Internet addiction, also known as Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is an excessive or problematic computer use that interferes with daily life and results in negative consequences. Like addiction of all kinds, internet or computer addiction can take one away from a person’s responsibilities, loved ones, career, hobbies, health, and ultimately his or her life.
In general, time spent on the internet can prove to be extremely worthwhile and productive. In modern days, computers and the internet are used by most everyone for a gathering of information, document creation, shopping, sharing, and entertainment purposes. Several more people depend on their computer and internet expertise to make a living. Computers and the internet are at the center of most everything connected to modern life, including social and dating circles. The differentiation between healthy and problematic internet usage can be difficult to determine given the extent of Internet-related activities that are now inherent to everyday life.
For most anything in life, moderation is essential for one’s ability to balance his or her multiple tasks and responsibilities on a daily basis. As technology evolves and computers become more integrated into the day-to-day operations of individuals, businesses, and society as a whole, one’s reliance on the internet for additional activities can become unmanageable and unhealthy.
Those Who Work on Computers and the Internet
Many people earn a living on the computer, such as programmers, internet marketers, and graphic designers. For these types of careers, computers and the internet are essential for life. However, many of those who earn a living through computers are at an increased risk for internet addiction because of their familiarity with computers and the internet. Some novice users of the web may feel intimidated by the wealth of information, programs, and tools that are accessible to them. However, those who are very familiar with the functionality of the internet and computers can very quickly find that their knowledge and comfort with the internet reinforces their use of it for virtually everything in life.
Although computers and the internet provide lots of conveniences, there is no substitute for fresh air and sunshine, a fact that is taken for granted more commonly with the growing reliance on computer usage. The more comfortable someone is with computers, the more likely he or she will be to rely upon it unnecessarily for tasks, such as:
Shopping over the internet is convenient, and most everyone does it from time to time. If online shopping becomes the primary or only method of procuring items for an individual who is already spending multiple hours each day in front of a computer for work purposes, and who is capable of going to a store for purchases, the implication of over-use of, or addiction to the internet is inherent.
When someone works in front of a computer all day, thereby not getting normal levels of social interaction, it is important to find a balance in life. If one who earns a living on the computer spends his or her spare time socializing and dating on the computer, this only pushes the individual further into social isolation. Like fresh air and sunshine, there is no substitute for in-person social interaction, whether it’s with old friends or meeting new people. For one who spends all day in front of a computer, if the time allotted for socialization is also spent in front of a computer, this is yet another warning sign of internet over-usage that can easily lead to addiction.
If any free time available for someone who works online is also spent in front of a computer (whether online or offline), this is another indication of internet over-usage. Not only is too much time in front of a computer screen damaging to the eyes, but it also cuts an individual off from personal contact and interaction. When a person’s time is spent in front of a computer by necessity (for work purposes), and by choice in his or her free time, there is no time left for healthy practices, which only deepens isolation, and further increases the risk for internet addiction.
Students Who Use the Internet and Computers for School
There was a time when everything was handwritten, cursive was taught in schools, and calculators were cutting edge technology. Those days are long gone, as computers are now in many preschools, most elementary schools, and virtually every high school and college. Students take notes on their computers, and programs are used for study and comprehension of almost every subject.
Similar to adults who earn a living on the computer, many students spend countless hours in front of their computers drafting essays and dissertations, researching on the internet, creating presentations, and using custom programming for studies and computations. Finding a balance between their computer and internet usage, and real-life interactions and activities are of particular importance, especially for young people. More susceptible to internet addiction, along with all other kinds of addiction, young people can encounter problems much faster and with more ease than many adults. The lack of maturity, experience, and refined coping skills makes it so that most young people in school are working with an insufficient arsenal of tools to avoid problematic internet usage. This does not mean all students will fall victim to internet addiction; however, the chances are significantly increased in this group for several reasons:
- By no fault of their own, young people do not have the levels of maturity, experience, and coping skills to recognize and avoid all dangerous situations, simply due to their age and limited experiences in life. Many adults don’t have sufficient coping mechanisms or maturity, but almost every young person lacks it. It’s just something that comes with age, time, and experience. For this reason, the subtle signs of internet over-usage or addiction may go unnoticed, and by no fault of their own, many young people may find that their entire lives are being spent in front of a computer.
- Growing up can be a challenging and traumatic experience for many young people. Experiences like being bullied in school, family issues, abuse, grief over a significant loss, chronic illness, or addiction problems with family members can lead to devastating effects in teenagers and young adults. When there are substantial issues that cause internal pain that has not been addressed, isolating activities like over-usage of the internet become more appealing. Inner pain can have many sources for young people, and often results in low self-esteem and poor social and communication skills. Anyone with these social issues is far more likely to be introverted, making the isolation of a virtual world more comfortable than the reality.
- Mental health issues can lead to, and exacerbate addictions like internet addiction. Furthermore, isolating activities is especially prevalent among those who suffer from mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. The method of isolation depends on the preferences of each, but for a student who is consistently using his or her computer and the internet, increasing isolation and growing dependence on computers and the internet for daily function are a higher risk.
