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How to Recognize and Handle Internet Addiction

The Internet serves as a useful information resource for many people. The Internet also makes it possible to maintain social connections with family and friends. But with as convenient, helpful, and enjoyable as the Internet can be, some people may experience Internet addiction and cross over to compulsive online usage.

What is Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction is a compulsive need to spend time online, either browsing websites or engaging in other, more specific behaviors that interfere with the person’s ability to live a normal, healthy life and manage their responsibilities. People who are addicted to the Internet might spend hours playing online games or gambling, interacting with people in chat rooms, shopping, or looking at pornography.

A person struggling with Internet addiction will usually show specific behaviors. It’s common for someone to display a tolerance for time spent on the Internet, which means that the person would need to spend an increasing amount of time on the Internet to achieve the same satisfaction. It’s also common for an Internet addict to spend unplanned time on the Internet, often intending to spend only a short time but becoming caught up in activities that extend a browsing session.

The Effects

If something prevents a person from spending time on the Internet, strong feelings of anxiety and obsessive thinking might occur. Other obligations and responsibilities may suffer from spending too much time on the Internet. The addict might experience excessive fatigue due to a lack of sleep, irritability when not online, and declining grades or job performance. Relationships often suffer as a result of Internet addiction because the addicted person does not prioritize relationships over spending time on the Internet. It’s also common for the addict to withdrawal from relationships as they spend more and more time on the Internet. Hiding and lying about usage might also occur, which can cause problems in relationships.

Internet gaming disorder is connected with Internet addiction. With Internet gaming disorder, the affected person becomes so engrossed in Internet games that addictive behavior results. The addictive behavior may include compulsive playing, exclusion of other interests, social withdrawal, and a decline in academic or employment performance. Excessive participation in Internet gambling can be connected with Internet gaming disorder or Internet addiction in general. Just like other types of gambling, Internet gambling can lead to financial trouble and excessive debt.

Warning Signs

Warning signs frequently accompany Internet addiction. If a person experiences extreme fatigue or lack of sleep resulting from excessive Internet usage, they may have a problem. Weight gain or weight loss might also occur with Internet addiction. Additional warning signs include a decline in job performance or grades, withdrawal from social contact, anxiety or irritability when offline, denial of the addiction, lying about or concealing Internet usage, and trying to quit or reduce time spent on the computer without success. Anyone exhibiting three or more of these warning signs within the past year might need help to overcome Internet addiction.

Getting Help and Recovery

The prevalence of the Internet makes it difficult for an Internet addict to completely stop using it. Furthermore, it’s common for people to need to use the Internet to find information. Although abstinence from an addictive substance or behavior is often a recommended treatment, total abstinence from the Internet is nearly impossible in today’s world. Alternative treatment methods for Internet addiction include showing the addict methods of managing behavior. This typically includes teaching time-management skills, learning how to set goals, and using reminder cards to help the addict stay on track with achieving goals and controlling behavior. Reminder cards placed strategically around the house, on computer screens, or on gaming consoles can be helpful for remembering behavior goals.

Recognizing and admitting the addiction is often the first step toward recovery. From this point, it may help to keep a record of time spent on the Internet to monitor usage. Choosing a support person to lean on might also help an addict pull away from excessive Internet usage. Internet addiction may occur if a person experiences difficulty coping with anxiety or stress. In this case, the addict might analyze how they feel before they sit down at the computer to browse the Internet. Boredom, anxiety, or loneliness are common triggers for addictive behavior. If an addict experiences these feelings, it might help to accept and confront the feelings instead of trying to cope with them through Internet usage. Therapy might help the addict cope more positively with these difficult feelings.

 

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