We normally think about addiction as pertaining to drugs or alcohol, but the truth is anything can become an addiction. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the fifth edition, published in May of 2013, an addiction is anything an individual has lost power over.
This particular version of the DSM includes non-substance addictions, such as Internet use, and any other behavior that brings a rush of pleasure to the brain, such as gambling, shopping, or sexual activity. And yes, Internet use can be an activity that can develop into an addiction.
When the brain is stimulated by a particular activity that brings excitement, it fills with dopamine, which feels pleasurable. Over time, as one continues to engage in that activity, there is a dependency that slowly develops upon those feelings of pleasure. In fact, this can become so strong that an addiction can develop such that it affects your functioning at home or work.
If you notice your performance at work declining or a neglect of family or household responsibilities, perhaps there’s an addiction. A traditional symptom of addiction is the continued use of a drug, or in this case an activity, to the exclusion of other life-activities.
When Internet Use Becomes An Addiction
A study done in Taiwan found that Internet use becomes an addiction when it begins to adversely affect professional and personal life. Research indicates that there are approximately people around the world who are addicted to the Internet. However, addictions to Internet use are not as prevalent in the United States as they are in other countries.
Typical Signs That an Adolescent Has an Internet Addiction Include:
- Difficulty Completing Daily Tasks
- Work Performance Decreases
- Losing Track of Time
- Isolation from Friends and Family
- Experiencing Euphoria with Internet Use
At times, Internet use can also serve as a coping mechanism for those who are feeling depressed or anxious. In fact, research indicates that men and women are more likely to become addicted to the use of the Internet if they are depressed, have social phobias, or have been diagnosed with ADHD.
Furthermore, men and women who meet the criteria for Internet addiction and who have a diagnosis are more likely to admit to drug abuse.
Like other forms of addiction, when Internet use is done in secrecy, it is often a sign that an addiction could be developing. Along with secrecy, Internet use can also include compulsive behavior where there is a loss of control and spending large amounts of time engaging in Internet-related activity to the point where there is a neglect of social, academic, or familial responsibilities.
There are countless assessments on the web to test whether you are addicted to the Internet. Some tests might be more accurate than others, but in general, they can help you determine whether your Internet use is leisurely or compulsive. It might sound odd to direct you to an online assessment to test your Internet addiction.
However, in this way, you can assess the level of your Internet use effectively and quickly. Below you will find sites with tests for measuring your use of the Internet.
Support For Addiction
If you find that your use of the Internet qualifies as addictive and compulsive, please seek the assistance of a mental health therapist. You might want to know that there are clinicians who provide support for behavioral addiction. These are a type of addiction discussed above – addictions to behaviors such as gambling, shopping, and Internet use.
Keep in mind that while you’re waiting to see a therapist for your addiction, you can also do the following to facilitate a break of an Internet addiction:
- remove the desktop from your bedroom, if it’s there.
- place your computer into a room you share with others to remove any secrecy
- have your spouse or trusted friend hold your smart phone or Ipad for periods of time while go see a movie or spend time at the beach instead of Internet use.
- seek professional assistance, such as therapy or support groups
These suggestions can facilitate a change in behavior and help break the cycle of addiction.
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