For many, the idea that an individual could be addicted to the internet is an absurd notion. However, an internet addiction is all too real and is something that is affecting many people – not just in the UK, but across the world. This type of addiction is typically described as an impulse control disorder, which means that it does not involve substance abuse but is more similar to a gambling addiction, for example.
Internet addictions are becoming increasingly common in the UK and many other countries. A case in point is that of a fourteen-year-old boy from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who was so obsessed with online gaming that he did not leave his home for half-a-year until his parents were forced to take action and haul him to therapy to combat his addiction.
Researchers at the International Society of Internet Addiction (ISIA) Conference, which was held in Kuala Lumpur, have reported that they are worried that the youth of Malaysia are excessively using the internet. Studies from that country have highlighted that a massive 37% of Malaysian parents were concerned that their children were spending too much time online and that it was interfering with their responsibilities, both at school and at home. A further 18% said that their children were choosing to spend time on the internet rather than socialise.
Child psychologist and ISIA spokesperson Dr Norharlina Bahar said that the research conducted found that males under the age of twenty-four in the Ipoh, Penang or Klang Valley areas are most at risk of developing an internet addiction. She commented on the issue further by saying, “Most spend time on online games and browsing social media and there is enough evidence to show links to anxiety, depression, physical health problems, school disconnection, unemployment, decreased job productivity and social isolation.
There is no denying that Internet eases our life, but when it affects your mental health capacity and interferes with your day-to-day work, then you need help.”
The effects of an internet addiction are prevalent across society, but our younger generations seem to be suffering from more than anyone else. This issue needs to be addressed before it is allowed to spiral out of control.
What Leads to an Internet Addiction?
Many factors can lead to an internet addiction. In some cases, internet users become infatuated with online friends, sometimes even developing an emotional attachment to them. Many people lacking perceived real-world social skills can feel totally different and be confident when online.
Many affected people enjoy the aspects of the internet that allow them to communicate with other individuals in the same position as them, maybe via chat rooms or social networking sites; others spend countless hours ‘blogging’ or ‘YouTubing’.
Warning Signs of an Internet Addiction
There are many signs to look out for if you suspect that a loved one is suffering from an internet addiction. Some of these can include:
Increased feelings of depression, irritability or restlessness when trying to cut down on internet usage
Preoccupation with the internet
Many unsuccessful attempts to cut back on or stop internet use
Using the internet as an escape from problems.
Physical symptoms such as dry eyes or strained vision; sleep disturbances or disorders such as insomnia; carpal tunnel syndrome; or backaches are all common among those suffering from an internet addiction.
If you are concerned that a friend or family member is developing, or is even currently suffering from, an internet addiction, then speak to this person and ensure that they know you will support them, no matter what.
What are the Subsequent Effects of an Internet Addiction?
An internet addiction can result in a whole host of personal, family, financial, occupational and academic problems. Many of those who suffer from this type of addiction will tend to spend a lot of time on their own and less time interacting with friends/family, leading them to be labelled as socially awkward or a social outcast.
Real life relationships can be severely damaged by an internet addiction as the individual will not show any interest in anything other than the internet – not even in their loved ones. Those who are addicted to the internet may even try to hide the fact that they are spending so much time online, which can lead to distrust in the relationships that were once sound.
The first step in any recovery process is to establish if there is a genuine problem. If you are worried about a loved one that may have an internet addiction, it is important to seek the correct advice and, eventually, medical help. UKAT can help by offering advice and information on this type of addiction as well as offering treatment options. Contact us today for help with any of your queries.