Internet addiction is like gambling or compulsive shopping

Internet addiction is now so common it has multiple names; Internet Addiction Disorder, Compulsive Internet Use (CIU), Problematic Internet Use (PIU) and most quizzical of all of them iDisorder. (It seems to me that if we want the cool kids to get this we should call it iDisorder.)

It is a first world problem with an amazing 8.2% of the population affected in some way.

Symptoms

Not surprisingly these are typical symptoms of a problem behavior. Dishonesty is near the top. ‘No, I haven’t been gambling/shopping/drinking/ or watching YouTube’.

Users lose all sense of time. Have you noticed when you take an app full screen the clock normally gets turned off? Just like walking into a big Casino in Vegas isn’t it?

Guilt at being online, offset by a high (however small) at being online, isolation, depression, and anxiety are all featured on the list of symptoms.

You can also add physical symptoms too. Carpal Tunnel, headaches, and insomnia are all obvious computer related symptoms.

Diagnosis

The syndrome has been added recently to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but as yet there is no standardized definition. The closest diagnosis so far was attempted in 2005. This covers the behavior types such as being preoccupied with the net or being unable to cut back on use.

Current thinking proposes there should be one other factor from the following list; the person concerned must have jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, or they must have lied to conceal their habit or they are using the internet as an escape from guilt or anxiety.

Treatment

With the internet so ubiquitous, how can a person still function in today’s world and avoid the temptations of the cyber world?

Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step. If this seems familiar, it is because it is. But as we know from the horrific stories of trolling women and the freedom to post death threats, some people online have no boundaries.

Some psychologists argue that being addicted to the internet is an indication that there is some other issue at work. Assuming the other can be addressed by a treatment plan, the internet addiction will also dissolve. As yet, there is no indication and not enough empirical data to suggest this is right or wrong. But it is a starting point.

Another point of view is that it is a fad – a bit like binge-watching an entire series on Netflix. There will come a point where the binge runs out of steam naturally. But that does also suggest the idea that the binge-watcher will move onto something else. And as the enemies of legal marijuana will point out the next thing is always worse.

Do something else

For the rest of us, not involved with academic discussion there are really only two directions. Number one is to stop and do something else. Number two is to see if we are really addicted to gambling or shopping.