Is the Internet Becoming an Addiction?
Almost everyone spends a significant portion of their day surfing the Internet, but is our collective web compulsion becoming an addiction for some of us?
Although it is not officially listed as a diagnosable mental health disorder, it is under consideration, modeled after gambling disorder and recognized as a legitimate addiction in Europe and parts of Asia. In Amsterdam, Holland, The Smith & Jones Center was created as the first addiction facility for the treatment of internet and video game disorders, with South Korea declaring internet addiction a public health crisis.
Although the U.S. is yet to recognize our country’s compulsive Internet use as a disorder, it has been the subject of many studies since the mid-1990s when it was first proposed at an American Psychological Association annual conference – although it is not listed in the “DSM-V” as an official disorder, it is included in section III, designating it as requiring more research.
Due to the Internet being present in our society, it can be difficult to ascertain whether or not someone is suffering from a possible Internet addiction or compulsion. In order for someone to be diagnosed with a behavioral or substance addiction, they must meet two prerequisites – the person needs more of the substance or behavior to keep them going and becomes irritable if they do not get more of the substance.
Common symptoms of a possible Internet issue include restlessness and irritability when attempting to cut back on use, preoccupation with the Internet such as thoughts about online things, an adverse effect on one’s interpersonal relationships, career and educational opportunities and a desire to use the Internet in response to feelings of anxiety or depression.
Because of the prevalence of existing mental health issues such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder amongst heavy Internet users, Internet addictions are generally difficult to diagnose. Whether the presence of such mental health issues in conjunction with excessive web use increases the likelihood of an Internet addiction developing is still a topic of much contention.
Forms of compulsive Internet use
Since the Internet is a broad term encompassing many individual things with their own potential for addiction, internet compulsions are categorized into five categories:
• Net compulsions – these include addictions to video games online shopping, gambling, and stock trading
• Cyber-relationships – this category pertains to social networking and chat room addictions, marked by a valuation of online friendships over real ones
• Cyber-sex – this encompasses not only actual cyber sex but addictions to adult chat rooms and Internet pornography that adversely affect intimate relationships in real life
• Information addiction – Probably the least likely to be considered an addiction since it is the easiest to be done under the guise of being productive, information addictions include constant searching of databases resulting in social isolation
• Computer addiction – this pertains to more of an addiction to sitting in front of the computer itself, leading to playing flash games, obsessively checking email, organizing files or other borderline meaningless tasks
Since computers are necessary for many jobs, it is easy to develop a dependency on their use without even realizing it. Compounding this problem is the fact that many addictive tasks such as database and stock market checking needs to be done, making an addiction much more difficult to ascertain. If you feel like you may be developing an Internet use compulsion, try employing strategies such as keeping a log of time spent on the Internet to self-regulate your use or by increasing your amount of exercise and outdoor activities.