According to The Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2010 a staggering 30.1 million adults in the UK (60 per cent) accessed the Internet almost every day. Continuing advances in technology now mean that more people than ever before are able use the Internet extensively for both work and social purposes, and research and communication which previously would have been time consuming now takes just a matter of minutes.
Popularity of the Internet
The use of social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace, Friends etc.) is becoming increasingly popular, with 43 per cent of Internet users posting messages to social networking sites, chat sites and blogs in 2010. This activity has proven to be most common among Internet users aged between 16 and 24, of whom 75 per cent posted messages and 50 per cent uploaded self-created content in 2010. Though social networking is an activity heavily associated with younger generations, in 2010 31 per cent of Internet users aged between 45 and 54 used the Internet to post messages.
While it is a positive step that we can now talk, search, shop, play, find love and experience all of the other far reaching benefits of the Internet, as with everything in life, there can't be a positive without a negative. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is the term used to describe excessive computer use which begins to interfere with daily life. As it stands, IAD is not officially recognized as a clinical disorder, though an increasing body of research and evidence is establishing internet addiction as a public health concern, with many leading health experts now advising it be officially recognized as a clinical disorder.
The condition exists in many subtypes, all of which are essentially characterized by excessive, overwhelming or inappropriate use of online activities, which if done in person would usually be considered negative. For example, compulsive gambling, shopping, pornography use or gaming.
Internet Addiction Symptoms
Each and every one of us will use the Internet in our own way for different purposes and for varying amounts of time. Some individuals who use the Internet for work purposes may choose not to dedicate much of their leisure time to web browsing. Others will use occasionally, for instance for a once weekly food shop, others will use weekly perhaps for reading their favorite online paper or blog, and others will use social networking sights daily for keeping in touch with friends and family. Internet usage only becomes a problems when it begins to take up too much of your time, to the point where you start to neglect whats going on in real-life.
There are various symptoms of Internet addiction, and each individual is likely to experience a different set. However, below are some key indicators to be aware of:
Losing track of time - Many Internet addicts find that they lose themselves when they are online and as a result consistently spend longer online than initially intended.
Social isolation - Cracks in your real-life relationships may indicate that you are spending so much time focussing on Internet relationships and activities that you are neglecting the current real-life relationships you have with family and friends. Some individuals may also find that they feel their online friends 'understand' them in a way that no one in real-life can.
Temporary high - As with any addiction, individuals keep returning for their next 'fix' because it gives them the feeling of euphoria and excitement. If you tend to rely heavily on the Internet for stress relief purposes as a pick-me-up or for sexual gratification then it could be a sign of a deeper underlying issue.
Feelings of guilt and defensiveness - If you are feeling guilty and constantly trying to justify the amount of time spent on the Internet, or if you are lying about or trying to hide what you do online then this could be an indicator of Internet addiction.
Physical symptoms - Aside from the emotional aspects, excessive computer addiction also causes some physical side effects and discomfort including strained vision, back ache, neck ache, headaches, sleep difficulties, carpal tunnel syndrome and weight gain or loss.
Internet Addiction Causes
As mentioned throughout this fact-sheet, escapism is a factor which draws many people to the Internet. Anyone wanting to relieve the stresses, strains and issues which are present in their everyday life can use the Internet as an outlet for these negative feelings as it can provide temporary comfort, company, and entertainment.
Certain individuals may find themselves at a greater risk of becoming addicted to the Internet, for example those who engage in little social activity may try to build new relationships and relate to others by using chat rooms etc. Below are additional factors which may increase a persons risk of developing an Internet addiction:
Other Addictions - Individuals who are addicted to gambling and sex for instance (or recovering) may turn to the Internet to fulfill their needs.
Depression - Depression can lead to Individuals turning to the Internet to escape their negative feelings.
Anxiety - People suffering from anxiety may feel drawn to the Internet as it is a way of distracting themselves from any fears and worries they may have.
Social mobility - If a person suddenly finds themselves less active than they used to be (for instance recovering from a serious illness) and it is difficult to leave the house or meet up with family and friends then they may go online to seek additional social interaction.
Internet Addiction Help
There are many addiction services and avenues of treatments available to help individuals back on the road to good health, one of which is counseling.
