- Mental Health
Symptoms of Internet Addiction
The debate over Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) being a legitimate medical problem or not, has been going on for at least two decades. Some argue IAD exists while others insist it’s neither an addiction nor a disorder. The disagreement seems to stem from conclusions some studies suggest most symptoms for IAD include those found in a variety of disorders and fall under existing diagnostic labels such as depression, anxiety or impulse control disorders.
An example might be overeating as an attempt to escape depression. Many proclaimed suffers report excessive attention to pornography and engaging in explicit sexual conversations online. Out of these it’s estimated over half are also addicted to alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
It’s been said by some IAD is no worse than being addicted to television. But the argument against that theory is compulsive Internet use can significantly interfere with daily life and relationships. And someone who feels more comfortable with virtual friends rather than real ones or can’t stop playing games and gambling online are definitely exhibiting signs addiction.
IAD is broadly defined as internet overuse, problematic or pathological computer use that interferes with daily life. According to the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, “Internet addicts suffer from emotional problems such as depression and anxiety-related disorders and often use the fantasy world of the Internet to psychologically escape unpleasant feelings or stressful situations." They also explained that, in their opinion, some services available on the internet, “have unique psychological properties which induce disassociation, time distortion and instant gratification.”
They point out the risk of internet addiction is higher for those suffering from:
· Depression, drug, alcohol, gambling or sex addiction
However, advocates for IAD also say recent research indicates cybersex, gambling, gaming and shopping online, can produce a mood-altering effect. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for addicts to experience physical discomfort such as:
· Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
· Dry eyes or strained vision
· Back and neck aches
· Severe headaches
· Sleep disturbances
· Excessive weight gain or loss
Some researchers use the following criteria to indicate an internet addiction problem.
· Salience: Internet dominates life, feelings and behavior.
· Mood modification: Changes in mood such as getting an elevated high
· Tolerance: Increasing amounts of internet time needed to achieve the same effect
Internet Addiction, also known as computer or online addiction covers a variety of impulse-control problems, including:
· Cybersex Addiction
· Cyber-Relationship Addiction
· Net Compulsions: Compulsive gaming, stock trading and over use of auction sites such as eBay
The most common of these are cybersex, online gambling, and cyber-relationship addiction.
On the other side of the controversy are those who say internet overuse in time usually corrects itself. A New York Times article in 2005 once referred to IAD as a “fad illness.”
But, for IAD proponents there are corrective strategies including content control computer software, counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy.
The question remains, how can someone know if they have IAD? Many are using the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), consisting of 20 questions. The test measures the extent of involvement with the computer and classifies addictive behavior in terms of mild, moderate or severe. Studies have found it’s is a reliable measure covering key characteristics of pathological online use. The test can be accessed at: http://www.netaddiction.com/index.php?option=com_bfquiz&view=onepage&catid=46&Itemid=106