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Internet Addiction

Getting caught in the 'web' of internet addiction

What is Internet Addiction?

The Internet has become a regular daily activity for many people.  While most people are able to regulate and control the amount of time they spend online each day, others become preoccupied with the Internet and are unable to manage their use of it, which can lead to significant problems in their lives.  Like other forms of compulsive behaviors, such as gambling, exercise, eating, shopping, or drug and alcohol use, Internet addiction can become a way to escape from difficult emotions and situations.  The following information is provided to help you decide if you or a loved one may be struggling with Internet addiction.       

Signs and Symptoms of Internet Addiction

The signs and symptoms of Internet Dependence may vary from person to person.  However, the following are common warning signs that may indicate you are at risk for Internet Dependence.  How many of them describe you?

  • Losing track of time while on the computer.
  • Experiencing mixed feelings of well-being and guilt/defensiveness while at the computer.
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends.
  • Being unsuccessful when attempting to stop or limit your computer use.
  • Neglecting friends, family and/or responsibilities in order to be online.
  • Lying to your family, friends, or supervisor about the amount of time spent on the computer and what you do while on it.
  • Feeling anxious, depressed, or irritable when your computer time is shortened or interrupted.
  • Relying on computer use to cope with negative feelings (e.g., sadness, anger, frustration) or as an outlet for sexual gratification.
  • Developing problems in school or on the job as a result of the time spent and the type of activities accessed on the computer.
  • Thinking about and anticipating next computer use frequently when you are not on the computer.   

Excessive Internet use can also contribute to physical discomfort and pain.  Can you relate to any of the following symptoms?

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (i.e., pain, numbness, and burning in your hands that can spread up the wrists, elbows, and shoulders).
  • Back and neck pain.
  • Dry, irritated eyes or strained vision.
  • Frequent and, at times, severe headaches.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Weight gain or weight loss.

Self-Help: What You Can Do

1. Awareness of The Problem

The first, and perhaps most important, step in treating Internet Dependence is to recognize that the problem exists.  As with other types of behavior that have become habitual or compulsive, individuals suffering from Internet Dependence may not be conscious of the extent to which their behavior has become problematic.  It is common for an individual to initially deny that the cost of Internet use outweighs its benefits, but this fact needs to be acknowledged in order for treatment to be successful.

2. Assessing for Underlying Reasons

If you are experiencing depression or anxiety, for example, excessive use of the Internet may be a way to distract yourself from the difficult emotions that are often associated with these conditions.  It is very important to determine if treatment for other underlying causes would be helpful.

3. Increase Coping Skills

Everyone has different ways of coping with life's challenges.  However, if Internet use is your sole coping strategy, it can leave you feeling lonely and isolation, not to mention contribute to becoming dependent on its use.  Strengthening your skills in other areas, such as improving your interpersonal skills and communication skills or increasing the amount of time you exercise, can help you endure the stresses and strains of life without resorting to excessive Internet use.   

4. Utilize Support System

There is plenty of research to support the benefits of having a strong support system.  The more quality relationships you have in real life, the less you will need or seek out relationships online.  Seek out activities that will allow you to meet new people or strengthen the relationships you already have.

When Self-Help Methods Are Not Enough

If you have tried some or all of the above-mentioned self-help strategies and are still having a difficult time breaking your pattern of Internet dependence, you may want to speak with a professional who is trained to help you stop your excessive use.  Compulsive behaviors, like Internet addiction, can be very difficult to break and so the more support and guidance you have during the process of reducing your use will increase the likelihood that you are successful. 

Counseling can help you to examine and change the thoughts and behaviors that may be fueling your Internet Dependence, as well as provide you with healthier coping strategies and support.  In addition, if you believe that underlying problems, such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, or drug or alcohol abuse, may be contributing to your Internet Dependence, counseling can address these problems as well.

Please call CCS today to schedule an intake appointment so that you can begin the process of freeing yourself from the ‘web' of Internet addiction.      

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