Most people do not associate the internet with the word addiction, but the reality is that many individuals have developed crippling addictions to it. In fact, internet addiction is becoming increasingly common and is having a negative impact on the lives of countless individuals, particularly young people whose lives often revolve around social media. How internet addiction impacts life varies from one person to the next and it can take many forms.
For example, there are those who will play online games to excess, literally becoming obsessed with the activity. Their need to play these games continuously has a negative impact on every other area of their life. Then there are others who become consumed by their need to check social media statuses. Yet others might become obsessed with online porn.
Whatever way you use the internet, if this use starts to interfere with daily life, it can be classed as an addiction.
How Internet Addiction Presents
It is easy to assume that addiction is something that refers to the use of mood-altering chemicals only, but in reality, addiction is any pattern of behaviour that can have a negative impact on life. Internet addiction is classed as an impulse control disorder, meaning it is similar to the likes of gambling addiction and shopping addiction.
There are certain warning signs as far as an internet addiction is concerned, such as preoccupation with using it and using it increasingly more to achieve a sense of satisfaction. If you are constantly thinking about the internet and are spending more time on it than you used to, it might very well be the case that you are developing, or indeed have developed, an addiction.
You may have noticed that you are spending progressively more time on the internet and have possibly tried to cut back on your use. If you do have an addiction, you probably found this was not achievable though. You might have become irritable, anxious, or moody when trying to stay away from the internet, finding that once you returned to internet use, these feelings passed.
Another sign of internet addiction is spending more time online than you had planned to. People with an addiction to the internet regularly lose track of time while browsing the net. They will begin to neglect other responsibilities in their life in favour of spending time online. They could lose interest in hobbies or activities once enjoyed or will forego spending time with loved ones if this interferes with the amount of time they can spend online.
How Does Internet Addiction Affect Life?
The internet has become such a huge part of daily life for most people. It is used for everything from academic purposes to booking holidays and general shopping. However, when it becomes a way of escaping reality, it can start to be a problem.
Some individuals become so consumed by the internet that they forget how to live in the real world. Their only interaction with other people tends to be in the virtual world, and many then end up becoming socially awkward when presented with real-life situations.
Just going by the few above-mentioned issues, it is easy to see how internet addiction can affect life. So if you have become obsessed with being online, your relationships with others will almost certainly start to deteriorate. You might be spending so much time online that you have little time left for anyone or anything else. This will almost certainly have a negative impact on, for example, your relationships with others in your life.
Family members and friends will find it hard to understand why you are spending so much time online. They may be forced to take on your responsibilities at home, while work colleagues may have to pick up the slack from your poor performance at work. This can cause others to become resentful towards you, often damaging some relationships beyond repair.
Internet addiction can also have an adverse impact on health. If you are spending increasing amounts of time online, you will be neglecting your physical and mental health. You won’t be eating properly as you have little time for meal preparation. Convenience or junk foods will become your preference now as they allow you to spend more time online. This will mean you are not getting the right nutrients, which itself will have an impact on your health.
Your sleep patterns will become affected as you lose track of time and spend longer than planned online. This will affect your performance at work and at school and it will have a detrimental impact on your overall wellbeing.
Your financial situation will suffer because of your internet addiction. When spending too much time online, your ability to earn an income will suffer. You will often miss work, or you might be performing poorly when you do go, causing problems with your employer.
Your internet addiction might also require cash. For example, you may be spending money online when playing games, or you may have started gambling online. Perhaps you are paying for online porn or sex chat rooms. Whatever form your internet addiction takes, it can have implications for your financial situation.
What Causes Internet Addiction?
Obviously, not everyone who uses the internet will develop an addiction (indeed, the vast majority do not). There are some who do admit to spending more time than they really should online but who remain in full control over their use. They can stop when they want to, and their use of the internet never has a negative impact on daily life. So why do some people become addicted while others do not?
It is difficult to pinpoint an exact cause of internet addiction for each person; this is the same for every type of addiction. The reason for this is that there can be many different triggers for addiction. For some individuals, there will be multiple contributing factors that have all led to their addiction developing.
It is thought that in some people, internet use is similar to mood-altering chemicals in that it hijacks the pleasure and reward centres of their brain. These individuals get a bigger sense of pleasure from using the internet than others do, which then contributes to their need to use it again and again, resulting in a psychological dependency. As time goes by, they will need to use the internet for long periods of time or in different ways to achieve the same sense of pleasure that they did in the early days.
You may also have a family history of addiction, which could mean you are predisposed to developing an addiction yourself. Or maybe your family history includes mental health problems such as anxiety disorder or depression. If this is the case, you may be using the internet as a way to relieve symptoms of these disorders. You might be using the internet to escape painful memories associated with a traumatic experience.
Getting Help for an Internet Addiction
Treating an internet addiction can be tough, especially as it is not yet a widely recognised illness. Moreover, the fact that it is almost impossible to abstain completely from the internet makes it harder to treat. Most people use the internet every day, and because it surrounds us everywhere we go, it can be hard to learn how to overcome an addiction to it.
That being said, it is not impossible to overcome an internet addiction; it just requires learning to develop a healthy relationship with it. This can be done with therapy. It is necessary to first get to the root cause of the addiction and work from there. Professional counsellors and therapists will work with you to find out what caused your addiction so that they can help you to overcome this issue.
It is likely that behavioural therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy will be used to help you learn how to challenge any negative thoughts that are driving your behaviour. You will then learn how to develop positive coping strategies that you can implement into daily life to prevent a return of your addictive behaviour going forward.
At UKAT, we have a team of expert counsellors and therapists working in all our clinics, each specialising in different addictions, including internet addiction. If you need help to overcome this illness, please give us a call. We can help you to get your life back on track.