What is Internet Addiction?
Internet Addiction is defined as any online-related, compulsive behaviour which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. Internet addiction has also been called Internet Dependency and Internet Compulsivity. By any name, it is a compulsive behaviour that completely dominates the addict’s life. Internet addicts make the Internet a priority more important than family, friends, and work. The Internet becomes the organizing principle of addicts’ lives. They are willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behaviour.
What are the types and forms of Internet Addiction?
Internet Addiction can manifest itself in different forms. One may exhibit behaviours that belong to more than one form. Commonly known forms are:
- Information overload – too much online surfing leads to decreased productivity at work and fewer interactions with family members.
- Online pornography/ sex
- Online gambling (gambling addiction)
- Online gaming
- Online shopping
- Social Media
What causes Internet Addiction?
The Internet — like drugs, alcohol and gambling, provides the “high” and addicts become dependent on this cyberspace high to feel normal. They substitute unhealthy relationships for healthy ones. They opt for temporary pleasure rather than the deeper qualities of “normal” intimate relationships. Internet addiction follows the same progressive nature of other addictions. Internet addicts struggle to control their behaviours, and experience despair over their constant failure to do so. Their loss of self-esteem grows, fuelling the need to escape even further into their addictive behaviours. A sense of powerlessness pervades the lives of addicts.
Signs of Internet Addiction
The signs of Internet Addiction vary from person to person. For example, there are no set hours per day or number of messages sent that indicate Internet addiction. But here are some general warning signs that your Internet use may have become a problem:
- Losing track of time online. Do you frequently find yourself on the Internet longer than you intended? Does a few minutes turn in to a few hours? Have you tried to limit your Internet time but failed?
- Having trouble completing tasks at work or home. Do you find your work (e.g. school work) piling up? Perhaps you find yourself working late to finish up things more often because you can’t complete your work on time.
- Isolation from family and friends. Is your social life suffering because of all the time you spend online? Are you neglecting your family and friends? Do you feel like no one in your “real” life—understands you like your online friends? Do you get irritated or cranky to the people around you if your online time is interrupted?
- Feeling guilty or defensive about your Internet use. Are you sick of people around you nagging at you to get off the computer or put your smartphone down and spend time together? Do you hide your Internet use or lie to your people about the amount of time you spend on the computer or mobile devices and what you do while you’re online?
- Feeling a sense of euphoria while involved in Internet activities. Do you use the Internet as an outlet when stressed, sad, or for sexual gratification or excitement?
Internet or computer addiction can also cause physical discomfort such as:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (pain and numbness in hands and wrists)
- Dry eyes or strained vision
- Back aches and neck aches; severe headaches
- Sleep disturbances
- Pronounced weight gain or weight loss
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. One commonly and widely used assessment tool is that developed by Dr. Kimberly S. Young. The Internet Addiction Test (IAT) by Dr. Young is a reliable and validated measure of addictive use of Internet. It consists of 20 items that measures mild, moderate and severe level of Internet Addiction.
Handling children and youth Internet Addiction
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1. Computer/Internet Addiction Symptoms, Causes and Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved 30 June, 2014 from http://www.psychguides.com/guides/computerinternet-addiction-symptoms-causes-and-effects/
2. Internet & computer addiction. (2013). Retrieved 30 June, 2014 from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/internet_cybersex_addiction.htm