The internet has revolutionized the way people communicate in the modern world. Socialization, collaboration, information, and entertainment are just a few of the activities available online. Unfortunately, the medium has ushered in a new era of addiction with many losing themselves within the cyber landscape.
Impulse Control Disorders
As with most other behavioral addictions, internet addiction is an impulse control disorder where users spend excessive amounts of time online. Chat rooms, online gambling, social networking, and an abundance of blogs, pornography and news sites are available at the click of a button.
What’s unique about internet addiction is the question as to whether the internet is itself, addictive, or simply the specific activities found therein. At Summit Behavioral Health, our counselors offer patients the foundation and tools needed to control these impulses while leading the healthy, active and healthy lifestyle they deserve.
The addiction cycle follows the same process regardless of substance or behavior. Internet addiction is a progressive condition where users feel a “need” to spend excessive amounts of time online to feel normal. When offline, addicts often obsess about their next online opportunity.
Anticipation/preoccupation is the first stage in the addiction cycle. Once online, users experience feelings of relaxation, contentment or excitement.
Intoxication/binging refers to the second stage of the addiction process. Once something comes between an internet addict and online access, users may become depressed, irritable or restless.
Negative effect/Withdrawal is stage three of the addiction process. Users may repeat the cycle several times each day depending on the severity of the condition.
As with most other addictions, the cycle of accessing the internet, surfing, and visiting particular sites will eventually take on a routine all its own. Addicted individuals may experience a certain high when working through the routine. Process addiction refers to actions whereby the body experiences particular chemical changes before, during, and after the activity.
Triggers That Drive a Process Addiction
The same types of stressors and triggers that drive an addict to get high can also prompt someone to go online. Family issues, marital problems or a rough day at work are all possible situations from which someone might seek relief.
Online relationships are another issue altogether; reaching the point where real world relationships take a back seat to cyber living.
Self-Medicating With the Internet
Excessive internet use is often a simple outlet for those suffering from mental disorders such as anxiety or depression.
Common symptoms of depression include decreased social interaction and feelings of isolation. The internet may provide escape from these issues while offering a non-threatening means to interact with others.
Over time, internet addiction becomes a form of unhealthy self-medication.
People struggling through a difficult period in their lives are often more susceptible to “attaching” themselves to an online world as a means of distracting themselves from current situations.