The following is an excerpt from a complete guide published by Comparitech.
“Internet Addiction” is a growing problem. As more individuals gain internet access every year, the number of people becoming obsessed and then addicted to the internet is increasing as well. Internet addiction shares a lot of similarities to other additions, and like other addictions, can also be treated. This guide will help you understand what internet addictions can look like, and how they can be treated.
Defining Internet Addiction
In 2012, popular satire news website The Onion posted a fake video news report: “Brain-Dead Teen, Only Capable Of Rolling Eyes And Texting, To Be Euthanized.”
The video amusingly dramatizes the slow degradation of “Caitlin,” a once energetic and active young girl whose brain has succumbed to lifelessness amidst texting and social media usage (and, one would assume, the general malaise of being a teenage girl). Her doting yet troubled parents have decided to take the most loving step they can consider: euthanasia. As the fake doctor in the clip states:
“Her eyes may flutter a bit, or she may murmur: ‘Are you for real killing me right now?’, but then the struggle will finally be over.”
The Onion is well known for its biting humor, but also, in a similar fashion to television’s Saturday Night Live, for the observational intelligence of its satire. In this case, the site hits fairly close to home for many who have dealt with technology and internet addiction, or who have family members currently struggling with this growing problem. Although realinternet addiction rarely, if ever, results in such a dramatic effect as The Onion’s notably hyperbolic example, its consequences and impact on relationships and quality of life are often deeply felt.
That said, the debate over whether internet addiction is a legitimate disorder has yet to be decided, at least officially in Western countries. The American Psychological Association,for example, does not list internet, technology, or social media disorders in its most recently updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), although it does give internet gaming addiction a nod. However, a growing number of Asian countries officially consider these addictions legitimate, including China, which officially classified internet addiction in 2008.
Despite disagreements about the efficacy of internet addiction claims and research, many medical professionals, including a number of psychologists, sociologists, and psychiatrists, currently do consider internet addiction–also referred to as problematic internet use (PIU), or internet addiction disorder (IAD)–as legitimate a disorder as any other addiction and worthy of just as much concern and attention.
While that debate still rages on, the number of individuals whose lives are tangibly affected by internet and technology overuse continues to swell. One 2014 study from the University of Hong Kong suggested that as many as 420 million people worldwide suffer from internet and technology addictions of some form. While other questioned the reach of that study, numerous examples continue to emerge regarding this issue, especially among younger generations.
Observations and studies point to the fact that younger generations are being brought up using the internet, mobile devices, and social media during the most formative years where habits are ingrained in the brain’s chemistry. However, counter to perceived logic, it may be that previous generations, in particular, Generation X, may be more likely to develop technology addictions than younger ones.
As with most addictions, there’s no one type of addict. The addiction will look different from person to person, and vary in just how deeply it impacts someone’s life. However, there are ways to identify whether technology and internet addictions actually exist in someone’s life, with observable negative consequences. Furthermore, there now exists a large body of actionable ways to combat these addictive behaviors that may help those suffering recover from the harm addictions can cause.