What is Internet Addiction (IA)?
Internet Addiction, also known as Problematic Internet Use (PIU) or Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), is characterized by excessive or poorly controlled pre-occupations, urges, or behaviors regarding internet use that lead to impairment or distress.
One distinct characteristic of internet addiction is excessive “non-essential” time spent online, which is time not related to work or academic pursuits.
Internet use is appealing because it provides immediate reward with minimal delay, similar to the effect of alcohol or drugs.
What are the Types of Internet Addiction (IA)?
- Excessive gaming-gambling.
- Internet sexual activities or cybersex – pornography, erotic literature, adult fantasy chatrooms, or cybersexual relationships.
- Excessive social networking.
What are the Signs of Internet Addiction (IA)*?
- Excessive internet use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives;
- Withdrawal symptoms (i.e. feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression) when computer is inaccessible;
- Tolerance (i.e. increased need for stimulation to achieve satisfaction) resulting in greater need for computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use; and
- Adverse consequences, including arguments, lying, poor school or vocational achievement, social isolation, and fatigue.
*Despite the listed criteria, Internet Addiction is not yet recognized as a clinical disorder under DSM-5.
What are Factors Contributing to Internet Addiction (IA)?
- Biological Predisposition – genetic characteristics and personality traits (e.g. aggressiveness, low self-esteem, impulsivity, susceptibility to depression and anxiety) make some people more prone to develop IA.
- Behavioral Perspective – constant internet use is reinforced by its benefits, such as enjoyment, excitement, and escape from negative real life situations.
- Psychological Factors – Internet use can be a coping mechanism for individuals with underlying psychological problems such as those: who see themselves as socially awkward and find computer-mediated communications easier and more appealing than face-to-face interactions; with pre-existing sexual addiction; with negative body image; and, who would like to create a virtual “ideal self” versus their real self.
What are the Harmful Effects of Internet Addiction?
Distorted sense of time-being overly preoccupied with the internet can cause one to lose track of time, leading to:
- Poor time management
- Unhealthy sleep habits
- Poor eating habits (e.g. skipping meals, excessive snacking) leading to weight gain or weight loss
- Lack of time for personal interactions that leads to relationship problems (e.g. with romantic partner, with parent/child, or with peers)
- Social isolation
- Poor academic performance (e.g. lower grades and lesser involvement in school activities)
- Poor work performance
- Interference with daily routines
How to Deal with Internet Addiction?
Have a B – R – E – A – K!
- Be mindful of your own internet activities. Keep a record of how often and how long you spend time online.
- Regulate time spent on the internet. Set a limit to your internet use (e.g. 2 hours a day).
- Engage in other recreational activities. Spend time with others, find new hobbies, and recognize that there are many skills that you can’t acquire on the internet.
- Ask for professional help if needed.
- Know your priorities when using the internet. Make sure to accomplish what you need to do before doing anything else.
Reference: Philippine Mental Health Association, Inc.