The Internet is a wild and wonderful place which has forever changed the way we live, learn, and work – but when a person can’t find a balance between their time online and their time offline, it can mean problems for their mental health.
Some online statistics
For some people, going online becomes an addiction
There is no one definition for internet addiction; however, it is generally agreed upon that people who are addicted to the Internet have trouble filling personal and professional obligations because of their online activities, and their use of the Internet causes strain on relationships with family and friends. People who are addicted to the Internet often experience negative emotions or withdrawal symptoms when their Internet access is restricted.
Internet Addiction may also be called computer addiction, compulsive Internet use, Problematic Internet Use (PIU), Internet dependence, or pathological Internet use. Researchers estimate that 6% of people are addicted to the Internet.
There are 5 types of Internet addiction:
Why do people become addicted to the internet?
Accessibility: Most of us can get online easily and almost immediately, at any time of day or night.
Control: People can go online when they want and without other people knowing, causing them to feel in control.
Excitement: Going online gives people a sort of "high." The suspense of bidding in online auctions, gambling, or playing games can be especially thrilling.
The combination of accessibility, control, and excitement make the addicted person want to continue going online.
How is internet addiction related to mental illness?
Adolescents who struggle with Internet addiction often have other mental health problems like alcohol and substance use, depression, suicidal ideation, ADHD, phobias, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and/or aggression.
Adults who are addicted to the Internet are also likely to have depression, anxiety, alcohol problems, compulsive behaviours, sleep disorders, ADHD, anger issues, and/or dissociative experiences.
There is debate about which comes first for people, Internet addiction or the co-occuring mental health problem.
Are you dealing with Internet addiction?
If you agree with most of the statements below, it may be time to seek help:
How is Internet addiction treated?
Some professionals classify Internet addiction as an obsessive-compulsive disorder, while others liken it to an impulse control disorder. Therefore, there is no one specific treatment for Internet addiction.
Internet addiction treatment aims to create boundaries and balance around Internet use rather than eliminating it entirely. However, if there is a certain app, game, or site that seems to be the focus of the addiction, stopping its use may be part of treatment.
Therapy is almost always incorporated into the treatment of Internet addiction. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and group therapy are common.
Medication may be used to manage symptoms of underlying mental illness and control intrusive thoughts about going online.
Exercise may be incorporated into Internet addiction treatment to ease the effects of reduced dopamine in the brain resulting from restricted Internet use.
Take control of Internet use