Do you play video games excessively? Are you spending half your day endlessly scrolling through TikTok? Is your shopping cart filled with items that you've compulsively purchased? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from Internet Addiction Disorder(IAD). Commonly referred to as Compulsive Internet Use(CIU), this addiction has been on the rise in recent years, and has gained serious attention from doctors and researchers alike. Though it is not officially recognized as a disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-IV), IAD's prevalence in European and American culture is staggering: affecting up to 8.2% of the general population.
Are you affected?
Just because you spend lots of time on the internet does not mean you are suffering from IAD. The real trouble begins when your internet activities begin interfering with your daily life. In general, Internet Addiction Disorder is subdivided into varying categories. The most commonly identified categories of Internet Addiction include gaming, social networking, email, blogging, online shopping, and inappropriate Internet pornography use. How you're spending your time on the internet is important as well. Some risk-factors of spending too much time on the internet include: physical impairments, social and functional impairments, emotional impairments, impulsive Internet use, and dependence on the Internet.
What causes it?
Like most addictions, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact cause to IAD. However, we have found several different factors that may contribute to this addiction. Some evidence suggests that your brain becomes chemically dependent on the internet, much like it would to drugs or alcohol. Other research link IAD to physically changing brain structure, specifically affecting the amount of white and grey matter. This area of the brain is associated with memory, attention, and planning tasks. It is suggested one of the causes of Internet Addiction Disorder is structural changes to the prefrontal region of the brain are detrimental to your capability to prioritize tasks in your life, rendering you unable to prioritize your life, i.e., the Internet takes precedence to necessary life tasks.
Checklist of symptoms
Symptoms of IAD may present them both through physical and emotional means. Some of these symptoms may include: Emotional Symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder may include:
Feelings of guilt
Feelings of Euphoria when using the Computer
Inability to Prioritize or Keep Schedules
No Sense of Time
Avoidance of Work
Boredom with Routine Tasks
Physical Symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder may include:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Poor Nutrition (failing to eat or eating in excessively to avoid being away from the computer)
Poor Personal Hygiene (e.g., not bathing to stay online)
Dry Eyes and other Vision Problems
Weight Gain or Loss
How to get help?
The first step to treating a problem is to recognize it; if you believe you may be suffering from this disorder, seek help immediately. Studies have shown that antidepressant medication may have profound impact on treating IAD, reducing internet use in some cases from 35+ hours a week to just 16. Physical exercise also may have an effect on reducing internet usage.
Some more common phycological treatments of IAD include: