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Internet Addiction?

In the mental health world we all ascribe to the DSM, also known as the Mental Health Bible. Every so often the powers that be get together and refurb the diagnostic manual, adding and subtracting various “illnesses.” This coming May we will all be privy to those changes. This new and “improved” version will add a new addiction diagnosis to the mix…internet addiction. Also because we all love subtypes so much, there will be specific internet addictions to choose from such as: gaming addiction, web addiction, phone addiction, and so on.

All of this might sound a little crazy. As if we are just looking for things to label people. I mean we all have to use the internet, we all need to stay connected, we all need to access to information…right? So, what is internet addiction and should you have yourself promptly admitted to the nearest rehab facility?

Addictions of any kind all share common characteristics such as: ever increasing tolerance, withdrawal, and a negative effect on daily life. These are the reasons behind the inclusion of internet addiction in the new DSM (or so I assume). Addictions to substances, gambling, sex, porn, food…all of these issues involve the need for more and more of something, discomfort when they are not available, and harmful outcomes for the individual struggling with these addictions. Put that way, the inclusion of an internet addiction section kind of makes sense.

We see individuals who can NOT be away from their phones, computers, Facebook, fantasy football leagues, Twitter…it goes on and on. Many people spend hours of their day glued to their World of Warcraft game, investing more energy and effort on advancing in their virtual world than in the real world. The need to be online can become increasingly difficult to ignore and thus more and more time is “required” online. The more they become invested in the online community, the more likely they are to withdraw from their daily activities, friends, family, and goals. Like any addiction, the pull to continue on this path can cause job loss, relationship damage, and physical ailments. Reading articles, playing games, updating social networks, all of these activities become more important than meeting their basic needs such as eating, bathing, exercising, and earning a living.

Addictions of any kind usually start small and gradually increase. Often these addictions are a way for the individual to escape an issue that causes them anxiety or sadness. As a means of distraction from unwanted emotions people turn to these substances or activities rather than facing the core problem. Over time these habits become their sole coping mechanism, and thus addiction is born.

Do you have an internet addiction? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I miss meals because I’m online?
  • Do I forget appointments, not follow through with commitments, or avoid attending events so that I can spend time online?
  • Have my friends or family suggested that I spend too much time online?
  • Have I missed work or school because I would rather be online or because I was online very late the previous night?
  • When I feel sad or anxious do I get online?

This is by no means a complete list, nor does answering “yes” to any of these suggest you have an internet addiction. These questions are designed to be a tool that you can use as you explore an area of your life that may be holding you back from achieving all that you desire. For more information on internet addiction or how you can overcome those issues that have been standing in your way to a successful and fulfilling life, speak with a professional counselor. Therapists at Noyau Wellness Center are trained experts in diagnosing and treating various types of addiction and self-defeating behaviors.

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