5 Types of Internet Addiction – Get Help Today
What is Internet addiction?
Today, the use of the Internet and the computer is ingrained in contemporary society and has changed the way we live more than any other technological medium to date. Despite this, we still know relatively little about the effects of internet addiction on our psychological functioning, mental health, and general well-being. Last year, data from the Pew Research Center showed that 77% of Americans connect to the Internet daily. While many believe that surfing the web or watching cat videos on YouTube is a relatively harmless act, some people spend so much time using a computer or the internet that it has started to interfere with their daily lives. When an action or desire becomes an obstacle, taking precedence over the most important aspects of life – relationships, work, school – it can become addictive.
Internet addiction is not yet listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly referred to as DSM-5). However, a 2-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health could change that. As of August 2017, the study may provide sufficient evidence that problems stemming from excessive internet use deserve serious attention from America’s mental health and psychiatric communities. Professionals who recognize Internet addiction tend to classify it as either an obsessive-compulsive disorder or an impulse control disorder to facilitate treatment. Internet addiction is also referred to as compulsive computer use, pathological internet use, and internet addiction.
5 types of internet addiction
Internet addiction is a broad term that covers a range of behaviors and impulse control issues involving the Internet, personal computer, and mobile technology. Although there are no officially accepted criteria for diagnosing internet addiction yet, researchers have identified 5 subcategories of specific types of computer and internet addiction.
One of the most explicit internet addictions is cybersex addiction. It involves online pornography, adult websites, adult chat rooms / sexual fantasies, and XXX webcam services, among others. An obsession with any of these services can interfere with a person’s ability to have sex, romance, or intimate relationships in the real world. Treatment options are available for people with cybersex addictions, typically in the form of intervention followed by ongoing therapy in inpatient or outpatient settings.
Net compulsions relate to interactive online activities that can be extremely harmful, such as online gambling, trading actions, online auctions (like E-bay), and compulsive online shopping. These habits can have a negative impact on financial stability and disrupt job-related tasks. Spending or losing excessive amounts of money can also cause stress in relationships. With instant and easy access to online casinos and stores, it is easy for those who are already susceptible to gambling addiction or spending to become addicted online.
Cyber relationship addiction (online)
Cyber addicts to online relationships are deeply involved in finding and maintaining relationships online, often forgetting and neglecting real life family and friends. Typically, online relationships are formed in chat rooms or different social networking sites, but can occur anywhere you can interact with people online. Often times, people who have relationships online do so while hiding their real identity and appearance – this modern phenomenon has led to the creation of the term ‘catfish’.
After being absorbed into a social life and online personality, a person may end up with limited social skills and unrealistic expectations regarding in-person interactions. Many times this leads to an inability to make connections in the real world, making them more dependent on their cyber relationships. Counseling or therapy is usually needed to treat this addiction and ensure lasting changes in behavior.
Compulsive information search
The Internet provides users with a wealth of data and knowledge. For some, the ability to find information so easily has turned into an uncontrollable urge to collect and organize data. In some cases, information seeking is a manifestation of pre-existing obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Generally, compulsive information seeking can also reduce work productivity and potentially lead to termination of employment. Depending on the severity of the addiction, treatment options can range from different treatment modalities – which target compulsive behavior change and the development of coping strategies – to medication.
Computer or gambling addiction
Computer addiction, sometimes referred to as computer game addiction, involves both online and offline activities that can be performed with a computer. As computers became more widely available, games such as Solitaire, Tetris, and Minesweeper were programmed into their software. Researchers quickly discovered that obsessive computer gaming was becoming a problem in certain settings. Office workers would spend excessive time playing these games, resulting in a noticeable decrease in productivity. Today, not only are these classic games still available, but thousands of new ones are as well. Computer addiction is the oldest type of internet / computer addiction, and it is still prevalent and harmful today.
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Signs and Symptoms of Internet Addiction
In 1998, Dr. Kimberly Young developed “The Internet Addiction Test”. It includes a 20 item questionnaire that is administered to the client by a supervisor. These elements include statements such as:
- How often do you find that you are staying online longer than expected?
- How often do other people in your life complain about the time you spend online?
- How often do you expect you to come back online?
Customers can respond with one of these 5 responses: Not Applicable, Rarely, Occasionally, Frequently, Often, and Always. Each response has a numerical value assigned to it. At the end of the test, all of the response values are added together, and a score is calculated and used to determine the presence or severity of Internet addiction.
Other Internet addiction tests have also grown in popularity. In 2005, Dr. Keith W. Beard published an article in which he proposed 8 characteristics describing an Internet use disorder. If 5 or more of the traits describe the subject, they would be diagnosed with Internet addiction. They are:
- Is concerned about the Internet (thinks about previous online activity or anticipates the next online session).
- Needs to use the Internet longer and longer to be satisfied.
- Has made unsuccessful efforts to control, reduce or stop Internet use.
- Stayed online longer than originally expected.
- Is agitated, cranky, depressed or irritable when trying to reduce or stop Internet use.
- Endangered or risked the loss of a relationship, job, or important educational or professional opportunity because of the Internet.
- Lied to family members, therapist or others to cover up the extent of his involvement with the Internet.
- Uses the Internet as a means of escaping problems or alleviating a dysphoric mood (for example, feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression).
Effects of Internet addiction
Internet addiction can have many harmful effects on a person, both physically and emotionally. Body aches, carpal tunnel syndrome, insomnia, vision problems and weight gain / loss are just some of the physical problems that one can experience due to internet addiction. The emotional effects can include depression, dishonesty, anxiety, social isolation, aggression, and mood swings.
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Internet addictions and mental illness
A 2016 study found that those who were determined to have internet addiction (using Dr. Young’s Internet Addiction Test) had a much more difficult time managing their daily activities. This included life at home, work / school related tasks and their ability to socialize in the real world. People with these types of addictions also had significantly higher amounts of symptoms of depression and anxiety.
There is debate as to whether a computer, cell phone, or online addiction is the cause or consequence of such mental health issues. Symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulty planning ahead, poor time management, and above average levels of attentional impulsivity are also common in people addicted to the internet. Additionally, people with addictions are more likely to have a concurrent disorder that requires special care and treatment.
Treating Internet Addiction
There is no specific treatment that should be used to treat internet addiction. Depending on the severity of the addiction and the individual’s behaviors, different types of treatment would be effective. If someone you know is suffering from excessive internet abuse, the first step is to plan an intervention or express your concerns about their behavior. Therapy is generally incorporated into the treatment of drug addiction with any concurrent disorders that may be present such as anxiety, depression, and / or obsessive-compulsive disorder. In some cases, medications can be used to manage the symptoms of these underlying mental illnesses or to control intrusive thoughts about online browsing if other treatment options were not effective.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an internet addiction, talk to a treatment provider today.