n today's age of social media it is difficult to make it through the day without accessing the internet for some matter or another. Technology is becoming progressively more intelligent and useful with each hour that passes, with more people than ever before using the internet to fulfil their jobs roles as well as logging on for social purposes.
Is Internet addiction a real disorder?
The ability to now search, chat, shop, work, play and find love on the internet is an extremely positive step, but as with everything there is always a negative hiding behind a positive and despite its benefits the World Wide Web can be a very dangerous place.
Currently internet addiction disorder is not recognised as an official clinical disorder, though recommendations from leading health experts advising it be recognised as one are firmly establishing the issue as a public health concern.
There are many subtypes of internet addiction including gaming, gambling, shopping and pornography use, all of which are characterised by inappropriate and excessive use of online activities which if undertaken person would be considered negative.
Types of Internet addiction
The term internet addiction disorder covers a large array of compulsive internet activities which include the following:
Cybersex and pornography
The internet gives us the ability to mask our true identities, become anonymous and to partake in fantasies which may not be possible in real life. All of this is a fantastic way to escape the humdrum of daily life but spending too much time on the internet engrossed in pornography, cybersex, adult chat rooms and fantasy relationships can have negative consequences on real life relationships.
Dating sites now mean that individuals are able to meet and interact with others online, often leading to the development of a relationship. Many couples who meet this way go onto establish strong and lasting bonds, but for some people the aspect of anonymity the internet allows means that they are dishonest about their age, sex, appearance and relationship status. This dishonesty means that when online friends meet in reality they often don’t live up to one another’s expectations.
The Gambling Commission estimates there are around 236,000 to 378,000 problem gamblers in Britain. Despite gambling having been an issue for many years now, it is the ease at which addicts can gamble online that makes it even more of a problem than it was before. Online casinos and gambling sites are now accessible 24/7 to anyone of any age meaning that not only is the temptation there for those who would not consider gambling in person, but it also makes it more difficult for those in remission to stay away.
Furthermore, online gambling frequently results in financial issues which can subsequently cause stress, anxiety and depression.
Online role playing games are a hugely popular and enjoyable way to spend leisure time, with the majority of individuals able to do so without becoming obsessive or addicted. However, there are some people who are unable to strike a balance between their gaming, family and work commitments and the compulsion to play these online games becomes uncontrollable. Some obsessive gamers reach the stage where they develop sleep disorders such as insomnia, postural issues, carpel tunnel syndrome and issues within relationships and work.
Nowadays we don’t even have to leave the comfort of our own homes if we want to shop, because almost everything is just a few clicks away with online shopping. Money off deals, online advertising and the fact that most high street stores and supermarkets are now available online means that spending money is easier than ever before. Shopping addicts have a tendency of buying things that they don’t need, nor can they afford but they make the purchase in order to experience the euphoria of either placing the winning bid or owning something new.
Internet addiction symptoms
Using the internet only really becomes a problem when individuals become so consumed with their online activity that they begin to neglect whats going on in reality.
Though each addiction will see a different set of symptoms unique to the individual, there are certain key indicators which may signify a problem. For example, many internet addicts find that they lose track of time because they are so caught up in what they are doing, whilst others report spending longer online than they had initially planned to.
Further indicators may include temporary highs and euphoria achieved through internet usage, social isolation from real-life friends and family, feelings of defensiveness which see the sufferer trying to justify their internet use, and lastly physical symptoms such as carpel tunnel syndrome, headaches, sleep problems, back ache, neck ache and weight fluctuations.
Internet addiction causes
This fact-sheet has touched on the idea that many individuals use the internet as an avenue of escapism. The freedom of the World Wide Web means that anyone who wants to step outside of the real world and temporarily leave behind their stresses, strains and responsibilities is free to do so. The uncensored nature of being online also means that everyone has a voice and everyone has the opportunity to outlet their feelings and opinions. This process is hugely cathartic for many, providing company, comfort and entertainment.
However, there are certain people who may find that the internet poses a significant risk of addiction. For example, anyone with history of a previous addiction may find they are vulnerable to the temptations of the internet. Gambling and sex addicts for instance may turn to the internet if they are unable to obtain their fix from elsewhere.
Other possible causes may include social mobility factors, meaning that if a person finds it physically difficult to leave their own home they may go online to seek social interaction. Depression, anxiety, confidence and self-esteem issues could also lead to individuals using the internet to escape from negative feelings and any fears and worries they may have.