Is there anybody you know who uses internet excessively in a day, like for playing video games, visiting porn sites, for online shopping, using Facebook or visiting different chatting sites again and again? Is his or her excessive internet usage interfering with daily life, interpersonal relationships, work, school, etc.? If the answer is yes, then maybe he or she is suffering from internet addiction.
Internet addiction is a growing social issue which is being debated worldwide. Internet has become an inseparable part of our daily living. Problematic use of internet can lead us to various mental and physical problems. Surveys in the United States and Europe have indicated alarming prevalence rates between 1.5 and 8.2 percentage respectively.There are some criteria to classify and diagnose internet addiction disorder.
The following 5 criteria are required to diagnose internet addiction:
The individual remains preoccupied with the internet (thinks about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)
Needs to use internet with increased amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction.
Has made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop internet use.
Is restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop internet use.
Has stayed online longer than originally intended.
Additionally, at least one of the following must be present:
Risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the internet.
Lying to conceal the extent of involvement with the internet.
There are different models available to explain the causal factor of internet addiction disorder. A comprehensive model of the development and maintenance of internet addiction by Winkler & Dorsing which takes into account socio-cultural factors, biological vulnerabilities like genetic factors, abnormalities in neurochemical processes, psychological predispositions and specific attributes of the internet to explain excessive engagement in internet activities.
Apart from the above discussed points, there are two significant psychological issues commonly seen in this group - a strong tendency to escape from the reality is there among internet addicts. These individuals find difficulty in facing the real world , may be due to certain conflict issues which evoke stress and anxiety in them. Involvement with technology and internet becomes a way out to get rid of the discomfort. Another psychological issue is the tendency to control the environment. Humans have a tendency to get a control over everything and it is a fact that we can't control other persons and situations. Internet addicts are involved in this compulsive behaviour may be because it is easy to get a control of technology and internet than the real world which is more threatening for them.
Impact of problematic usage of internet on social relationships has become alarming nowadays. The habit of surfing the internet continuously can be destructive indirectly. Even it has been seen that people drift away to the point that he/she cannot interact with people. Constant preoccupation with internet is damaging one’s social skills. People are losing touch with their life and their self-identity. Nowadays people don’t make efforts to establish face to face conversations, as many easy ways are available over internet, like chat messengers, email, etc. The constant effects of addiction to internet can lead an individual to such situations that involve various mental and behavioural problems like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc. The absence of social interaction also can lead to various physical effects on individual’s brain chemistry and the general physical health.
There have been lot of debates on which treatment modality is effective for the treatment of Internet Addiction Disorder. In many cases, multimodal treatments have been employed. It has been seen that there are lots of underlying psychological problems found in internet addicts, like anxiety, depression, etc. In such cases medications are also considered to be effective.
Apart from pharmacological interventions, different psychotherapeutic models are found to be very helpful in treating internet addiction like cognitive therapy, behaviour therapy, art therapy, family therapy, skill building training, etc. Studies have found cognitive behavioural therapy, in particular, is very effective and can bring better outcome among this group.