Internet Addiction

Continuing advances in technology mean that more people than ever before are able to 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.

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 favourite 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 what is 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.
  • 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 fulfil 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.

Types of addiction:
Internet addiction disorder covers a variety of compulsive Internet activities including the following:

1. Cybersex and 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 individual's 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.

2. Cyber-relationships
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.

3. Gaming 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.



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