What we know about Internet Addiction

There is still a considerable amount of research into the causes of digital addiction but this is what we do know.

  1. Internet addiction is defined as as any online-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living (e.g relationships, mealtimes, sleep, daily work etc.) and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.
  2. There is no clear pattern of behaviour that defines internet addiction, hence the different terms applied such as: Digital Addiction, Electronic Screen Syndrome, Internet dependency, Internet compulsivity, Smartphone Addiction, Screen Addiction, Game Addiction and Social Media Addiction. By any name, it is a compulsive behaviour that completely dominates the addict’s life. All follow a common theme, a digital device with an online connection. Internet addicts make the Internet a priority more important than family, friends, and work. The Internet becomes the organizing principle of addicts’ lives.
  3. People addicted to t he internet may display some or all of the following;
    • compulsive use of the Internet
    • a preoccupation with being online,
    • lying or hiding the extent or nature of your online behaviour
    • inability to control or curb your online behaviour.
    • If your Internet use pattern interferes with your life in any way shape or form, (e.g. does it impact your work, family life, relationships, school, etc.) you may have a problem.
    • In addition, if you find that you are using the Internet as a means to regularly alter your mood you may be developing a problem. It is important to note that it is not the actual time spent online that determines if you have a problem, but rather how that time you spend impacts your life.
    • To assess your disorder, consider seeking expert evaluation using the IAT, the first validated measure of Internet addiction.
  4. Internet addiction can be understood by comparing it to other types of addictions. Individuals addicted to alcohol or other drugs, for example, develop a relationship with their “chemical(s) of choice” — a relationship that takes precedence over any and all other aspects of their lives. Addicts find they need drugs merely to feel normal. In Internet addiction, a parallel situation exists. The Internet — like food or drugs in other addictions — 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.
  5. Statistics show 6% of the worlds population (420 million) are addicted to the internet. (Note: Material first Published Online: 9 Dec 2014 https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2014.0317 no further research to identify number has since been published. China has some of the highest addiction rates in the world followed by, Taiwan, and Korea where 30 percent or more of the population may experience problematic Internet use.
  6. The most common types of Internet addiction are
    • Sexting
    • Cybersex
    • Net Compulsions
    • Online relationships
    • Compulsive information seeking
    • Gaming Addiction
    • Online gambling
  7. Those who become addicted to the internet may already suffered from other addictions, such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, and sex.
  8. The majority of Internet addicts suffer from emotional problems such as depression, mood disorders, social disorders, and anxiety disorders and will use the fantasy world of the Internet to psychologically escape unpleasant feelings or stressful situations.
  9. Internet addicts also suffer from relationship problems in almost 75% of the cases and use interactive online applications such as social media, virtual communities, video games or online gaming as a safe way of establishing new relationships and more confidently relating to others through the virtual world.
  10. Treatment options for Internet addicts include inpatient, outpatient, and aftercare support, and self-help groups. At the time of writing there is only one inpatient center operating in Australia, The Cabin, Sydney.
  11. Treatment options may also include family counseling, support groups, and educational workshops for addicts and their families. Treatment focuses on controlling and moderating internet use rather abstain from the addiction like drugs or alcohol. Removal of internet use from ones life is simply not realistic in today’s world which does make it a little harder to control.

  • DWH