Most anyone with internet addiction (IAD) wants to stop. It takes more than wishful thinking to get away from any addiction. There is a way forward to get you through it and help you overcome it.
What is Internet Addiction?
IAD is so rampant today it’s hard not to hear about it or even know someone who has had it. IAD is sometimes called cyber addiction. Studies show that over 77% of Americans connect to the internet daily. 28% are online almost constantly. The word addiction is derived from Latin and means “bound to or enslaved by.” Those who suffer from IAD will agree with that definition. People suffering from IAD will spend so much of their time using a computer, or on the internet so much they find it starts to interfere with their jobs, relationships, health and more. Mental health professionals almost always agree if something becomes desired past the point when it has become harmful to a person; it’s classified as an addiction.
IAD is considered an impulse control or obsessive-compulsive disorder. No matter what you classify it as in the mental health field, cyber addiction causes negative life consequences — those addicted need to find solutions. People with IAD are often driven by their disorder or compulsion to use technology knowing they can’t get off or won’t want to get off once they’re online. As time passes, the person starts to spend most of their time worrying about being able to get online more.
What are the Symptoms of Internet Dependency?
The main symptoms of IAD are not very hard to see. The most obvious one is to spend hours and hours every day on the internet. However, not even this symptom is straightforward. The brain under the power of addiction no matter what the addiction is in experiences conjunction with the body in three different ways. Cyber addiction will lead to the person craving more internet time to the point of leaving behind their real life. Internet dependency will most often result in a person losing all control over their use of the internet. The internet addiction will also have a person continue to use and stay involved with the internet knowing its not good for them, their health, or their life.
The Symptoms Can Destroy More Than You Can Imagine
It is these three symptoms once displayed that give IAD so much power over a person’s life. It is also why it can be a long and complicated process to overcome. The internet-dependent person will continue to want it and use it knowing the internet is not good for them, costs money, affects health and can destroy relationships and careers. The American Medical Association defines cyber addiction the same as if you were suffering from chemical dependency. That’s because some studies link internet addiction with the brain’s structure in the gray and white matter regions. This region has structural changes that are detrimental and unable to prioritize necessary life tasks.
People who are addicted to the internet many times experience several emotional and physical symptoms. These signs are symptomatic of having a problem with cyber addiction. The emotional symptoms often include irritability when unable to use the internet, isolation from social activities, lying about how much time is spent using the internet, and preoccupation with when the internet can be used again. Aggressive behavior can also be common in this situation if the internet is taken away from them. Physical signs include fatigue, poor personal hygiene, and migraines. Some internet addiction sufferers can also have carpal tunnel syndrome because they do nothing by type at the computer and repeat the same motions for hours and sometimes days at a time. It’s the pathological internet use that is the main symptom of the problem. The result is a deep impairment in a person’s life.
What Are the Symptoms of an Internet Addiction Withdrawal?
IAD withdrawal can be pretty harmful to someone’s life even though they aren’t going through any chemical withdrawal-like those with substance abuse. Cyber addiction withdrawal can cause devastating effects and trigger anxiety crises with more mental health issues. This happens because the IAD stimulates the pleasure regions of the brain by releasing some substances in the brain, such as dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that plays a major role in our brain when it triggers joy or pleasure. Cyber addiction somehow seems to wire the brain differently so they only feel pleasure when using the internet. When they stop using the internet they can start having physical withdrawal symptoms. Physical effects from withdrawal are pretty varied. They include strong headaches, nausea, and fatigue. People often face one of the most common physical symptoms associated with anxiety, as well. Anxiety symptoms can include cold sweat, increased heart rate, nausea, weakness, shaking, and insomnia.
Mental Withdrawal is Well-Documented
The addiction path starts with a user becoming dependent on it. Once the person can’t stay away from the internet, knowing there will be negative and sometimes severe consequences they have crossed the line into addiction. Most of the time you can’t be addicted to the internet without having gone through various stages of dependence. By the time you suffer from cyber addiction, your mental withdrawal symptoms are almost always going to be stronger than your physical ones. Some withdrawal symptoms from IAD include increased heart rates and blood pressure when the person goes offline. It’s very similar to withdrawal symptoms seen in drug addicts. People who suffer from cyber addiction develop feelings of acute anxiety when they go offline. There are psychological withdrawal effects accompanied by actual physiological changes.
Some of them are increased feelings of anger, irritability, loneliness, emptiness, sadness, despair, and acute mood swings. Emotional and even violent outbursts are also not uncommon, no matter what age you are. It’s thought by psychiatrists IAD withdrawal doesn’t last long. In some cases, the psychological withdrawal symptoms may still last weeks or months, but they will probably get weaker as time passes. The withdrawal symptoms on the body may not be enough to be life-altering, and feelings of anxiety or depression, unfortunately, respond well to sedatives like alcohol and cannabis. There are still studies being done on if IAD withdrawal to assess if it can lead to other forms of addictions if no therapy or treatment program is used.
What Are the Dangers of an Internet Addiction?
There are short-term and long-term effects of online internet addiction. Some short-term effects of cyber addiction can be weight gain or forgetting to do daily tasks like cooking meals, etc. Some long-term effects of internet addiction have sufferers experiencing neck pain, backaches, insomnia, vision problems and more. Some of the cyber addiction’s worst dangers are the person’s inability to stop using the internet. Because they suffer from an addiction disorder, their brain circuitry most of the time has been rewired. The longer the person has been addicted, the more negative effects and dangerous consequences pile up.
Many times, the social life of someone suffering from internet addiction is non-existent, except for their cyber relationships in which they rarely meet the person with which they communicate. Another clear danger is they can lose their job, friends, partners and in general, will lose interest in real-life events and activities. The result can lead to severe depression and anxiety. Some of the other dangers include musculoskeletal issues from spending too many hours on the internet. There have been cases where people suffering from internet addiction have had light-induced seizures with increased metabolic rates.
How is Technology Addiction Treated?
People suffering from IAD can break the cycle of addiction by reaching out and finding a recovery treatment center with experience and knowledge about IAD. Sometimes the treatment center can be inpatient or outpatient, but whatever works best should be something done today. The reason treatment needs to be started as soon as possible is because recovery from IAD is not easy, but it is possible. Your first step as in any addiction is to understand and admit you have a cyber addiction problem and you need help.
Many of the treatments for IAD focus on psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and counseling. Individual and family counseling are powerful tools you can use to help recovery success in overcoming this problem. Because you’re around technology all the time and cannot escape it, therapy allows you to start modifying your behavior. You can resist the urge to have internet dependency again.
Outpatient Treatment is an Option
Seeking treatment isn’t optional in most cases of internet dependency. Treatment is almost always mandatory. Some of the best treatment centers offer outpatient physical, cognitive, and focused treatments. Everyone’s addiction is different and what works for you may not work for someone else. It all starts one step at a time. But you must take the first step by yourself. Some adults have better treatment results when they’re able to continue their daily routine if they work or are re-integrating into their family again. The method gives more freedom to the patient and lets the person start to resocialize again, which is important for their recovery.
Once you finish rehabilitation through a selected treatment center, you may for the first time in a long time, begin to feel like you have a purpose and are in charge of your life. There is no greater feeling than reaching this point and realizing you can now move forward with an internet addiction-free life. Your future path forward holds freedom and discoveries about how strong you really are.