Addictions begin as an attempt to change or temporarily escape from emotional feelings that are uncomfortable like stress, worry, anger or loneliness. Excessive use of the internet could interfere with every day living and become compulsive. When patterns of addiction are established it is difficult to focus on and resolve the real sources of emotional distress.
The following is an excerpt from Helpguide.org, a non-profit Internet resource.
Many people turn to the Internet in order to manage unpleasant feelings such as stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. When you have a bad day and are looking for a way to escape your problems or to quickly relieve stress or self-soothe, the Internet can be an easily accessible outlet. Losing yourself online can temporarily make feelings such as loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and boredom evaporate into thin air. As much comfort as the Internet can provide, though, it’s important to remember that there are healthier (and more effective) ways to keep difficult feelings in check. These may include exercising, meditating, using sensory relaxation strategies, and practicing simple breathing exercises.
What is Internet addiction or computer addiction?
Internet Addiction, otherwise known as computer addiction, online addiction, or internet addiction disorder (IAD), covers a variety of impulse-control problems, including:
- Cybersex Addiction – compulsive use of Internet pornography, adult chat rooms, or adult fantasy role-play sites impacting negatively on real-life intimate relationships.
- Cyber-Relationship Addiction – addiction to social networking, chat rooms and messaging to the point where virtual, online friends become more important than real-life relationships with family and friends.
- Net Compulsions – such as compulsive online gaming, gambling, stock trading, or compulsive use of online auction sites such as eBay, often resulting in financial and job-related problems.
- Information Overload – compulsive web surfing or database searching, leading to lower work productivity and less social interaction with family and friends.
- Computer Addiction – obsessive playing of off-line computer games, such as Solitaire or Minesweeper, or obsessive computer programming.
You are at greater risk of Internet addiction if:
- You suffer from anxiety. You may use the Internet to distract yourself from your worries and fears. An anxiety disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder may also contribute to excessive email checking and compulsive Internet use.
- You are depressed. The Internet can be an escape from feelings of depression, but too much time online can make things worse. Internet addiction further contributes to stress, isolation and loneliness.
- You have any other addictions. Many Internet addicts suffer from other addictions, such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex.
- You lack social support. Internet addicts often use social networking sites, instant messaging, or online gaming as a safe way of establishing new relationships and more confidently relating to others.
- You’re an unhappy teenager, you might be wondering where you fit in and the Internet might feel more comfortable than real life friends.
- You are less mobile or socially active than you are used to. For example, you may be coping with a new disability that limits your ability to drive. Parenting very young children can make it hard to leave the house or connect with old friends.
- You are stressed. While some people use the Internet to relieve stress, it can have a counterproductive effect. The longer you spend online, the higher your stress levels will be.
Signs and symptoms of Internet addiction or computer addiction
- Losing track of time online. Do you frequently find yourself on the Internet longer than you intended? Does a few minutes turn in to a few hours? Do you get irritated or cranky if your online time is interrupted?
- Having trouble completing tasks at work or home. Do you find laundry piling up and little food for dinner inthe house because you’ve been busy online? Perhaps you find yourself working late more often because you can’t complete your work on time — then staying even longer when everyone else has gone home so you can surf the Web freely.
- Isolation from family and friends. Is your social life suffering because of all the time you spend online? Are you neglecting your family and friends? Do you feel like no one in your “real” life — even your spouse — understands you like your online friends?
- Feeling guilty or defensive about your Internet use. Are you sick of your spouse nagging you to get off the computer and spend time together? Do you hide your Internet use or lie to your boss and family about the amount of time you spend on the computer and what you do while online?
- Feeling a sense of euphoria while involved in Internet activities. Do you use the Internet as an outlet when stressed, sad, or for sexual gratification or excitement? Have you tried to limit your Internet time but failed?
Physical symptoms of Internet addiction
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (pain and numbness in hands and wrists)
- Dry eyes or strained vision
- Back aches and neck aches; severe headaches
- Sleep disturbances
- Pronounced weight gain or weight loss