The ultimate goal of counseling is to help individuals either reduce or stop their addiction all together, depending on their specific needs and goals. Though each counsellor will have their own unique way of working, sessions may involve exploring different ways of dealing with certain urges and triggers and exploring the origins of the problem and the underlying reason for your addiction. A counselor may also use a technique known as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is a way of changing an individuals thoughts and behavior surrounding a certain act or issue. Counseling is a safe and confidential way of exploring your addiction and the affect it is having on your well-being and fulfillment. A counsellor will work with you to help you make sense of your circumstances, to identify your choices for change and to offer support throughout the entire process.
What should I be looking for in a counselor or psychotherapist?
While there are currently no official rules and regulations in position to stipulate what level of training and experience a counsellor dealing with Internet addiction needs, we do recommend that you check your therapist is experienced in this area. An accredited course, qualification or workshop undertaken as part of continuing professional development, will also provide further assurance that your counsellor has developed the necessary skills.
In regards to psychological treatment, as with other addictions, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered a useful tool to break the habit of addiction.
Therapy can give you a tremendous boost in controlling Internet use. Cognitive-behavioral therapy provides step-by-step ways to stop compulsive Internet behaviors and change your perceptions regarding Internet, smartphone, and computer use. Therapy can also help you learn healthier ways of coping with uncomfortable emotions, such as stress, anxiety, or depression.
If your Internet use is affecting your partner directly, as with excessive cybersex or online affairs, marriage counseling can help you work through these challenging issues. Marriage counseling can also help you reconnect with your partner if you have been using the Internet for most of your social needs.
Helping a Child or Teen with an Internet Addiction
It’s a fine line as a parent. If you severely limit a child or teen’s Internet use, they might rebel and go to excess. But you should monitor computer and smartphone use, superviseonline activity, and get your child help if he or she needs it. If your child or teen is showing signs of Internet addiction, there are things that you can do to help:
Encourage other interests and social activities. Get your child out from behind the computer screen. Expose kids to other hobbies and activities, such as team sports, Scouts, and afterschool clubs.
Monitor computer use and set clear limits. Restrict the use of computers or tablets to a common area of the house where you can keep an eye on your child's online activity, and limit time online. This will be most effective if you as a parent follow suit. If you can’t stay offline, chances are your child won’t either.
Use apps to limit your child’s smartphone use. If your child has his or her own smartphone, it’s very difficult to directly monitor their time on the Internet. However, there are a number of apps available that can effectively do the monitoring for you by limiting your child’s data usage or restricting his or her texting and web browsing to certain times of the day. Most of the major carriers offer parental control apps. Other third-party apps are also available that eliminate texting and emailing capabilities while in motion, so you can prevent your teen using a smartphone while driving. See Resources & References section below for more information.
Talk to your child about underlying issues. Compulsive computer use can be the sign of deeper problems. Is your child having problems fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce, which is causing stress?
Get help. Teenagers often rebel against their parents but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, doctor, or respected family friend. Don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling if you are concerned about your child.
TYPES OF INTERNET ADDICTION
Internet addiction disorder covers a variety of compulsive Internet activities including the following:
The Internet is a great way to meet and interact with new people and may even lead to the development of a romantic relationship. However, online relationships are often far more intense than those in reality and there is opportunity to live out our ultimate fantasies. A huge problem with online relationships is that many people online lie about their sex, age, appearance, relationship status and job, meaning that when online friends meet in real-life, unfortunately they may not live up to one another’s online persona resulting in significant emotional distress.
According to the Gambling Commission there are an estimated 236,000 to 378,000 problem gamblers in Britain. Whilst problem gambling has been an issue for a number of years now and there are many associations and support groups offering help and advice, the ease and availability of gambling online has made it more accessible than ever. In addition, recovering gambling addicts may also find it far more difficult not to relapse with the temptation of 24 hour online casinos which are open to anyone of any age. In addition, the financial problems brought on by online gambling can also result in stress, anxiety and depression.
Online shopping or auction shopping can be just as financially detrimental as online gambling if a habit gets out of control. Shopping addicts have a tendency to purchase things they don't really need and can't really afford but they do so in order to experience the temporary high of placing a winning bid or owning something new.
CYBERSEX & PORNOGRAPHY
Though the Internet is often a great way of escaping reality, spending excessive amounts of time on the Internet engaging in cybersex, viewing pornography, spending time in adult chat rooms or carrying out relationships in online fantasy worlds can begin to have negative repercussions on an individuals real life relationships.
On the World Wide Web we are able to change our identity, remain anonymous and engage in fantasies all from the privacy of our own homes. Whilst this is fine in moderation, compulsively participating in any of these activities can lead to individuals neglecting their real life relationships, career and emotional well-being.
