Most likely, you’ve heard that Americans spend too much time using their phones and computers. According to a Nielsen report, the average American spends 11 hours per day staring at a screen. This is usually one that’s connected to the internet.
Some experts are concerned that people may develop an addiction to the internet as the internet becomes more and more a part of our daily lives. Internet addiction (also known as internet addiction disorder, or IAD) is not recognised in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Many psychologists still argue that excessive internet usage should be treated as an addiction. Like other addictions, internet addiction is not a single thing. Addiction can be caused by a number of factors. These factors can vary from one person to another.
Everybody has regular habits they enjoy. It’s not a big deal to have habits that do no harm or distress.
If you play video games on Saturdays for a couple of hours or shop at Nordstrom regularly, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are addicted to video games or shopping.
Where is the line between habit and addiction drawn? It’s tricky:
- Habits are things you do regularly, often because you have practiced them or integrated them into your routine. A “good” habit is doing the dishes after dinner. Habits can include things like biting your nails during stressful times.
- Addiction is when you engage in a certain behavior or consume a substance for a reward. You may know that the substance or behavior is bad for you, but you still can’t stop it.
It’s probably just a habit if you surf Reddit while drinking your morning coffee for 20 minutes. You might have an addiction if you find it difficult to stop playing after 20 minutes and end up being late to work or failing to complete important tasks.
Many studies have been conducted to try and determine what Internet addiction looks like.
According to a study from 2012 (Trusted Source), you may have an internet addiction if, for example, you are spending long periods of time online (defined as “many hours”) on non-work-related activities such as surfing the web or playing games and you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden mood changes
- Worrying about what happens online when you are not there
- Not being able to control the amount of time spent online
- Spending more time on the internet to achieve a particular feeling or mood
- When not reaching the desired time online, withdrawal symptoms can occur (such as irritability, physical aches, and depression).
- Continued online consumption and behavior despite conflicts with family members or consequences at school or work
Internet addiction is not a single thing.
Many factors can be involved, including
- Mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, can be symptoms of underlying conditions.
- environmental factors
Experts have said that certain people are predisposed to addictive behaviors because they lack enough dopamine receptors or aren’t balancing serotonin and dopamine. Both neurotransmitters play an important role in mood.
You can help yourself if you suspect an internet addiction before seeking professional treatment.
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You can set some smartphones to limit or block your time using certain apps. Set your timer so that it blocks Facebook after a certain period of the day, if you spend six hours on Facebook every day.
Join a book club in your neighborhood or a volunteer group if you spend a lot of time online because you feel lonely or disconnected.
You will meet new people, and you can contribute to something larger than yourself for just a few hours per week. This can make you feel less alone.
Online for extended periods of time can exhaust your brain. Meditating for just a few minutes each day can help you restore mental space. You can find many guided meditations on Spotify and iTunes.
With the help of professionals, there are many options to combat internet addiction.
It may be that you decide that one-on-one talk therapy with a therapist would be the best choice. You will need to meet regularly with a therapist for a session where you can talk about:
- Your addiction and recovery process
- The emotions and habits that come up as a consequence
- The goals you set yourself on this road
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Realize that you are not alone. You’ll be able to connect with others who are going through similar issues by attending group therapy.
Substance use disorder groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous can help you talk about your behavior while holding you accountable for the road to recovery.
Find a local group that meets in person or virtually to discuss internet addiction disorders.
Most substance abuse disorder clinics offer programmes to treat internet addiction. You can use the internet to find a clinic in your area or ask your primary care provider for suggestions.
Addiction can be extremely upsetting to witness in someone you care for, which makes the situation all the more painful. You can take a few steps if you are concerned about someone else’s online use.
Let them know that you care about them and are there for them. Communicate your concerns and worries about their internet use, and then discuss together how it may affect them.
Due to its stigma, addiction can cause isolation and shame. Recovery is a huge part of learning how to manage those feelings. Remember to take care of yourself while you are helping your loved ones. Join a local support group and consider therapy. Together, you can defeat addiction.