Are you an Internet-aholic?

Americans are addicted.  We are addicted to all kinds of things.  Some to eating, some to drinking, drugs, shopping, technology… the list of addictive behaviors goes on and on.  We are in denial, and turn to these things as a way to mask too many difficult and unpleasant events in our lives.  When we’re stressed, we may eat to mask the stress and make ourselves feel better temporarily, but the effects don’t last, so we keep eating, but all we’re really done is make ourselves fatter, adding a new stress to our lives of being fat, and become addicted to eating.  We may turn to drinking or drugs as a way to lift the weight of the world away for a while, but these too, are temporary escapes that almost always turn into addictions; this addiction will eventually cause permanent organ damage or even death of the addicted of an innocent bystander.  Oddly enough, many people are turning to the internet for the same sort of relief.

With social media technologies, many people create personas that bear no resemblance to their true identities and struggles as a way to escape the woes of reality.  They spend hours and hours wasting away on online games, social media, and other internet offerings.  Depression, loneliness, stress, boredom, and anxiety can be washed away through imaginary online gaming spaces and chat features, which take the place of actual face-to-face conversations.  For some, the internet can produce feelings of euphoria.   In fact, the excessive use of the internet, online gaming, and social media has become a serious problem, and psychologists have now classified Internet addiction as the newest mental health disorder.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a person who suffers from an internet addiction, or Internet Use Disorder, will experience many common symptoms associated with other addictive behaviors. The American Psychiatric Association’s list of symptoms of Internet Use Disorder include, but are not limited to a an preoccupation with internet use and/or internet gaming, symptoms of withdrawal if removed from the internet, the need to spend increasingly more time on the internet, loss of previous interests and hobbies, a significant relationship, educational or career opportunity, or a job due to excessive Internet and/or internet gaming use, deception of family, or other significant people in their life about internet use, and trading time for sleep and/or interaction with family and friends to be online, and the use of the internet as an escape or to achieve a euphoric mood.

So, Internet Use Disorder is now joining the family of other addictions and psychological disorders. What do you think? Is Internet Use Disorder actually a addiction or psychological disorder? And more importantly, are you an internet-aholic?  Take this quiz, and find out!

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9 responses to “Are you an Internet-aholic?

  1. And this is why I never got into World of Warcraft. Played RuneScape when I was younger and was absolutely addicted to it in elementary and middle school. I’m glad I noticed my addiction and I’ve curbed my addiction on anything else on the Internet.

    It’s a tough issue because for some of us, computers are an essential part of our lives — and not in terms of social networking, but jobs too. So many of us can spend hours in front of a computer at work… then go home and spend ours on front of our computer in the comfort of our rooms. I’m not so sure that such instances mean addiction, especially because the reasons behind those behaviors are different depending on context — maybe at work I’m programming, or inputting data, but at home I’m playing games or just casually browsing.

    What solutions could be proposed to help cure such addictions? I know South Korea offers rehab clinics to Internet addicts (the problem is very severe there because of cheap and widespread high speed Internet) that cut off access to the Internet for the duration of rehab and encourage team and relationship building, but would such programs fly here in America? Of course, awareness of Internet addiction is at least one solution, but to be honest it does sound kind of silly, even though it is a serious problem. I suppose CBT could work, but I’m guessing that insurance companies wouldn’t take Internet addiction as a treatable condition as something that’s coverable, so such therapy would probably cost the patient out-of-pocket.

  2. I think that internet addiction is a very valid problem that people face today. As obscure as it may seem, some people really do rely on the internet in unhealthy ways to satisfy needs of stress relief and social relationships. However, like you mentioned above, the stress relief is only temporary, and when you log off your computer, loneliness once again begins to set in. It is a fake sense of comfort. Obviously this is a true addiction because they are setting up rehab clinics here in America for people who have video game and internet addiction. A friend of mine once told me that a couple they knew had gotten a divorce because one of the spouses had an addiction to online gaming. It literally tore their marriage apart. So how could anyone say it is not a real problem?

