Online Addiction: Types and Treatment

James Wilson
May 10, 2018
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Internet addiction has been widely covered by the media, especially in regards to the younger generation but internet overuse can take different types and forms and it concerns everyone.

Different Types of Internet Overuse

A part of the debate concerns whether internet addiction is a disorder in itself or is it is a series of compulsive behaviors such as gaming addiction, social networking, online shopping, gambling or porn addiction. Different groups of the population show a variety of symptoms that are linked to internet overuse.

Social media growth has been impressive by any standards and a part of its user-base spends more and more hours using social media features. Facebook addiction, among others, has taken such proportions that some teenagers now choose to deactivate their accounts to escape its overuse, according to a New York Times article.

Online gambling addiction is considered by many psychologists to be potentially harmful, as “the availability of internet gambling may draw individuals who seek out isolated and anonymous contexts for their gambling behaviors,” according to Psychologists Dr. George Ladd and Dr. Nancy Petry, of the University of Connecticut Health Center.

Even though it doesn’t have a status as a disorder yet, there have been people who filed lawsuits claiming that their internet addiction makes them eligible for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. James Pacenza, an IBM employee who was terminated for visiting a sex-chat at work sued the company for wrongful termination. He asks for $5 million because he claims that he suffers from an addiction to pornography that is linked to his Vietnam War post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Even if he is unlikely to win, this might be only the beginning, as more people are worried that they suffer from some form of internet addiction and they ask for help.

Treatment for Internet Addiction

Dr. Kimberly Young, who has extensively researched internet addiction, is the director of the  Internet Addiction Recovery center in Bradford. The Center claims that internet addiction is a growing epidemic and has become a serious public health concern in many countries.

Dr. Young developed the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire to diagnose the disorder that includes the following questions:

  1. Do you feel preoccupied with the internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
  2. Do you feel the need to use the internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
  3. Did you repeatedly make unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop internet use?
  4. Do you feel moody, depressed, restless, or irritable when attempting to stop or cut down on internet use?
  5. Do you stay connected longer than originally intended?
  6. Have you risked the loss of significant relationship, job, career or educational opportunity because of the use of internet?
  7. Have you lied to therapist, family members, or others to hide the extent of your involvement with the internet?
  8. Do you use the internet as a way toescape from problems or relieve a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of guilt, helplessness,depression, anxiety…)?

Other signs include losing track of time online, having trouble completing other tasks and feeling guilty over the time spent on the internet. An internet addict may suffer from malnutrition, poor body posture or lack of exercise, depression, difficulty sleeping and withdrawal symptoms.

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Counseling sessions are provided in the Center, as well as other similar places that treat internet and computer addicts. Most of these counseling programs are in the USA but they are also popular in Asian countries like Taiwan and South Korea. Capio Nightingale Hospital, in central London, recently launched the first Young Person Technology Addiction Service, to help teenagers who are addicted to technology and their parents.

Therapists often analyze the triggers of compulsive internet use in order to make users aware of them in an attempt to eliminate them. People who suffer from internet overuse or addiction are encouraged to make a list of alternative activities and interests that they will follow. They set realistic goals in order to reduce internet use and increase off-screen social activities, while exploring ways to boost their confidence.

Finally, there are softwares available that can monitor how much time one spends on the internet and limit the websites that can be visited.