Understanding and Identifying Internet Addiction
At the risk of sounding like your mom, it is true — kids and teenagers are on the Internet a lot nowadays. But many times, it’s for good reason. The Internet has revolutionized the way we keep in touch with friends, do homework, and shop. While we all love how easy the Internet is, as well as how easy smartphones and tablets have made things, there are a few drawbacks to always being connected — most notably, Internet addiction.
What is Internet Addiction?
Also referred to as Internet dependency or Internet compulsivity, Internet addiction is defined as: any online-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. In other words, it’s spending so much time online that you can’t maintain meaningful relationships with people, or is damaging your professional or academic life.
What Causes Internet Addiction?
Like any addiction, there are a number of different factors that could potentially cause someone to develop an Internet addiction. This includes both biological and environmental factors. Some researchers believe that while there may not be an “Internet addiction” gene per say, some people may be genetically predisposed to having addictive behaviors. Other researchers believe that people who are exposed to too much technology at a young age are more likely to develop an addiction to the Internet. Others believe that people (mostly teenagers and young adults) diagnosed with anxiety or depression are more likely to misuse the Internet as a way of coping with the stresses of everyday life.
The Physical and Mental Symptoms
Internet addiction can be identified by a number of physical and mental characteristics. Some of the most notable symptoms are:
- Back and neck aches: Usually from spending long periods of time hunched over a cell phone or computer screen.
- Headaches: Staring at a bright screen for several hours a day can cause blurry vision, headaches, and even nausea in extreme cases.
- Weight fluctuations: Failing to leave your computer for hours at a time can cause people to lose weight, while others may gain weight due to binge eating while on the computer and a lack of exercise.
- Feelings of isolation: Especially for those who spend too much time on social media, they can begin to feel lonely and depressed, or feel that their lives are not as fun and happy as others.
- Inability to maintain a schedule: People who spend too much time online may cancel plans so that they can spend more time on the Internet, or they may arrive late to important events because they have a difficult time pulling themselves away from their devices.
- Feelings of bliss while online: We have the answer to almost any question in the world right at our fingertips — which is pretty incredible. But people who experience Internet addiction feel intense bliss or even euphoria while searching the Web.
- Mood swings: Particularly, feeling incredibly happy while online then suddenly upset or anxious once getting offline or losing access to a device that can get online.
If you have concerns about your drug, alcohol, or Internet use, a mental health specialist at CIRCLE CARE Center can connect you to the help you need. Whether you’re looking to reduce your use or to stop completely, our providers and in-house mental health specialist can offer you a range of treatment options and/or referrals.