-By A. Scott Roberts
M.S. Rehabilitation Counseling
Researchers claim that people are now facing a new addiction: an addiction to the internet. Researchers and counselors have been observing internet addiction starting to take hold of people's lives, causing problems in relationships, isolating it's users and neglecting human interaction.1
"We know of serious cases in which teenagers don't leave the house, don't have interpersonal relationships, and have been isolated in front of their computer screen for the past two or three years, and only speak in the language of the characters they play with in network video games." (Source: Louise Nadeau / University of Montreal)
Internet addiction can be like any other addiction. It has a compulsive nature in which individuals start to have strong urges about hopping on the internet, checking their cell phones and using computers for non-essential purposes. With all the apps and social media sites immediately accessible on smartphones, this contributes to the pervasive nature of internet addiction.
Facebook and WhatsApp (a chatting app) are some of the most widely sought after and people will spend excessive amounts of time online using these apps to share photos, play games and chatting to the point that they are not able to stop.2
Researcher, Dr. Bert Wilt, found that there are often co-existing disorders with those that are addicted to the internet and cell phone apps. These conditions mostly include depression and anxiety disorders. Additionally, his study compared 25 individuals with internet addiction to 25 individuals that were addicted to alcohol. Surprisingly, the results show stark similarities.
Internet addiction affects individuals who have high rates of comorbitity (additional/co-existing disorders)3 accompanied by compulsive behaviors similar to an alcoholic who needs a drink.
In a large-scale study at the University of Leeds, researchers found that people who spend large amounts of time on the internet are more likely to have symptoms of depression. In fact, researchers found the evidence that internet users can develop a compulsive internet habit where they start to replace the real-life relationships of real people for online social networking. This, as researchers found, can have a great impact on ones mental health.
"While many of us use the internet to pay bills, shop and send emails, there is a small subset of the population who find it hard to control how much time they spend online, to the point where it interferes with their daily activities." (Source: Dr. Catriona Morrison /University of Leeds)
This study has demonstrated that internet use can replace normal social functions and contribute to depression.4
However, developing proper skills by becoming aware of these intrusive thoughts to hop onto the internet or an app, and responding appropriately, is a successful method used in The Truth Of Addiction Program.