Health

Internet Addiction Disorder: How to Identify If You Have It Internet addiction disorder is also known as Compulsive Internet Use or Problematic Internet Use and is a fast growing problem

IN TODAY’S digital world the internet has slowly crept into everyone’s life. The whole world is caught in this spider web. We are all hooked to the world wide web whether we like it or not.

For some, it’s a part of a job and for others, it’s their connection to the outside world. And for many, their life would come to a standstill without the internet.

Understanding Addiction

Now addiction is a strong word. We are familiar with common addictions like smoking, alcohol, and drugs.

Addiction does not merely mean more use of a substance. The term addiction is used when someone is so dependent on a substance that the absence of it comes in the way of everyday functioning.

It’s when work, relationship and health are neglected by the person due to compulsive use of the substance.

The addiction is different for each substance. And there are different stages of substance abuse before addiction sets in.

It’s a long journey from frequent use to addiction but there are several u-turns which give a person a chance to break out.

What is Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction disorder is also known as Compulsive Internet Use or Problematic Internet Use. There is a difference of opinion regarding whether to call it a mental disorder or not.

Some countries have recognised it as a serious problem with the governments taking measures to curb it.

With the increasing use of smartphones, smart televisions and a number of other devices, we find ourselves immersed in a virtual world.

With ready access, it’s difficult to reign in internet usage, especially among children and teens.

Parents are finding it increasingly difficult to regulate their children’s internet use. And if left unchecked and without proper guidance, there are some truly dangerous things out there on the internet.

The internet is a double-edged sword. While it’s of tremendous help there are some serious drawbacks.

Types of Addictions

The internet is a vast space with an infinite scope. A good chunk of the populations makes a living off of the internet. While most are hooked on to it for entertainment, to kill time or avoid loneliness. Some also use it as an escape.

Here are some recognisable internet addictions:

Information

The internet is the ultimate information destination, and some people are obsessed and spend hours collecting information. Search engines like Google, Yahoo etc add to this and allow one to hop from one site to the other unendingly.

Entertainment and games

Binge-watching has almost become a norm. People watching videos and gaming on their phones is a common sight on public transport. Gaming is not only popular among the young population but adults these days also are falling prey to intuitive gaming.

One has to be aware that there are games out there that are gruesome, offensive and also pornographic in nature.

Gambling, which is recognised as an addiction, has also crept into this space and there are plenty of online gambling games that people are addicted to.

Relationship

People seek out relationships on the internet. Romantic or platonic, these relationship seekers are also addicted to the virtual world to fulfil their fantasies, often being disconnected from the real world.

Social

People can spend hours on social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TicTok, and even online shopping.

They are obsessed with what’s happening in someone else’s life and building their own online persona.

Sign and Symptoms  of Internet Addiction

These can be emotional and as well as physical.

Emotional symptoms are agitation, anxiety, depression, feeling of guilt, an elated feeling when using the internet, inability to prioritise work, inability to keep schedules, dislike for routine tasks, no sense of time, defensiveness, mood swings, avoidance of work and isolation at home, school or workplace.

Physical symptoms are headaches, backache, neck pain, wrist pain, visual disturbances, dry eye, weight gain or loss and insomnia (sleeplessness).

Addiction to a particular substance happens when:

1. There is an excessive and compulsive use of the substance.
2. Development of tolerance and need to increase the usage of substance.
3. Withdrawal symptoms like depression, anger, agitation on stopping the use of the substance.
4. Negative impact on things like academic performance and social interactions.

How to tackle this problem

Self Help

You need to first identify whether this is a problem by checking for signs and symptoms as mentioned above. Think about what makes you go on the internet so frequently. Shorten your friend list.

Never open sites which offer money, dating, challenges, or any reward.

Don’t sympathise with anyone blurting their woos and troubles. Find other ways to cope with your problems that don’t involve the internet.

Use relaxation methods like deep breathing and meditation whenever you start to feel anxious. Plan outdoor activities with your family and friends.

Keep your phone and other gadgets away from you for at least one hour every few hours. This world will go on even without you.

Seek professional help when you think you can’t manage it alone.

Professional Help

Professional help does not mean that they will ask you to quit the internet. It’ll allow you to use the internet positively rather than compulsively.

Internet addiction is cured using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). There are several internet addiction support groups that one can also join.

China is the first country to classify this disorder and the government has taken some strict measures and formulated policies to regulate adolescent internet use–limited time for gaming and mandatory user ID for any video viewing.

Internet addiction is known as ‘electronic opium’ or ‘electronic heroin’ in China.

In South Korea, internet addiction has become a national crisis as more and more people are using smartphones. They even boast of online gaming as a professional sport.

But the government has now opened rehabilitation centres for addicts. The government has introduced a ‘shutdown law’ for children below 16 years, after midnight.

In India where we have a young population, studies are being carried out on this problem. NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences) has set up an internet de-addiction centre at Bengaluru. Private clinics have also sprung up to address this.

Finally, internet addiction is a real problem which is expanding rapidly. If we don’t stop now and address this problem, a section of the society will become unproductive.

Become an internet user and not internet abuser. One should recognise this problem before becoming a slave to it.

Dr Niruta Sharma is a consultant Cardiologist at RML Hospital, New Delhi. She believes that your health is in your hands.

~ENDS~

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