Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) or Problematic Internet Use (PIU), refers to compulsive and addictive behavior regarding the internet or particular devices or platforms related to the internet.
While it’s possible to become addicted to many substances and behaviors, Internet Addiction Disorder is one of the newer disorders that have been discussed lately. While mental health professionals are still not in agreement whether this should be classified as an actual disorder, there is no doubt that many people are experiencing symptoms of addiction when it comes to the internet, social media, smartphones and other digital age platforms and devices. The type of internet addiction treatment that is appropriate will depend on the particular type of addiction the individual suffers from.
Types of Internet Addictions
Internet Addiction Disorder is a rather broad term that encompasses several specific types of problems. In this way it is similar to drug addiction. Most drug addicts are addicted to a specific drug, such as heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. What are some of the most pervasive types of internet addictions?
- Computer Games – There are a multitude of computer games on the internet, from Solitaire to fantasy role playing games to games that construct complete worlds, such as Second Life. There are substantial numbers of individuals who are addicted to playing games online.
- Pornography or Cybersex – The internet provides ample opportunities to watch pornography of all kinds or to engage in sexual role play.
- Social Media – Some individuals are so addicted to sites like Facebook and Twitter that they have difficulty removing their attention from these social networks.
- Online Gambling – Gambling itself can be an addiction, but some individuals are specifically addicted to online casinos, sports betting or other types of online gambling. There are now centers that specialize in treating computer and video game addiction.
The Status of Internet Addiction Disorder in the Mental Health Community
Some researchers, such as Kimberly S. Young, have argued that Internet Addiction Disorder is not a single disorder and that individuals are addicted to particular kinds of behavior rather than to the internet as a whole. According to this view, our focus should be on specific categories of compulsive behavior, such as those listed above.
The most widely recognized catalog of mental health disorders is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). In the latest version, DSM-5, which came out in 2013, Internet Addiction Disorder was not included. Oddly enough, Internet Addiction Disorder was first proposed as a satire by a doctor named Ivan Goldberg in 1995. That, of course, was when the internet was just starting to become widely popular. Several years later, however, it became clear that many people do indeed show symptoms of addiction regarding the internet.
Consequences of Internet Addiction Disorder
Whether Internet Addiction Disorder is categorized as a specific mental health disorder or not, there is no doubt that individuals with internet addictions suffer serious consequences to their lives. There have been numerous cases of marriages and long term relationships being destroyed because one partner was addicted to some form of online behavior.
Internet addiction can also cause individuals to lose their jobs or abandon school or other responsibilities. Spending too much time online can also cause social isolation and a detachment from the physical world. This is becoming a global issue as more and more individuals around the world are online. Reuters reported in July that China has instituted boot camps for teenagers who are addicted to the internet.
A recent case of someone being admitted to a hospital for Google Glass addiction suggests that as new devices and platforms are developed, there will be new possibilities for people developing addictions. In the case of Google Glass and other wearable technology, there is the added issue of having the device physically connected to the user’s body.
Symptoms and Treatment
Several symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder have been identified. They include:
- A feeling of euphoria while on the internet
- Spending more and more time online
- Feeling less self-control when engaging in online activities
- Spending less time with family and friends
- Withdrawal from usual activities and responsibilities
- Lying to others about the amount of time spent online
- Often thinking about the internet when the individual is not online
- Staying up so late on the internet that it disrupts sleep patterns
Those who exhibit several of these symptoms may be suffering from an addiction. There are several possible ways to treat internet addiction.
Individuals who recognize that they have this problem can attempt to modify their behavior and cut back on internet usage. Of course, addictions are by definition difficult to manage on their own. For this reason, it can be beneficial to consult with a professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor. Today there are mental health professionals who are familiar with Internet Addiction Disorder.
Support groups are also available nationwide. Although there are not nearly as many support groups for Internet Addiction Disorder as there are for other addictions such as alcohol, drugs and gambling, this is gradually changing. As with any type of addiction, internet addiction recovery can be a challenging process.
In the case of children or teenagers who are exhibiting symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder, parents can take measures to restrict internet usage. Children should be encouraged to spend more time outdoors and with friends. There are apps and controls that can be used to restrict children’s access to the internet. Internet Addiction Disorder is still a relatively new disorder so more research needs to be done before it can be fully understood. As more people suffer from Internet Addiction Disorder or from specific types of internet addictions, there will be an increased need for internet addiction treatment.
Are you looking for an internet addiction treatment center that matches you or your loved one’s needs and wants? Call our addiction advisors for the guidance you’re looking for: 1-800-259-1361