Advancements in technology as well as the ease of access with reaching out and connecting with others have made the use of computers more and more common. Not surprisingly, increased use of computers has also lead to increased use of the internet. Many people struggle with prolonged internet use, making it difficult to maintain everyday functioning, are more likely to incur relationship impairment, depression, and time management issues. Like most things used excessively, addiction can develop. Internet addiction is described as an impulse control disorder, which does not involve use of illicit or intoxicating drugs or alcohol. Many of the characteristics of excessive internet use are very similar to pathological gambling. Some Internet users may develop an unhealthy emotional attachment to individuals they meet online, shopping, virtual communities, and social networking websites. However, some internet users spend endless hours researching topics of interest online or “blogging”, other users will engage in demonstrations, provide opinions, or advice using personal images through a process called “vlogging”.
Internet addiction is more likely to occur with people that are socially awkward, have difficulty meeting and making friends, and struggle with fitting in. Similar to other addictions, those suffering from Internet addiction use the virtual fantasy world to connect with real people through the Internet, create a virtual life (one unlike their own) as a substitution for real-life human connection, which they are unable to achieve normally.
Warning Signs of Internet Addiction Include:
- Continued use of the internet, although, some areas of one’s life have been negatively impacted
- Repeated, unsuccessful efforts to decrease, control, or stop internet use
- Intense feelings of awkwardness when having to engage and socialize with other physically rather than virtually.
- Attempting to conceal or minimize internet use to family and friends.
- Using the internet to escape real world/personal problems, or improve mood
- Feelings of restlessness, moodiness, anxiety, depression, or irritability when attempting to cut down use of the internet
- Experience loss of time or failure to complete obligations because of chronic internet use
- Overly preoccupied with being on the internet or feeling that you are missing out on something if you are not online
- Jeopardized or risked loss of significant relationships, job, educational or career opportunities because of Internet use
Like all things used responsibly and in moderation, the internet can be a very useful tool to obtain/share information, socialize, network, etc. However, when used in excess, internet addiction can develop resulting in personal, family, academic, financial, and occupational problems that can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical complications. Individuals suffering from internet addiction spend more time in solitary seclusion, isolating themselves from spending time and engaging with real people.
Arguments may result due to the excessive amount of time spent on-line, isolating from those that love and care about them. Those suffering from Internet addiction may attempt to conceal the amount of time spent on-line, which results in distrust and the disturbance of quality in once stable relationships. Persons that use the internet excessively may even create on-line personas or profiles where they can alter their identities and pretend to be someone other than himself/ herself. Those at highest risk for creation of a secret life are those who suffer from lows self-esteem, self-doubt, struggle with feelings of inadequacy, and fear of disapproval. Such negative self-concepts lead to clinical problems of depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately, many persons who attempt to quit or reduce their internet use will experience withdrawal including symptoms similar to many other addictions like drug and alcohol. Internet withdrawal symptoms can include: anger, depression, relief, mood swings, anxiety, fear, irritability, sadness, loneliness, boredom, restlessness, procrastination, and nausea.