation with being online. Often an individual will think a lot about their last session online, and be excited about the next time they can access the Web.
- An individual needs to use the Internet more frequently to get satisfaction from the activity.
- Feeling bored, upset, restless, moody, depressed or anxiety-ridden when they can't be online.
- Becoming angry when someone needs the computer or refusing to share time - most common in households where there are shared computers.
- Forgets all about time when online.
- Can't stop getting online, no matter how hard they try.
- compulsive lying to friends and family about time spent online.
- Puts a job, relationship, or other responsibility at risk in order to continue to spend time online. For example, a person may cancel a date, miss a family dinner, or forget a work meeting because of their computer time.
- Uses the Internet to escape frequently. In some cases the Internet may be the only activity that calms an addicted and agitated person down.
- When online, or after an online session a person may feel a sense of manic depression, guilt, anxiety, or hopelessness.
There's a simple Internet Addiction Test (IAT) offered by the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery. This test is easy to take and can point out if you, or someone you love, may have an addiction problem with the Internet. They have a few more good quizzes available as well, including, a Quiz for Obsessive Online Gambling and a Cybersexual Addiction Quiz.
Some Causes of Internet Addiction
While more research needs to be completed about why people become addicted to the Internet, there are some known causes of Internet addiction. Causes can vary by age, gender, and of course, personality.
Some people become addicted to the Internet because of the social connections they make online. Some online relationship activity can be useful and healthy, and many people utilize forums for advice or chats for relaxation, but when a person has many close online friends and no one to count on in the real world, problems can develop.
An Internet addicted individual though, will develop highly emotional attachments to online pals or even online dates. Online relationships are attractive to some because it can feel less risky than meeting live people in person. Online friends allow people to escape their real lives and possibly fulfill their needs for emotional contacts that they don't get in real life.
Some who are addicted to online relationships may even create pretend personalities or personas of themselves. This is actually a dangerous practice because often the people who create these fake lives are already low on self-esteem or desperately seeking the approval of others. Instead of seeking real help, say from a counselor, these individuals just re-make themselves online, while changing nothing about their real offline lives. This can lead to increased symptoms of depression and feelings of inadequacy.
Personality Trait Causes
One interesting paper on Internet addiction notes that some people may be predisposed to online addictions; much like one can be predisposed to an alcohol addiction. What the paper points out is that someone with the right mix of an addictive personality, life stressors, and poor emotional health could get addicted if the Internet happens to also fall into their life during this time.
Along with the previous example are people who may become addicted because the internet reinforces a positive feeling. For example, a wife not getting her emotional needs met by her husband, may hop online and find friendly sites and people willing to talk. Each time she has an issue with her husband there are positives to getting online. This reinforces the hold the Internet can have on someone.
Support for People Addicted to the Internet
- Your best support may come from your personal doctor. He or she may be able to pinpoint why you personally have become addicted and can offer suggestions for support and even medication to treat the underlying causes of Internet addiction. For example, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medication so you will find meeting people in real life less stressful.
- The Center for Internet Addiction Recovery has a blog about recovery. It's a little odd that a recovery method for an Internet addiction is online, but this blog does also point out other good resources and organizations.
- Internet-a-holics Anonymous offers both online and offline treatment options.