Internet addiction is the name used to describe problematic use of internet. Excessive computer usage cannot be termed as internet addiction; it is only when the usage starts interfering with regular day-to-day life, that it can be termed as an addiction” in medical terms.
Like other forms of non-substance addiction like Work Addiction, Video Game Addiction, Love Addiction, Exercise Addiction etc., it also has its roots in the brain. Anxiety, stress and difficulty to cope with the world outside the computer can push people towards internet addiction. Research is still being conducted to understand its real nature and scholars believe that it may actually be a multi-dimensional issue as opposed to having just one cause.
Signs and Symptoms
- Unable to keep track of the time spent online: internet addicts are unable to keep a track of the time spent surfing websites or chatting with friends. People tend to get “lost” in whatever they’re doing online and often end up spending hours at a time online
- Unable to complete other tasks: the obsession with being online all the time starts eating into one’s regular day-to-day activities
- Isolation: Addicts tend to spend so many hours surfing the internet that they separate themselves from friends and family. In most cases, they end up being isolated and depressed
- The guilt trip: People suffering from it are often guilty and aware of their habits. To make matters worse, individuals are often unable to correct their habits in spite of knowing about the negative consequences of it
- Feeling a “high”: Internet addicts often get a high by doing certain activities online (like gambling, looking at porn, or making new friends). This euphoria can actually turn into an obsessive/compulsive behavior leading to addiction
Causes and Risk Factors
Like other forms of addiction, internet addiction is caused when people find pleasure in indulging in one or more activities online. Dopamine is one of the chemicals responsible for sending out “pleasure signals” to the brain. Patients experience unprecedented levels of dopamine secretion while surfing the internet. Over a period of time, the patient becomes accustomed to drawing pleasure out of internet surfing, thereby getting addicted to the habit of internet surfing.
Psychologically, people who have a limited ability for handling stress can more easily get addicted to substance/non-substance abuse. Patients find an “escape” route in internet browsing and generally find surfing a good way to “shut” themselves from the world. This can be particularly soothing to patients who live in troubled environments and have disturbed relationships with friends and family.
People suffering from it are prone to many risks including:
Internet addiction can be tough to handle because it is hard to diagnose. To make matters worse, it is not commonly considered to be as bad a medical condition as alcohol or substance addiction, so people tend to take their internet addiction therapy less seriously.
However, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and targeted psychotherapy have been very successful in its treatment. CBT aims to alter a patient’s behavior and response to internet browsing, thereby tackling the problem at its root. It is important not to take it lightly as it may lead to negative long-term health effects.