Internet addiction is the overuse of the internet that kills a great deal of time and adversely impacts relationships, work-life balance, and health as a result. There are people who become internet-addicted to cope with their life’s stresses, but it does not work for them or even worsens the situation. Internet addiction is now affecting large numbers of people around the globe. There is growing evidence that internet addiction is affecting mental as well physical health not only in developing nations (like some countries of Asia) but also in developed nations (like North America and Europe). Researchers are continuously investigating the addiction to mobile devices, such as cellphones and smartphones, and addiction to social networking sites, such as Facebook. These subtypes may overlap each other.
Various researchers have defined the criteria for identification of internet addiction disorder, but internet addiction has not yet been categorized as a mental disorder and so its diagnostic criteria have also not been listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. According to the American Psychiatric Association, signs of the internet addiction disorder may be all or some of the following:
Spending excessive time on internet to gain mental satisfaction
Do you know how much time on the internet is counted as being excessive? Although most of us are aware of the fact that spending excessive time on the internet is an internet addiction, we don’t have the idea about how much time counts as excessive. Some mental health experts suggest that more than two hours of screen time per day for an individual under 18 years of age may lead him towards internet addiction; there are no official recommendations for adults, though. This time limitation does not include time spent on screen while working or studying. Differentiation between the screen time for essential use and non-essential use is the key to recognize the symptoms of internet addiction. An internet addict may deem all screen time as essential.
You may scrutinize yourself for the symptoms of using excessive time on the internet to gain mental satisfaction:
How often does it happen that you stay online longer than you planned, and how often do you hear other people saying that you spend too much time on your device? After spending some time on the internet, do you want to stay online for some more time? Are you not able to cut down the time you spend online? If any of these is the case with you, then you may be addicted to the Internet.
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
If you can’t go online, do you experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, moodiness and compulsive fantasizing about the Internet? And upon using the Internet, do you feel that these symptoms have been relieved? If yes, then keep in mind these are the withdrawal symptoms. You would have heard about the withdrawal symptoms in terms of physical dependence on alcohol or drugs, withdrawal symptoms are now being recognized in behavioral addictions too, including Internet addiction.
Some of the internet withdrawal symptoms are: feeling angry, tense, and depressed while away from the internet. You may experience boredom, joylessness, moodiness, nervousness, and irritability when you can’t get in touch with your digital device.
Like alcohol and drug addiction, internet addiction also wants more and more screen time over time, i.e. more and more computer-related stimulation. When you demand ever-increasing amounts of time on the computer, it gradually takes over everything you do as a result. If you are suffering from internet addiction, then you would notice that the quest for more may likely be a predominant theme in your thought processes and planning.
Using the internet as a means of coping with life’s stresses
Most of us think that the leading reasons for stress stem from financial and family worries and turn towards the internet to find some relief. But doing, so we may get trapped into the addiction of social media and smartphones and this addiction may even worsen the situation i.e. this causes even more stress to build up throughout the day, that results in a cycle of stress accumulation.
So, do you turn to the Internet to cope with negative feelings like guilt, anxiety or depression? If yes, then you must check for the other signs of internet addiction, if you identify one or more signs of it then beware of the fact that you may be an internet-addict.
Spending time to internet related activities
A chronic internet-addict may spend a considerable amount of time engaging in activities related to the Internet, like researching internet vendors, internet books. Because a chronic internet addict is so addicted to it that he might always be afraid of getting away from the internet, so he may search vendors and other information related to it.
Neglecting other areas of life
If Internet addiction causes no harm, there would be no, nothing to worry about. But when there is excessive digital device addiction, surely something suffers. One of the negative effects of internet addiction is your personal relationships start to suffer, you may not be able to build new social relations or the existing ones that you do have now may be neglected.
You may notice that your performance at work or study declines, your grades decline, or you don’t achieve something remarkable at work. This happens because so much of your attention would now be devoted to internet use. You may also feel less energetic towards the things you were passionate about in the recent past. Internet addicts often stay up too late and become sleep-deprived. Finances may also suffer, especially if someone is addicted to online gambling, online shopping etc. In short, an internet addict gives up life’s important things for the sake of internet use.
What might help out?
If you identify the signs of internet addiction in yourself or someone you know, then you must adopt some self-help strategies like:
Notice your symptoms carefully, first highlight your symptoms of internet addiction and then keep track of your behavior, thoughts and feelings to diminish its adverse effects on your mental health. Find the reason why you go for excessive internet usage? What makes you stay online? Is there a special reason, or you get distracted while scrolling your newsfeed?
You may also try brainstorming, and go towards other ways to cope with your stress that don’t involve the use of the internet. Meditation to manage anxiety symptoms and other relaxation techniques may also help out. Also rediscover the neglected areas of your life such as socializing with friends, spending time with your partner or your children. You may also seek professional help if you want.
Internet addiction may leave devastating effects not only on the life of the addict itself but also on the life of its family. Self-help may work out, but don’t neglect the need for professional help when necessary because it will help you overcome depression and anxiety and bring back joy in your life.
Facebook : Think Different Nation
Instagram : Think Different Nation
Twitter : @TDN_Podcast