Digital and Internet Addiction
Digital and internet addiction disorder is a brain disorder marked by excessive internet use in ways and for periods of time that have a negative influence on the sufferer's life.
Digital and internet addiction is when you have a compulsive need to use your digital devices to the point that it interferes with your life and prevents you from doing the things you need to do. This type of addiction can lead to a decline in feeling content and happy.
You may rely on your digital devices and the internet for comfort if you have underlying conditions such as depression, anxiety, or social anxiety.
Internet addiction does not have to take over your life or the life of someone you care about.
What is digital and internet addiction?
Digital and internet addiction is a distinct mental health disorder, but can also be a sign of another condition, such as anxiety or depression. It is a type of impulse control disorder.
Symptoms of ADHD, such as trouble planning ahead, poor time management, and higher-than-average levels of attentional impulsivity, are also common among people who suffer from digital and internet addiction.
Addictions activate a group of pleasure-related locations in the brain known as the "reward centre" or "pleasure pathway" of the brain. Dopamine, the "feel-good" hormone, also known as serotonin, provides a feeling of pleasure and is released during pleasurable activities such as internet use. When you're feeling good, it also motivates you to do something. However, over time tolerance to dopamine increases so the behaviour patterns required to prevent withdrawal also increase.
There is growing evidence that addictive behaviours can be genetically predisposed (S A Eisen et al, 1998). This means that people with this propensity lack adequate dopamine receptors or have insufficient serotonin/dopamine, making it difficult for them to experience normal levels of pleasure in activities that most people find pleasant. To boost pleasure, these people are more prone to seek out higher-than-average levels of involvement in behaviours that increase dopamine levels, successfully providing them with more reward but also putting them at a higher risk of addiction.
Effects of digital and internet addiction
A digital and internet addiction can have a variety of negative health and emotional consequences. Body aches, carpal tunnel syndrome, sleeplessness, visual issues, and weight gain or weight loss are just a few of the physical effects of digital and internet addiction.
If you have this type of addiction you experience considerably more difficulty in managing your daily activities, including your capacity to socialise and function in the real world, as well as your life at home. Emotional impacts include depression, dishonesty, anxiety, social isolation, violence, and mood swings.
Types of digital and internet addiction
Digital and internet addiction is a broad phrase that refers to a variety of internet, computer, and mobile technology-related behaviours and impulse control issues. There are currently no official criteria for diagnosing online addiction, but here are some examples:
- Gaming addiction
- Online gambling addiction
- Online shopping addiction
- Cybersex addiction
- Online relationship addiction
- Social media addiction
Symptoms and diagnosis
As with any addiction, if you suffer from digital and internet addiction disorder you are likely to want to hide their illness from those around you, making it difficult for them to see your symptoms.
When engaging in internet-based activity, someone suffering from digital and internet addiction disorder is likely to experience some or all of the following psychological symptoms:
- Guilt and remorse
- Agitation and irritability
Although few physical symptoms are likely to appear in the short term, digital and internet addiction can be detected over time by the appearance of any of the following symptoms:
- Weight gain or loss
- Insomnia and generally disturbed sleep patterns
- Blurred vision and carpal tunnel syndrome
- Regular, long and unbroken periods of online activity can cause serious – even deadly – health problems: falling and dying from seizures, strokes, and other diseases
- Deception and secrecy
- Inability to keep appointments or meet deadlines
- Frequent disappearances
- Constant phone use and checking
- Disengagement from partners, social circles and family
- Difficulties with intimacy
- Inability to concentrate
- Financial difficulties
- Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance
Support for digital and internet addiction
Your treatment for digital and internet addiction will be tailored to your exact symptoms and diagnosis (if appropriate), as well as your unique requirements. What works for one person might not work for another, and what works for one person may change over time. The following are some of the therapy alternatives for digital and internet addiction:
If you are motivated to recover from digital and internet addiction, our specialists at Schoen Clinic can help you return to living a happy and healthy life.
There are smartphone apps that can help you keep track of your symptoms and mental well-being, such as MindDoc.