It is hard to believe that something as beneficial as the internet could become a problem, but for some people, that is exactly what happens. Some have become so consumed by the internet that it begins to interfere with their daily lives. For most people, the internet is a useful tool that is part of everyday life. For those others though, it is all they think about and it is affecting their health, relationships and even their finances. It is difficult for others to comprehend what internet addiction actually is and how something so useful can cause harm.

Addiction is classed as a pattern of behaviour that causes harm for the affected individual. When you are compelled to do something, and you feel as though you have no control over it, it can be considered an addiction.

There are many members of the public who just do not fully understand what internet addiction is, or any other addiction for that matter. They believe it is something that someone chooses, but this is not true. Addiction is an illness and those affected have no control over it.

How Does Internet Addiction Develop?

As there is no chemical substance involved with an internet addiction, it can be difficult to spot the signs. Many individuals do not realise they are affected until actually trying to cut back on their internet use and discover how hard this is.

As with all addictions, an internet addiction tends to develop gradually. Since almost everyone uses the internet to some degree, it is not something that many view as harmful. Moreover, when used correctly, it is not.

However, those with a predisposition to addictive behaviour may find that they soon begin to struggle to control their use of it. In the beginning, they might have used the internet for a specific purpose, such as to find information or to make a purchase.

After a while, they will begin to use the internet more and more and may become preoccupied with it. Their use of the internet might begin to interfere with daily life as they lose track of time when they are on it. Furthermore, they may begin to feel irritable when unable to access it.

Could You Have an Internet Addiction

It is difficult to know what internet addiction feels or looks like because there are no physical symptoms that could indicate you have a problem. But there are certain tell-tale signs that might alert you to the fact that you have a problem and need help. For example:

  • Do you spend a lot of time on the internet, or thinking about being online?
  • Do you frequently lose track of time when online?
  • Do you spend longer online than you had planned to?
  • Have you tried to cut back on your internet use without success?
  • Do you feel restless or irritable when you are not online or if you are going somewhere where there is no internet access?
  • Do you prefer to be online than spend time with your loved ones?
  • Are your relationships with others suffering because of your internet use?
  • Do you lie to family members about the amount of time you are online?
  • Does being online make you feel better or help you to forget about your problems?
  • Do you neglect responsibilities in favour of being online?
  • Are you losing sleep or forgetting to eat because you lose track of time when online?

If you can relate to any of the above, it is likely that your use of the internet is problematic, and you could benefit from professional help.

What’s the Harm in an Internet Addiction?

It is easy to think that an internet addiction is not harmful – how could it be, right? But the reality is that anything can become harmful when it interferes with the ability to go about day-to-day life. Excessive use of the internet can lead to not getting enough sleep, not eating enough, and missing days at work or school, which can all lead to other problems.

An internet addiction can have negative consequences for many areas of life. If you find yourself addicted to the internet, you may develop problems interacting with others in the real world. As you prefer to spend most of your time online, you may begin to isolate yourself and spend increasingly more time by yourself. This will inevitably affect your relationship with others.

Over time, you might find that your health begins to suffer. The longer you spend staring at a screen, the more chance there is that you will develop problems with your vision, your neck, and your spine. You could also develop carpal tunnel syndrome, particularly if you spend your time playing online games.

What Causes Internet Addiction?

It is difficult to pinpoint an exact cause of any addiction, including internet addiction. What internet addiction is caused by may be different from one person to the next. For example, those who suffer from mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, may be predisposed to developing an internet addiction.

The same can be said of those who have a family history of addiction. There are also individuals who find it difficult to interact with others in the real world. These people tend to have a low self-esteem and may suffer with a lack of confidence. The ability to create online personas that are completely different from their own can contribute greatly to an internet addiction. Some individuals find they can be whoever they want to be from behind a computer screen, and this can cause them to become consumed by the internet.

Are There Different Types of Internet Addiction?

As there is just so much that the internet can be used for, addiction to it can take many different forms. Below are a few examples:

  • Social Media Addiction – Social media has become huge in recent times and it is how most young people communicate with each other nowadays. The need for likes, followers, and retweets etc. can result in many becoming obsessed with spending substantial amounts of time online.
  • Online Gambling Addiction – Online gambling has made it easier for more people to develop crippling addictions. It is possible for individuals to gamble in secret via their smartphones or other mobile devices, and a growing number of people are developing habits that are destroying their lives.
  • Online Gaming Addiction – Online gaming is another activity that has grown in popularity in recent years. In fact, almost every new computer game that is released today has an element of online use. More and more people are interacting with other online gamers and the ability to play against someone on the other side of the world is now possible. Computer gaming is no longer a solitary activity and many people are developing such addictions.
  • Online Pornography Addiction – An online pornography addiction is also known as a cybersex addiction and involves excessive viewing of online pornography. It may also involve the use of online sex lines.

Treatment for Internet Addiction

Treatment for internet addiction is more complex than treatment for, say, a drug or alcohol addiction because it is virtually impossible in today’s day and age to completely abstain from the internet.

Treatment involves learning how to use the internet sensibly. Through counselling and therapy, internet addicts can learn the cause of their addictive behaviour and develop ways to deal with triggers to it going forward.

A digital detox may be required for those with a severe internet addiction. This may involve spending time in an inpatient facility where there is absolutely no access to the internet. A period of abstinence can help to break an unhealthy habit. However, to fully overcome an internet addiction, it will also be necessary to break unhealthy thought patterns and behaviours. This is achieved with therapy provided by experienced counsellors and therapists.

If you would like more information on what internet addiction is like and how it can be treated, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us here at Middlegate today. As well as providing information on internet addiction, we can assess the severity of your situation and provide a free referral to a treatment provider where you can get the help you need to regain control of your life again. Please call to find out more about how we can help you.

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