The Internet provides a vast ocean of information. Nearly anything information you need â€” from academic research to what your friends are currently up to â€” is only a few clicks of the mouse away. However, with this relatively new technological advancement comes a significant and growing problem â€” Internet addiction.
An Internet addiction disorder (IAD) occurs when a person spends an inordinate amount of time on the Internet, sacrificing time with family, friends or at work in order to surf the web.
Is Internet Addiction Real?
Popular culture has embraced the idea of Internet addiction as a real problem, but the psychological community is still undecided. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) does not classify Internet addiction disorder as a psychological disorder, and debate continues as to if it will be included in the next version of the manual (DSM-V).
Some strongly believe that Internet addiction is a very real and serious problem, but others contend that people aren’t addicted to the Internet, but to other aspects of surfing the Web, such as:
- Chat rooms
The Internet, opponents claim, just provides a fast, convenient and relatively anonymous avenue to satisfy other addictions.
Symptoms of Internet Addiction
Mental health professionals have identified symptoms that may indicate an Internet addiction disorder, including:
- Deterioration or loss of relationships with family and friends
- Exhibiting withdrawal symptoms when not online (depression and thinking about the Internet)
- Loss of inhibitions (often pertaining to “cyber sex” and gambling)Lying about the amount of time spent on the Internet
- Spending more time on the Internet than intended Using the Internet to suppress certain emotions.
According to experts who deal with Internet addictions, it isn’t necessarily the amount of time spent online that determines an addiction, but how that time impacts the rest of your life.
Treatment for Internet Addiction
Because the psychological community does not officially recognize Internet addiction as a mental disorder, experts have conducted little research on effective treatments. Additionally, total abstinence â€” as is used in treatment with chemical addictions â€” from Internet use is not a practical treatment. The goal, instead, is moderate and controlled use.
Experts suggest several behavioral techniques for curbing Internet addiction:
- Abstinence: Abstaining from a specific internet application, such as game playing or chat rooms
- External stoppers: Using an alarm clock or other reminder to set time limits on Internet use
- Personal inventory: Taking inventory of lost hobbies and interests as a result of time spent online
- Reminder cards: Writing down negative consequences of Internet addiction and carrying the cards as reminders
- Setting goals: Planning time slots for Internet use.
Other possible treatment methods include cognitive behavioral therapy to address underlying problems that may contribute to Internet overuse, and family therapy. Support groups may also help people suffering with an Internet addiction disorder.
Ferris, J. (n.d.). Internet addiction disorder: Causes, symptoms, and consequences. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from the Virginia Tech website: http://www.files.chem.vt.edu/chem-dept/dessy/honors/papers/ferris.html.
Grohol, J. (2005). Internet addiction guide. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from the Psych Central website: http://psychcentral.com/netaddiction/.
Young, K. (1999). Internet addiction: Symptoms, evaluation, and treatment. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from the Center for Internet Addiction website: http://www.netaddiction.com/articles/symptoms.pdf.