Internet Addiction Disorder
Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is a term that describes the compulsive use of the internet. If you spend too many hours online and feel deprived of something if you’re not online, then chances are very high that you should seek out an internet addiction treatment.
Web dependency can come with a heavy cost to your life, just like any form of addiction. And it affects not only you, but also the people around you. People suffering from IAD are often socially deprived, loose friends (although they might not feel it directly because they have “online friends” or “virtual friends”) and emotional ties with family and other members of their community get weakened, which are being replaced with the contacts they make in online communities. However, after some time, a feeling of loneliness can often set in, because online friendships simply aren’t a good substitude for real friendships.
There is some debate among medical experts whether such a thing as Internet Addiction Disorder really exists, and if yes, how it should be classified. The next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“the bible of mental illnesses”) will have a section on “Internet Use Disorder” featured in it’s appendix, which means that this is a new, yet under-studied field which requires more attention. However, I won’t go into these things, because they simply don’t matter if you’re affected.
What matters is that you regain control over your life and use the internet as a useful or fun tool, not as a substitute.
Internet Addiction Test
It’s quiet easy to find out whether you are addicted to the net or not. Simply ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly:
- Do you often go online and don’t realize how much time has passed? A whole afternoon, evening or night may sometimes pass by with you sitting in front of the computer not doing anything in particular other than “being online”.
- Do you often feel exhausted, drained of energy but pumped up at the same time after spending many hours online? Do you sometimes have trouble falling asleep if you are online long hours before going to bed?
- Does the internet sometimes matter more to you than your “real life”? Do you sometimes put off tasks that are related to your real life because you “have” (or want) to do something online first? Do you take better care of your online friendships than your real friendships?
- Do you often find yourself spending more time online than you intended to?
- Do you sometimes try to hide how much time you spend online from others?
- Do you sometimes try to cut down the time you spend online but fail?
- Do you sometimes do things online when there are things you should do in your house (like washing dishes, cleaning room, etc)?
If you answered 3 or more questions with yes, there is a very high likelyhood that you have an online addiction.
In many ways, internet addiction disorder is just as bad as other forms of addiction. Sure it won’t bring you lung cancer like cigarettes, it won’t make you broke like gambling, it won’t kill you like heroin – it’s taking parts of your life that you can never get back nonetheless.
It’s true that the internet has opened up amazing possibilities, but at the same time, it’s also a time sucker, and in some ways, a life sucker. There are so many exciting and amazing things that you miss out on in life because of the time you spend online.
There are now experts specializing in neuroscience of web usability, and one of the things they are particularly proud of is the creation of “compulsive loops” – which means they deliberately design their websites and applications so that users compulsively make use of them, and become “hooked”.
There is a part of your brain that is called the ventral tegmental area. When you complete a certain task and get a “reward” (which could be anything from new content that becomes available on a website, or scores or badges on applications…) get excited, and it causes dopamine to be released into your brain’s pleasure center.
Dopamine is the same neurotransmitter that gets you hooked on nicotine or cocaine. It’s not a bad thing per se – your brain also releases dopamine when you engage in pleasurable social interaction. But if websites and applications are purposefully designed for maximum dopamine release, things can go bad.
An Addictive “Product”
The tobacco industry has known this for a long time: there’s nothing more profitable than a customer who is addicted to your product.
Of course – the internet and even those “addicting sites” aren’t bad per se. The solution is not to unplug. For most of society, the benefits of global connectivity far outweigh the disadvantages. So it’s about ourselves: we have to learn to balance our virtual lives and our real social contacts. We have to find a way how to “walk around the traps” of compulsive loop designers and manage our emotional responses to our online experiences.
Even some Silicon Valley executives already acknowledge that their websites and apps can be addictive. The former head of learning and development at Twitter, Michelle Gale, said she regularly coached the company’s engineers and executives that their gadgets had addictive properties.
2013 Research About Internet Addiction Disorder
Recent research1 has also shown that mood problems increase your risk of becoming addicted to the internet. So for example, any of these can make you more susceptible to internet addiction:
- low self-esteem
- ADD (attention deficit disorder)
More Men Or Women Addicted?
The study by Romano et al has also shown that both men and women are equally affected by IAD. That’s not what most people think though. The public perception is that men are more often addicted, but this is simply not the case anymore. Both genders struggle equally hard with this problem.
We have now seen that IAD is a problem that’s mainly emotional and we don’t have conscious control over it. That is why hypnosis for internet addiction is such an effective way of dealing with this challenge: because it helps to solve the problem from the inside out.
- Romano, M., Osborne, L.A., Truzoli, R., Reed, P. (2013). Differential psychological impact of Internet exposure on Internet addicts. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55162. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055162 [↩]