Drug addiction and alcoholism are common disorders that are understood by most individuals. However, addiction is not limited to substances, it is also associated with addictions to behaviors such as sex, gambling or the Internet. Internet addiction is often difficult to diagnose, as the Internet is a part of many individual's everyday lives. A fine line exists between excessive use of the Internet and an actual addiction. An addiction is characterized by the excessive use of a substance or behavior pattern despite negative consequences and an inability to stop even if the desire to quit exists.
Though Internet Addiction is a relatively newer disorder, it is quickly being recognized as a serious problem. Often manifesting in those already struggling with depression and anxiety, the over use of the Internet provides a sense of escape and even euphoria for the affected. This disorder is usually categorized with other compulsions such as shopping or gambling, but even seemingly harmless tasks such as social networking and online gaming can become detrimental when used in excess.
Studies have found that Internet over use can manifest various symptoms including:
- Impaired short-term memory
- Impaired decision-making skills
- Carpal tunnel
- Changes in weight
- Losing sleep to stay online
- Isolating from family and friends
- Withdrawn from daily life activities
Once having formed an addiction to the Internet, the sufferer often develops a skewed perception of reality, finding it easier to exist online than in the real world. Personal relationships may suffer as a result of the person's fixation with staying online. The affected may be self-medicating a deeper problem such as depression and anxiety. Some experience euphoria by mastering complex technology or by how quickly they are able to navigate the web. Treatment for Internet Addiction includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps to get to the root of the person's problem. Because Internet addiction is often related to depression and other disorders, medication might be recommended in addition to therapy.
Parents with children displaying signs of Internet addiction may choose to monitor their child's use of the Internet. Parents are encouraged to keep an open communication with their kids and seek professional help if necessary. Monitoring, while effective, may not offer a solution to Internet addiction. Success has been seen in treating the underlying issues that may have caused the addiction in the first place.
Internet addiction can also stem into other addictions revolving around Internet use. What may start as pure Internet addiction can sometimes lead to Internet pornography addiction. Similarly, the number of individuals suffering from online gaming addiction has seen a rise.
Some Internet addicts deal with Porn Addiction and may choose to go to 12 Step groups for Sex and Love addiction. Online Gamblers may want to attend 12 Step groups for Gambling.