Internet addiction is characterized by a compulsive desire to participate in online activities, whether through social networks, gambling or gaming, shopping, or watching video. Although internet addiction has not yet been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, psychologists and counselors are increasingly of the opinion that it is as real an addiction as alcoholism and drug abuse. Internet addiction may not involve the severe physical withdrawal symptoms that are characteristic of substance abuse, but it can create its own withdrawal mechanisms and psychological cravings that consume a person’s life to the exclusion of his friends, family, and career.
Psychologists who are familiar with internet addiction see common patterns in their patient populations. Internet-addicted individuals have an unhealthy preoccupation with their online activities. Their internet activity is their sole source of enjoyment. When they attempt to wean themselves from their internet usage, they fail time and again and return to even greater amounts of internet usage. They risk losing their employment and family and social relationships due to the amount of time that they devote to their internet desires. Perhaps most significantly, they use the internet as a salve for problems that they would rather not face directly. These patterns are analogous to the substance abuse patterns that addiction counselors see in drug addicts and alcoholics, thus giving further credence to the reality of internet addiction.
As with other addictions, the first step to resolving an internet addiction is to acknowledge the existence of a problem. This is a high hurdle for every individual who will inevitably be in denial of the problem. A close friend or family member will typically see the problem long before it is acknowledged by the person who suffers from it. With time and patience, that friend or family member can convince the internet addict to seek help for his compulsive behavior.
Individuals who are prone to other impulse control disorders should be particularly cognizant of their utilization of the internet. A person who has a gambling disorder, for example, may be more likely to develop an unhealthy connection to online activities. As with excessive gambling, excessive use of the internet can develop when a person is looking for outlets or alternatives to other, more difficult problems in his life. A counselor who helps a person to gain control over his internet usage will also help to craft solutions for those other problems.
Cottonwood Tucson is a residential treatment facility providing an integrative approach to co-occurring disorders. Internet use disorder is a growing problem necessitating the residential treatment experience. For healing of mind, body, and spirit, call us today for more information: (800) 877-4520