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Online or Internet Addiction
The internet as a general medium offers an “alternate” anonymous reality. The internet offers instant gratification, which along with accessibility, affordability, and anonymity, make it a “drug” of easy choice.
Internet addiction is now considered a common addiction with American research noting than 1 in 8 adult American internet users have addictive issues with internet use.
Internet addiction has a few tell-tale signs that highlight a growing obsession with internet use:
- Withdrawal from “real world” activities into increasing time spent on the internet, where neglect of self, the body, and sleep become increasingly common.
- A loss of time where the person suddenly find hours lost and being unaware of the time of night or day.
- Withdrawal symptoms when not “online”, including feelings on anger, tension, anxiety, and accompanied restlessness or depression when unable to access the internet.
- Feeling preoccupied about your last online session or thoughts of your next one.
- The need over time to spend more time each subsequent session to feel satisfied with your “experience”.
- Have tried to stop, cutback or control your internet use but have failed.
- Your partner, family or friends are telling you that you are spending too much time on the internet.
- Your relationship, health or job is at risk because of your internet use.
- Do you use the internet to escape from life, its problems or from partners.
- Withdrawal from family, friends and partners.
- Intolerance, including the need to buy upgrades, faster access, better equipment, or aids to facilitate more experience on the internet.
- Loss of social skills and interest in world affairs or community outside internet “issues”.
- Arguments, justifications, minimising and lying about time spent on internet, or denial they have an internet problem or addiction.
- Drop in work or school performance and reduced ability to focus or concentrate.
- Increased fatigue and loss of appetite.
Researchers are now categorising internet addiction into 5 types:
- Information Overload – excessive time spent surfing the web, downloading articles, media, information, and then organising this information into files, databases and home PC configyrations.
- Cybersex /Online Affairs – adult chatrooms, contact sites, fantasy role playing of a sexual nature, emailing other potential sexual partners.
- Social Interactions – Social sites of a non-sexual intent including FaceBook, Twitter, MSN, UTube, MySpace etc.
- Net Compulsions – Online Casinos, Online Gambling, Internet shopping, Ebay and auction sites.
- Internet Pornography Addiction – viewing, downloading, trading or sending own bodily photos to sexual sites, pornography sites, swinger sites etc.
- Many people find there is a temptation to interact with people online, where they can create an alter ego that appears to overcome felt deficiencies of the self. This can grow to take risks an safely express desires and risk expressing the needs and wants of being desired without the risk of face to face rejection.
The risk of this diversion is enhanced when a person is already looking to escape from frustrations, dissatisfactions and social disconnection in the “real world”. This allure can lead a person to firstly spending time on the internet in a general “surfing” mode, until one finds an “addictively” appealing site or type of site that hooks a person in.
Sex sites are rated the most common “addictive” site types by researcher Dr Al Cooper, who refers to online pornography and sex contact sites the “crack cocaine” of sexual compulsivity. By this he means that one experience can “hook” a person into an addictive compulsion to return over and over again to such sites.
The internet is a gateway to various temptations and addictive experiences. The affected person is at risk of not just having a triangulated relationship through time spent on the computer and the internet indulging in accessing music or videos or FaceBook, but this medium is then a gateway or portal to a host of addictive experiences such as pornography, gambling, online affairs and online retail spending addictions.
The increasing amount of time and secrecy involved in the activities becomes a form of abandonment and betrayal of the partner. Like any addiction there will be sliding behaviour over time where the affected person is unable to keep boundaries or control their actions.
Attempts to cease accessing the internet once “hooked” will create resistance, anxiety, and the withdrawal becomes intense, normally leading to a relapse and giving into the impulses to get back online. Like any addiction, the behaviour will get worse over time.
The impact on the developing brain of children and teenagers is now being researched and the initial conclusions are indicating that neural changes in the still developing brains of the young may be leading to entrenched social isolation, impacted social skills, family and peer relationships, whilst enhancing multi-tasking skills.
Children who witness parents being caught up in these behaviours will start to normalise this behaviour and often mimic it themself, or the abandonment that results will create low self esteem, or they will compensate with attention grabbing acting out behaviours, or negative behaviours.
Children require one-on-one physical time, attention and direction from their parents in order to develop a healthy sense of self. Many relationships and marriages are put into crisis by one or both partners embarking on an affair.
The deterioration in the art of conversation is also being experienced by affected persons close to the internet addict, and children are starting to normalise the idea that conversation is not part of family life.