Computer Addiction and Internet Addiction Disorder

Do you stay up late at night using the internet? Are you grumpy or anxious when you can’t log on? Do you need to use the internet to feel satisfied? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from internet addiction.
‘In recent years, the medical community all over the world has come to slowly accept that internet use leads to addiction. And both video games and internet addiction are now well recognised mental health disorders,’ -- Dr Hemant Mittal, Neuro psychiatrist.
While time spent online can be hugely productive, compulsive Internet use can interfere with daily life, work, and relationships. When you feel more comfortable with your online friends than your real ones, or you can’t stop yourself from playing games, gambling, or compulsively checking your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device—even when it has negative consequences in your life—then you may be using the Internet too much.

What is Internet addiction or computer addiction?

Internet Addiction, otherwise known as computer addiction, online addiction, or Internet addiction disorder (IAD), covers a variety of impulse-control problems, including:
  • Cybersex Addiction – compulsive use of Internet pornography, adult chat rooms, or adult fantasy role-play sites impacting negatively on real-life intimate relationships.
  • Cyber-Relationship Addiction – addiction to social networking, chat rooms, texting, and messaging to the point where virtual, online friends become more important than real-life relationships with family and friends.
  • Net Compulsions – such as compulsive online gaming, gambling, stock trading, or compulsive use of online auction sites such as eBay, often resulting in financial and job-related problems.
  • Information Overload – compulsive web surfing or database searching, leading to lower work productivity and less social interaction with family and friends.
  • Computer Addiction – obsessive playing of off-line computer games, such as Solitaire or Minesweeper, or obsessive computer programming.
The most common of these Internet addictions are cybersex, online gambling, and cyber-relationship addiction.

While time spent online can be hugely productive, compulsive Internet use can interfere with daily life, work, and relationships.

Am I Internet addicted? Do I have Internet Addiction Disorder?

Healthy vs unhealthy Internet use
The Internet provides a constant, ever-changing source of information and entertainment, and can be accessed from most smartphones as well as tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. Email, blogs, social networks, instant messaging, and message boards allow for both public and anonymous communication about any topic. But how much is too much Internet usage?

Each person’s Internet use is different. You might need to use the Internet extensively for your work, for example, or you might rely heavily on social networking sites to keep in touch with faraway family and friends.

Spending a lot of time online only becomes a problem when it absorbs too much of your time, causing you to neglect your relationships, your work, school, or other important things in your life. If you keep repeating compulsive Internet behavior despite the negative consequences in your offline life, then it’s time to strike a new balance.

How do people become addicted to the Internet?

To relieve unpleasant and overwhelming feelings
Many people turn to the Internet in order to manage unpleasant feelings such as stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. This can be a way to escape your problems or to quickly relieve stress or self-soothe.

Losing yourself online can temporarily make feelings such as loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and boredom evaporate into thin air. As much comfort as the Internet can provide, though, it’s important to remember that there are healthier (and more effective) ways to keep difficult feelings in check. These may include exercising, meditating, and practicing simple relaxation techniques.

For many people, an important aspect of overcoming Internet and computer addiction is to find alternate ways to handle these difficult feelings. Even when your Internet use is back to healthy levels, the painful and unpleasant feelings that may have prompted you to engage in unhealthy Internet use in the past will remain. So, it’s worth spending some time thinking about the different ways you intend to deal with stressful situations and the daily irritations that would normally have you logging on.

Risk factors for Internet addiction and computer addiction
You are at greater risk of Internet addiction if:
  • You suffer from anxiety. You may use the Internet to distract yourself from your worries and fears. An anxiety disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder may also contribute to excessive email checking and compulsive Internet use.
  • You are depressed. The Internet can be an escape from feelings of depression, but too much time online can make things worse. Internet addiction further contributes to stress, isolation and loneliness.
  • You have any other addictions. Many Internet addicts suffer from other addictions, such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex.
  • You lack social support. Internet addicts often use social networking sites, instant messaging, or online gaming as a safe way of establishing new relationships and more confidently relating to others.
  • You’re an unhappy teenager. You might be wondering where you fit in and the Internet could feel more comfortable than real-life friends.
  • You are less mobile or socially active than you once were. For example, you may be coping with a new disability that limits your ability to drive. Or you may be parenting very young children, which can make it hard to leave the house or connect with old friends.
  • You are stressed. While some people use the Internet to relieve stress, it can have a counterproductive effect. The longer you spend online, the higher your stress levels will be.

Signs and symptoms of Internet addiction or computer addiction

Signs and symptoms 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? Do you get irritated or cranky if your online time is interrupted?
  • Having trouble completing tasks at work or home. Do you find laundry piling up and little food in the house for dinner because you’ve been busy online? Perhaps you find yourself working late more often because you can’t complete your work on time—then staying even longer when everyone else has gone home so you can use the Internet freely.
  • 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—even your spouse—understands you like your online friends?
  • Feeling guilty or defensive about your Internet use. Are you sick of your spouse nagging 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 boss and family 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? Have you tried to limit your Internet time but failed?
Other symptoms include: changes in mood, pre-occupation with the internet and digital media, inability to control the amount of time spent using digital technology, need for more time or a new game to achieve a desired mood, withdrawal when not engaged with digital technology, diminishing social life, and adverse work and academic consequences.

Excessive social media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. Addicts spend more and more time online, losing on social interactions. Many spouses complain about their partner spending too much time online.

Physical symptoms of Internet addiction
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

Measurement of Addiction

Internet Addiction Test
The Internet Addiction Test (IAT) of Kimberly Young was the first instrument to assess internet addiction. Initial studies found that the IAT was a reliable measure that covers the key characteristics of pathological online use. The test measures the extent of a client’s involvement with the computer and classifies the addictive behavior in terms of mild, moderate, and severe impairment. The IAT was not validated during its development, but later studies have established its validity in English, and also in Italy and France, making it the first global psychometric measure.

