What is Internet addiction?
Internet addiction is a broad term that describes several computer-based impulse control problems.
Because the Internet is a valuable and nearly unavoidable tool, many people become Internet addicts. Similar to substance abuse addicts, Internet addicts develop compulsive, destructive habits that interfere with everyday life as well as psychological dependence and withdrawal symptoms when Internet usage is stopped or reduced.
Is internet addiction a disease?
- Cybersex addiction involves an obsessive use of adult chat rooms, online pornography and adult role-play sites. This obsession interferes with real-life intimacy and, eventually, isolates the addict.
- Cyber-relationship addiction is characterized by an addiction to social networking, chat rooms and social messaging. Like a cybersex addiction, it eventually gets in the way of real-life relationships.
- Net compulsions occur when an individual becomes addicted to online gambling, gaming, stock trading or online auction sites. Net compulsions often lead to financial problems.
- Information overload includes compulsively surfing the web, browsing, and researching to where it interferes with daily activities.
- Computer addiction is an obsession with playing off-line computer games or obsessive computer programming.
- Online shopping addiction can manifest due to the illusion that the shopper isn’t really spending money and can result in massive financial distress.
Causes and Symptoms of Internet Addiction
Generally, Internet addicts suffer from co-occurring disorders—such as depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder—or multiple addictions. Others lack social support—they feel lonely and isolated, so they turn to the Internet to find like-minded others.
Behavioral therapy is extremely effective both in identifying underlying causes of addiction and in teaching reliable coping mechanisms for cutting down on or ceasing destructive behavioral patterns. Most therapies focus on providing the addict with healthier ways to cope with triggers (stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc.) that induce Internet addiction.
In addition to behavioral therapy, content-control software and time-limiting software is available to help addicts control their time online, set realistic expectations and provide accountability. Software has proven successful in restricting usage, but it is most effective when used in conjunction with behavioral therapy.
Since online addictions are relatively new, support groups that exclusively address them are limited. Nevertheless, groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous may be useful in providing help and comfort for those dealing with similar, online addictions. The recently established Online-Gamers Anonymous is another useful resource for those suffering from online addiction. Several online support groups also exist, but addicts are cautioned against pursuing online-only forms of treatment, as they may exacerbate the problem.
Where to find professional help for online addiction treatment.
Because most addictions have similar underlying causes and trigger similar chemical reactions in the brain, some drug rehabilitation facilities, such as Caron, are able to help those with non-substance related addictions. Please get in touch for more information.