Internet addiction is characterized by compulsive use of the internet for variety of activities ranging from gaming to online shopping, emailing, chatting, and web browsing. Internet addiction is categorized with other process addictions like gambling addiction, shopping addiction, and pornography addiction. Internet addiction is not specifically indicated by amount of time an individual spends on the internet, but rather how that time interferes with and effects that individual's home, work, and social life. When life becomes unmanageable as a result of a compulsive behavior, there's likely an addiction to that behavior.
No matter what its form, addiction is generally considered the diagnosis when an individual's life becomes unmanageable as a result of compulsive behaviors surrounding a substance or activity.
"Internet addiction disorder (IAD), or, more broadly, Internet overuse, problematic computer use, or pathological computer use, is excessive computer use that interferes with daily life. These terms avoid the distracting and divisive term addiction and are not limited to any single cause.
IAD was originally proposed as a disorder in a satirical hoax by Ivan Goldberg, M.D., in 1995. He took pathological gambling as diagnosed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as his model for the description of IAD. It is not, however, included in the current DSM as of 2009. IAD receives coverage in the press, and possible future classification as a psychological disorder continues to be debated and researched."
Internet addiction has not been researched to the extent that many other addictions have. With no clear and precise cause, the most plausible theory — like gambling and shopping — an internet addict feels a certain "rush" when he or she turns on a computer, visits his or her favorite website, plays an online game, composes, and sends email, etc. This theory is based on the premise that when internet addicts spend time on a computer, the mesolimbic dopamine system in their brain is triggered in much the same way as any other drug of addiction. For individuals suffering from internet addiction disorder (IAD), this "rush" can be just as intense as the rush of a drug or induced high from a mood-altering substance.
Individuals can have a predisposition to internet addiction just as they can to chemical addiction and alcoholism. Evidence suggests that internet addiction can develop in people more prone to addiction when they are experiencing depression, anxiety, or stress. These mental states may trigger "self-medication" through compulsive internet use, just as other addicts self-medicate by abusing substances and/or engaging compulsively in other behaviors.
Internet addiction often begins with casual use of the internet and progresses into more dysfunctional use. Some addicts browse the web as an escape from stress at home or work. Others feel that they lack the confidence or social skills to interact socially in the real world and find it easier to do so in cyberspace. Use of the internet through applications such as email, forums, and online games have been connected to more cases of internet addiction.
Internet addiction research is just beginning, and there are still many questions to be answered. One grey area is whether or not pure internet addiction exists vs. the internet being used to transfer other addictions. Examples of this are excessive use of gambling sites by gambling addicts, pornography sites by those who suffer from porn addiction, or excessive online shopping by shopping addicts. It raises a question about internet addiction as a primary diagnosis as opposed to a vehicle by which people satisfy other addictions.
Internet Addiction Demographics
Internet addiction sufferers have previously been stereotyped as younger, introverted, socially awkward, computer-oriented males. However, with increased ease of use of the internet these days, the prior stereotype is no longer accurate. Internet addiction can affect anyone of any age, race, or social class. Access to computers and the internet has become so simple that anyone can fall victim to internet addiction for any number of reasons. People who are prone to addiction or who have suffered from other addictions in their past should be wary of extended use on the internet and should make a conscience effort to engage in outdoor activites and limit their time online.
Internet Addiction Treatment
Internet addiction treatment is difficult to find because of the lack of research on internet addiction. Of the internet addiction treatment centers available, many professionals take a very similar approach as the treatment of other addictions such as sexual, gambling, or substance abuse. Many addiction treatment professionals find it difficult to treat internet addiction because of society's increased dependence on computers and the web. It would be virtually impossible for therapists to advise addicts to simply cease all use of the internet. The key is a thin line of finding moderation in use for those who suffer. The therapy used for internet addicts can be similar to that for people who suffer from eating disorders — learning to come to terms with food in moderation. Since abstinence cannot be applied to internet addicts, the use of moderation and continuous support groups are the most effective forms of treatment.
If you or someone you love may be struggling with internet addiction, please contact us for immediate help or fill out our confidential assessment for an immediate response from one of our qualified counselors.