Problematic Internet Use (PRIUSS)
A newer measure for PIU is the Problematic And Risky Internet Use Screening Scale (PRIUSS), developed by Jelenchick and colleagues in 2012. This scale differed in that it was based on a conceptual model of PIU created in an earlier study and that it was extensively validated through factor analysis during its development.

Compulsive Internet Use (CIUS)
The Compulsive internet Use Scale (CIUS) was developed by Meerkerk and colleagues at the Addiction Research Institute, Rotterdam, Netherlands. It was tested on two representative samples: 447 heavy internet users, and 16,925 regular internet users. The CIUS contains 14 items rated on a 5-point scale from 0 = never to 4 = very often. Example item: "How often do you find it difficult to stop using the internet when you are online?".

Griffiths criteria
Mark D. Griffiths' five criteria of internet addiction are:
  1. Salience: Using the internet dominates the person’s life, feelings and behaviour.
  2. Mood modification: The person experiences changes in mood (e.g. a ‘buzz’) when using the Internet.
  3. Tolerance: Increasing amounts of Internet use are needed to achieve the same effects on mood.
  4. Withdrawal symptoms: If the person stops using the Internet, they experience unpleasant feelings or physical effects.
  5. Relapse: The addict tends to relapse into earlier patterns of behaviour, even after years of abstinence or control.

Help tips to break your internet addiction

A number of steps may be taken to get your Internet use under control. While you can initiate many of these yourself, it’s important you get some outside support as well. It can be all too easy to slip back into old patterns of usage, especially if you use the Internet heavily for work or other important activities.
  1. Admission. Admit it. You are addicted to the net. It gives you the same rush, the same heady high of that first cigarette of the day. Admission is the first step to rehabilitation. This applies to any kind of addiction.
  2. Be honest with yourself. Your virtual life has taken over your real life. In fact, you end up thinking I need to update/upload this on my profile. Your need to take perfect holiday pictures overrules the actual enjoyment of the holiday. You need to focus on staying in the present.
  3. Think before you go online. Pause to think before you go online next time – what am I looking for? Why am I here? Making a mental note about what you plan to do once you are logged on gives you a direction to follow. Make a physical note if you must.
  4. What did you do online? Reflect on what you did once you went online. Did you just view your Facebook account. Or did some window shopping on e-commerce sites? or just blogging? Find out where you’re wasting your time.
  5. Stop wasting time. Decide beforehand the time limit you will spend on the net. Keep it to a minimum of 20 minutes. Twice a day should suffice.
  6. Ignore smart phone notifications. Our smart phones have literally become our third appendage. You don’t have to check every single thing out. Just shut off the notifications from time to time.

Internet addiction treatment, counseling, and support

Individuals may self-help themselves by applying the 'Help Tips' above. However, other corrective strategies include content-control software, counseling, cognitive behavioural therapy and support groups. One of the major reasons that the Internet is so addicting is the lack of limits and the absence of accountability.

Therapy and counseling for Internet addiction
Therapy can provide a tremendous boost in controlling Internet use for addicts. Cognitive-behavioral therapy provides step-by-step ways to stop compulsive Internet behaviors and change your perceptions regarding Internet, smartphone, and computer use. Therapy can also help you learn healthier ways of coping with uncomfortable emotions, such as stress, anxiety, or depression.

If your Internet use is affecting your partner directly, as with excessive cybersex or online affairs, marriage counseling can help you work through these challenging issues. Marriage counseling can also help you reconnect with your partner if you have been using the Internet for most of your social needs.

Group support for Internet addiction
Since Internet addiction is relatively new, it can be hard to find a real-life support group dedicated to the issue like Alcoholics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous. If that is a simultaneous problem for you, however, attending groups can help you work through your alcohol or gambling problems as well. Sex Addicts Anonymous may be another place to try if you are having trouble with cybersex. There may also be groups where you can work on social and coping skills, such as for anxiety or depression.

There are some Internet addiction support groups on the Internet. However, these should be used with caution. Although they may be helpful in orienting you and pointing you in the right direction, you need real-life people to best benefit from group support.

Related Terms

Internet addiction disorder (IAD) is now more commonly called problematic internet use (PIU) or compulsive internet use (CIU). Other terms include Internet overuse, problematic computer use or pathological computer use. These terms avoid the term addiction and are not limited to any single cause, but only reflect a general statement about excessive computer use that interferes with daily life.

Other habits such as reading, playing computer games, or watching a staggering amount of internet videos or movies are all troubling only to the extent that these activities interfere with normal life.

Supporters of disorder classification often divide IAD into subtypes by activity, such as excessive, overwhelming, or inappropriate pornography use, gaming, online social networking, blogging, email, or internet shopping. Opponents note that compulsive behaviors may not themselves be addictive.

References:
  1. Wikipedia: Internet addiction disorder - www.wikipedia.com. Nov 26, 2013 at 3.00PM. Available online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_addiction_disorder
  2. Helpguide.org: Internet & Computer Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment - www.helpguide.org. Nov 26, 2013 at 3:00PM. Available online at http://www.helpguide.org/mental/internet_cybersex_addiction.htm
  3. Health.india.com Health News: Are you an internet addict? - www.health.india.com. Nov 26, 2013 at 3:20 PM. Available online http://health.india.com/diseases-conditions/are-you-an-internet-addict/

2 comments:

  1. Its really impressive info you shared here and I love it a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I believe that this is a very serious dependence and parents should do everything to avoid it.

    ReplyDelete

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