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Internet Addiction – The Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

In the digital age in which we live, the internet has taken over. Most of what we do, can be done on the internet and most of us spend at least a couple of hours each day online. While internet addiction is not yet an officially recognized mental disorder, there is no doubting that internet addiction is a real condition and a troubling one at that. At Psylegal, we are Melbourne’s trusted psychologists, highly experienced in addiction treatments. So what exactly is internet addiction? How can you tell if you or someone you know is affected and what are the treatment options? Read ahead to find out more.

What Is Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction is a behavioural addiction in which a person becomes dependent on use of the internet, or other online devices to the point where it interferes with their daily life. While medical opinion on this condition has been divided, internet addiction is becoming widely recognized and acknowledged, particularly in countries where it is affecting large numbers of people.

What Causes It?

These days it is almost impossible to live without the internet, we are surrounded by it and use it on a daily basis. Like most disorders however, the actual cause may be difficult to pinpoint. Some of the suggested causes may include:

  • Personality issues – that can make it more likely to become dependent on a range of things, such as cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, other drugs or the internet.
  • Being shy – shy people may be drawn to the anonymity of the Internet and believe they can be ‘themselves’ when online.
  • Biochemical responses – where the brain responds to the online rewards with ‘feel good’ chemicals and this biochemical ‘high’ encourages dependence.
  • Escapism – the internet is so absorbing that the user can forget about their problems or escape negative emotions while online.

What are the Symptoms?

Signs of internet addiction may present themselves in both a physical and emotional manner.

Some of the emotional symptoms may include:

  • Depression
  • Dishonesty
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of Euphoria when online
  • Isolation
  • No Sense of Time
  • Agitation
  • Mood Swings
  • Procrastination

There are also physical symptoms which may include backache, carpel tunnel syndrome, headaches, vision problems and poor personal hygiene, to name a few.

What are the Effects of Internet Addiction Disorder?

For people suffering from this disorder it might be affecting their personal relationships, work life, finances, or school life. Individuals may isolate themselves from others and spend long periods of time in social isolation. Internet addicts may lie about their usage and try to hide or deny the amount of time they spend online. Addicted individuals may also create alternate personas online in an attempt to mask their online behaviours. Serious financial troubles may also result from avoidance of work, bankruptcy due to continued online shopping, online gaming, or online gambling. Addicts may also experience withdrawal symptoms when not using the internet, including anger, tension, depression, boredom, joylessness, moodiness, nervousness, and irritability when they can’t be online.

How to Tell If You’re Addicted to the Internet

In the digital age we now live in, the internet is a huge part of day to day life for most people. Just because you spend hours watching YouTube videos or scrolling social media, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are addicted. If you are concerned, ask yourself the below questions:

  • How often do you stay online longer than you intended?
  • Do other people in your life complain about how much time you spend online?
  • Do you ever say or think, “Just a few more minutes” when online?
  • Have you tried and failed to cut down on how much time you spend online?
  • Do you ever hide how long you’ve been online?

If you answered yes to any of the above scenarios, you may be addicted to the internet. Treatment for internet addiction is available, but only a few specialized internet addiction services exist. A psychologist with knowledge of addiction treatment will be able to help.

If you recognize the symptoms of internet addiction in yourself or someone you know, Psylegal is here to help. Our highly qualified psychologists will guide you along the steps to controlling addiction, teaching you the necessary coping strategies to manage your stress and alter the negative thought patterns that fuel addictive behaviours. Call us today on 1300 79 22 09 to find out more and regain control of your life.

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