Healthy Computer Usage vs. Internet Addiction
Because computers and the internet are such a standard part of the everyday function in the lives of most people, many walk a thin line between extensive internet usage and internet addiction. While widespread use of the internet may be linked to one’s career or schoolwork, or even one’s ability to stay in touch with loved ones who are far away, internet addiction may continuously be looming as an imminent threat. So, what is the difference between extensive internet usage and internet addiction? The question is best answered by understanding the behaviors that constitute internet addiction:
- Feelings of euphoria during internet usage can indicate a problem. The internet is convenient, and some content within it may be fun or pleasurable, but if the act of using the internet or computer, in general, produces feelings of euphoria, the behavior is likely providing an escape rather than engaging a useful tool for productivity or convenience.
- If attempts to cut down on computer and internet usage have failed and resulted in feelings of irritability, boredom, mood swings, loneliness, anxiety, fear, or depression, internet addiction is the cause behind these failed attempts and withdrawal symptoms.
- Losing track of time while using the computer or spending time online is a reliable indicator of problematic usage. As with other addictions like gambling and gaming, when one loses track of time he or she has spent in front of a computer, it indicates an unconsciousness about the behavior, which leaves the door open for the progression of internet addiction.
- When confronted with the amount of time spent online, if one becomes angry or defensive, or blatantly lies about it, this is also an indication of a problem that may be spiraling out of control.
- If one’s internet or computer usage becomes distracting to the point that he or she is unable to fulfill obligations, an apparent problem exists. Responsibilities to one’s career, family, health, and finances should always come above any activity or behavior. When behavior like usage of computers and the internet interferes with important obligations in life, addiction is a likely factor.
- A common occurrence in addiction of all kinds is isolation and increasing neglect of friends and social activities. For one who is addicted to the internet and computer usage, online relationships may begin to substitute real life, pushing him or her further into isolation.
The development of internet addiction can come from many different sources, and specific behavioral patterns and personal issues, like those mentioned above can contribute to its development. Often, internet addicts set up profiles in online social communities as alternate identities, usually depicting a different type of person than who they indeed are in an attempt to live out the life they want to have. This is most often a result of low self-esteem, which can produce fear of rejection and disapproval and feelings of inadequacy. The cycle of internet addiction becomes vicious when the only way out is through real-life intervention and interaction, but an addict is too deeply entrenched in his or her virtual world to seek the help.
Dangers of Internet Addiction
Like all addictions, internet and computer addiction can lead to devastating consequences for the addicted individual, as well as his or her loved ones. Compulsive use of the internet for all aspects of one’s life make the real world an increasingly smaller part of reality for that person. If one’s relationships, shopping, income, studies, communication, entertainment, and sexual arousal are all virtual, rather than real, his or her perceptions of reality can become severely skewed. This can result in broken relationships, suffering scholastic achievement, and decreased productivity at work, all of which can have devastating effects on an individual’s life, and lead to more problems associated with the pain of the issues created by internet addiction.
Additional problems like sleep pattern disturbances, strained vision, neck and back pains, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and pronounced weight gain or loss often occur with those suffering from internet addiction. Although these are noticeable symptoms, one who is addicted to the internet may not associate them with his or her constant use of computers, and if there is a recognized association, the very nature of addiction will prevent cessation of internet usage.
The most dangerous part of internet addiction is the factors that make it compulsive and progressive. These factors are the emotions driving the behavior, or the underlying problems fueling the addiction. This is the case for most addicts of any substance or behavior. Once a person experiences the negative consequences associated with over-usage of computers and the internet, and can recognize them as detrimental, and stop the behavior, it would only be a mistake or temporary lapse of judgment, not an addiction. However, it is feelings of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, pain, loneliness, and turmoil that drive the repetitious behaviors associated with internet addiction. Those addicted merely cannot find a way out of their ailments, so they continue to go back to their computer and internet usage as an escape, and to ease their inner struggles.
There is Help for Internet Addiction
No matter what the causes of internet addiction in any given individual, the only way to overcome the addiction is to address its causes. At A Forever Recovery, we know that addiction destroys lives, and does so entirely and progressively. We also understand that despite best efforts to control the compulsive and destructive behaviors associated with addiction, those who suffer from it find themselves repeatedly trapped in a vicious cycle.
This is why we have developed an individualized treatment program to heal the individual in mind, body, and spirit on a track that is tailored to his or her personal needs, preferences, and spiritual belief system. Working on open-ended terms means that we give each person whatever time he or she requires to achieve the goals needed for a safe and healthy reintegration with society.
At A Forever Recovery, we understand the pain addiction inflicts on all those affected by it, and we can help. Call us now at our toll-free number to talk with a trained counselor about how to get yourself, or a loved one the strength, tools, and awareness required for a healthy life of moderation, happiness, and productivity, free from addiction and loneliness.