There is a growing need to identify the symptoms you experience when using Internet and mobile technology for extended periods. This a new direction that mental disorders are taking and psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as counsellors from organisations like Childline or LifeLine need to be prepared to deal with this. Professor Sherry Turkle in a TEDx talk joked about “phantom vibration syndro.” which so many people in my recent talks for Omnia Fertaliser resonated with.
– Ramon Thomas
Internet Addiction Disorder or IAD is an impulse control disorder which does not involve the use of an intoxicating drug. It definitely doesn’t land you in a Hope Canyon rehab, but is similar to pathological gambling in many ways. It is online-related compulsive behaviour that disrupts and causes stress on relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
Addiction versus spending too much online can be differentiated by asking the question: “Do you control the Internet, or does the Internet control you?” Internet addiction can come to dominate a person’s life and become more important than family, friends and work. To an addict, life without the internet is not life at all and will jeopardize real life relationships and successes to maintain their unhealthy behaviour.
Internet Addiction is commonly broken down into various types including: online pornography, gambling, gaming, and online shopping addiction. The internet started as a convenient electronic network for academics and the military to share information, but has exploded into much more than that. Many people spend time on the internet and many more people spend too much time on the internet, but internet use becomes problematic and an addiction when people feel like they need to use it and it becomes a compulsion instead of just a way to procrastinate or reach a service online.
Although IAD has not yet been recognized as a clinical diagnosis, it is gaining momentum and recognition as a destructive addiction that can be especially detrimental to people with other co-occurring problems and issues. Internet Addiction is not determined by the time spent online, but rather a person’s inability to control themselves when it comes to its use.
Symptoms of Addiction
- Always thinking about the Internet and what you did or will do
- Finding that you need to be online longer and longer to feel satisfied.
- Feeling restless, moody, depressed or irritable when trying to cut down on using the internet
- Significant relationships, your job, educational or career opportunities becoming endangered because of your internet use
- Finding that you lie to your family, friends and colleagues about how long or often you use the internet.
- Using the internet to avoid feeling negative emotions such as hopelessness, guilt and depression.
IAD is a compulsive-impulsive disorder, and those affected generally require therapy to get better. As it is hardly realistic to expect people to eliminate technology from their lives, most therapies teach controlled use, and behavioral modification.