Digital device addiction has proliferated in the last few decades as people have become ever more dependent on the technology and applications available on mobile phones. Technology has changed everything about the way people communicate and entertain themselves. It is almost impossible to work and have relationships in today’s society without some type of access to the Internet.
Digital Device Addiction Is Excessive Use That Stimulates The Brain
Digital devices stimulate the brain’s reward system providing exciting activities that become more and more compelling and addictive.
“Internet Addiction is a term defined by extreme or excessive engagement in one or more of a wide variety of digital devices, from cell phones and texting, to all the activities available on the Internet including”
- Cybersex Addiction – compulsive use of Internet pornography, adult chat rooms, or adult fantasy role-play sites impacting negatively on real-life intimate relationships.
- Cyber-Relationship Addiction – addiction to social networking, chat rooms, texting, and messaging to the point where virtual, online friends become more important than real-life relationships with family and friends.
- Net Compulsions – such as compulsive online gaming, gambling, stock trading, or compulsive use of online auction sites such as eBay, often resulting in financial and job-related problems.
- Information Overload – compulsive web surfing or database searching, leading to lower work productivity and less social interaction with family and friends.
- Computer Addiction – obsessive playing of off-line computer games, such as Solitaire or Minesweeper, or obsessive computer programming.
The most common of these Internet addictions include
- Online gambling
- Cyber-relationship addiction.
Internet addiction is characterized by incontrollable, time-consuming and distressful Internet use which results in difficulties with ones job, family or financial stability.
Since its inception nearly 40 years ago the Internet is now available to nearly 33% of the world and at least 78% of people in North America (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm). Internet addiction is a very new disorder, affecting from 6% to 15% of Internet users.
Effect On The Brain
The excitemen derived from Internet Activity stimulates the brain’s reward system much like drugs and alcohol. The Internet provides a constant, ever-changing source of information and entertainment and can be accessed from smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. Email, blogs, social networks, instant messaging, and message boards allow for both public and anonymous communication about any topic. Each person’s Internet use is different. For example, you might need to use the Internet extensively for your work. Or you might rely heavily on social networking sites to keep in touch with faraway family and friends. Or you’re on a dating site that constantly engages you. Spending a lot of time online becomes a problem when it absorbs too much of time, causing neglect of relationships, work, school, or other important things in life.
Short Term Effects
The Internet is a way to escape problems and quickly relieve stress or self-soothe and is an easily accessible tool. Losing yourself online can temporarily make feelings such as loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and boredom evaporate into thin air.
Long Term Effects
- Losing track of time online, irritation if someone interrupts
- Having trouble completing tasks at work or home.
- Isolation from family and friends
- Feeling guilty or defensive about Internet use.
- Feeling euphoria only while involved in Internet activities.
- Unable to stop despite consequences
Physical symptoms of Internet addiction
Internet or computer addiction can also cause physical discomfort such as:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (pain and numbness in hands and wrists)
- Dry eyes or strained vision
- Back aches and neck aches; severe headaches
- Sleep disturbances
- Pronounced weight gain or weight loss
Anxiety, depressed mood, irritation, guilt, shame
Conditions That Can Trigger An Internet Or Digital Device Compulsion
- Anxiety: An anxiety disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder may also contribute to excessive email checking and compulsive Internet use.
- Depression: The Internet can be an escape from feelings of depression, but too much time online can make things worse. Internet addiction further contributes to stress, isolation and loneliness.
- Other addictions: Many Internet addicts suffer from other addictions, such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex.
- Lack of social support: Internet addicts often use social networking sites, instant messaging, or online gaming as a safe way of establishing new relationships and more confidently relating to others.
- Unhappy teenager: You might be wondering where you fit in and the Internet could feel more comfortable than real-life friends.
- Lack of mobility For example, a new disability that limits ability to drive. Or you are parenting very young children, which can make it hard to leave the house or connect with old friends.
- Stress: While some people use the Internet to relieve stress, it can have a counterproductive effect. The longer you spend online, the higher stress levels will be.
Methods of Abuse
Internet addiction (any one of the activities listed above) is characterized by the uncontrollable urge to keep engaged the device it despite the toll it takes on your life. Compulsive Internet use means that you find more interest and pleasure and excitement in the Internet activity of your choice than anything else. It preempts work, family, friends, even meals. And you cannot stop no matter how much it disrupts life.
Criteria for Dependence include the following
- Tolerance: there is a need for increased amounts of Internet activity to achieve desired effect. This means there is a diminished effect over time that creates a demand for more.
- Withdrawal: characteristic symptoms occur (e.g., anxiety, depression) when Internet use is stopped, so whatever activity it is must be resumed to relieve or avoid symptoms.
- Intention Effect: Internet activity is often increased, and a longer time is spent doing it than is intended.
- Lack of Control: a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control Internet activity.
- Time: more and more time is spent in Internet activities.
- Reduction in Other Activities: social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of Internet activity. Even meals and eating are skipped.
- Continuance: Internet activity is continued despite loss of relationships and diminished effectiveness at work and school.
Ever Wonder If Your Use Of Your Internet, Social Media, Gaming, Or Other Device Use Is An Addiction Test Yourself
You love it, can’t stand to be away from it. You’d rather do it than eat or sleep. Test yourself to see if every answer is a yes.
Do You Have An Addiction To Internet/Social media/Video games/cell phone
1 Have you ever thought you needed help for your Internet or behavior?
2 That you’d be better off if you didn’t keep “giving in?”
3 That your internet/social media/video/games/cell phone are controlling you?
4 Have you ever tried to stop or limit your use?
5 Do you resort to your devices to escape, relieve anxiety, or because you can’t cope?
6 Do you feel guilt, remorse or depression when you use it too much?
7 Has your pursuit become more compulsive over time?
8 Does it interfere with relations with your spouse, children, or friends?
9 Do you lose time from work for it?
10 Do you feel anxious and depressed when you are away from your device?