Porn addiction can be defined as a behavioral addiction that is characterized by an ever-growing compulsion or need to view pornographic content or material. In the past, a person suffering from an addiction to pornography would satisfy his or her craving for pornographic content by viewing and/or storing pornographic videos, magazines and photos. The tools available to feed a porn addiction have since evolved along with technology, by providing unlimited pornography at all levels of explicitness. Today's porn addiction is also enabled by a range of devices, such as the Internet, social media and phones. These devices are enabling for a porn addict because they allow you to store and view porn in higher volumes than ever before while leaving little or no visible physical evidence of your porn use.
Is Porn Addiction Really an Addiction?
Although some medical professionals do not treat the compulsion to view or use pornographic material as an addiction, the signs and symptoms of porn addiction are often similar to those that signal an addiction to drugs or alcohol. For example, people suffering with a porn addiction tend to ignore, replace or neglect significant relationships because of their fixation or obsession with pornography, just as a drug addict would replace these things with his or her drug of choice. Porn addicts will also isolate themselves just as those addicted to chemicals or substances will do to engage in viewing porn. Someone who is addicted to porn can spend several hours alone simply viewing pornographic images or content.
Symptoms or signs of a porn addiction will vary depending on the person and the availability of pornographic material, but there are symptoms that are often present for many patients seeking treatment.
Signs of Porn Addiction
You are unable to stop using porn or the behaviors associated with porn, despite attempts to do so.
You become angry, hostile or irritable if you are asked to stop using porn.
You keep all or part of your porn use secret from loved ones.
You feel as though you live a double or secret life because of your porn use.
You continue to view porn despite negative consequences, such as broken relationships or job loss.
You have lost track of large chunks of time because you've been absorbed in porn use
A diagnosis of porn addiction by a medical professional is often dependent on several key factors. To determine whether porn addiction treatment is necessary, you may be asked to consider which of the following statements are true for your situation:
You feel powerless to resist the urge to view porn.
You frequently spend more time or money on porn than you initially intended.
You've tried without success to limit or stop viewing porn.
You spend a significant portion of your time viewing porn, thinking about porn or engaging in activities that will enable you to access porn.
You neglect family, social or work obligations to view porn.
You continue to use porn despite negative consequences.
The more often you engage in using or viewing porn, the more you need to increase the risk so that you can gain the same satisfaction or thrill.
You've passed up opportunities, or have considered passing up opportunities, so that you have more time to use or view porn.
You become anxious, stressed or irritable if you are unable to access porn.
VIDEO GAME ADDICTION
Many individuals find enjoyment in playing online role playing games in their leisure time, and not everyone who does this is an addict. The vast majority of online gamers are able to strike a balance between gaming, work, friends and family, but unfortunately for some the compulsion to play online games becomes uncontrollable meaning that other areas of real life are neglected.
What is Videogame Addiction?
A disorder that involves online and/or offline computer usage and consists of at least three subtypes: Excessive gaming, Sexual preoccupations, and Email/text messaging.
Play Computer Games (Gaming) WOW, etc.
Internet and video game addicts miss out on real conversations and real human development; they often see their hygiene, home and relationships deteriorate. They often don’t eat or sleep properly and don’t get enough exercise. They often avoid intimacy with peers and delay the expansion of identity development in the outside world.
Video Game Addiction Research Data:
Gaming is a worldwide phenomenon and has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. In the United States alone, the sale of video games and related products reportedly grossed between $7 and $10 billion in 2004.
The average gamer is age 29 and averages between 6.8 and 7.6 hrs/week. (Entertainment Software Association)
MMORPG (Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games) make up 9% of gamers play but are the most commonly seen games creating an addiction due to the high level of competition, highly social nature and interactive real time services.
Some research studies report approximately 10% of gamers meet criteria for videogame addiction.
Videogame Addicts often have high levels of emotional loneliness and difficulty with real life social interactions. They often find comfort in the virtual community while “trying on” new identities which often delays and inhibits real life emotional development.
Video Game Addiction Treatment
Video games have become a major source of entertainment. People not only play them at home, but also on hand held devices that they can take anywhere. This ease of access makes it even easier for people to develop addictions to these games. Like any other addiction, this can take a heavy toll on a person’s relationships, career, and health. I use personalized video game addiction treatment plans to help individuals overcome their obsessions.