    I mean, look at this generation for example. I know for myself and many other that when we want to take a break from studying or doing homework the first thing we go to to take a mental break is logging on to facebook. Which seems ironic because for a lot of us, studying or doing homework involves using a computer. So, instead of taking a break from our computer, we engage it further by going on a social networking site. And it is really crazy to see how often people get on facebook during the day. I know for me, I am constantly checking facebook immediately after class, while I am waiting for the lightrail, and other random times during the day. I wonder about myself, what did I do with my time before I had a facebook in 2009? Now, facebook is such a huge part of my life I can’t imagine ever getting rid of it. And if I am not on facebook I am checking myasu or my email. That scares me, because since I am so reliant on it and would never want to get rid of it, I feel i too might have an addiction.

  3. Very interesting article, I didn’t know that psychologists have recently classified Internet addiction as a mental health disorder. But when I think about it, there’s definitely some logic to it. Internet, unlike ever before, is now available for use wherever people go. They can get it on their phones, their iPads, their iPods, laptops, etc. When I reflect on how many times throughout the day I’ll be talking to a friend and all of the sudden he will pull out his phone to check something on the Internet, it’s pretty crazy to think how it has become such an intrinsic part of everyday life.

    I have recently started playing this online billiards game on Miniclip.com. It’s a really fun game that allows you to play pool against friends or other users online. When I checked just last week to see the total time I have been playing for since I started two and a half months ago, it said two days and eight hours. I was in utter disbelief. To think, I have essentially thrown away two-plus days of my life to an online game that has no worth. The even worse part is that I hadn’t even realized that that’s how much I have played. The Internet is such a time-eater; we don’t even fathom the amount of time we spend on it until something that says you have been playing for 2 days and 8 hours notifies you. I believe Internet addiction deserves to be right up there with drug addictions, eating addictions, and all other very serious addictions.

  4. Internet addiction definitely exists. Just as addictions to many things outside the realm of drugs and alcohol exist: caffeine addictions, exercise addictions, sex addictions. These untraditional addictions are always questioned by the public—I remember the debate that surrounded “sex addiction” when Tiger Woods sought treatment after his scandal. Was it some kind of BS that his publicists promoted to excuse his behavior? We may never know, but I think the problem itself exists. It’s your personal definition of addiction that determines where this line is drawn; however, I think anything that begins to affect your life in the ways mentioned in Kelli’s blog post (withdrawal, increased dependence, loss of previous interests and hobbies, deception, etc.) is a problem.

    Moderation is particularly difficult with these unavoidable activities, such as internet use, which Jeff mentions in his comment. It is a necessity in most of our daily lives, so most cannot “quit” it, cut it out of their lives completely, like someone might cigarettes. Not to mention, how much internet use constitutes an addiction might be different for some than for others. However, I believe it is becoming a more widely-accepted addiction, perhaps because it has only been recently labeled as one and awareness of the potential consequences is low. Someone who constantly spends time updating their Facebook profile or tweeting does not face the same stigma as someone who needs smoke breaks every hour at work.

  5. I’m glad to see that Walton’s article you discussed cites several studies that actually look at the cognitive and physiological effects of Internet use because these are the kinds of things that need to be occurring for something to be in the DSM. A condition’s placement in the DSM has a lot of implications. Homosexuality, for example, was once in the DSM, and that creates a legal justification for medical professionals to treat it as a medical disorder. This, of course, can have severe consequences.

    It seems plausible that some people might truly have IUD, with actual and quantifiable physiological and cognitive symptoms, but I’m not sure that, even growing up with perpetually online peers, I ever met someone I would give that label. However, if these studies that have found true symptoms are sound (and I have my doubts about that), then it’s definitely worthwhile to look into CBT and other forms of treatment for addicted people, but I’m worried about how commonplace the concept of “Internet addiction” is already, and might further become, if it is validated in the DSM. Often, it seems that people who don’t use the Internet frequently look down upon those who do, deciding that these people are lonely, missing out on the pleasures of the “outside world,” and pitiable, when really they just find the Internet is a better use of their time than some other things.

  6. Very cool article, and I’ve definitely seen my fair share of people who are legitimately addicted to the internet. I wouldn’t say I am myself but I do use it quite a bit. I don’t suffer from withdrawals necessarily but there are times where I might get off work but not have my computer with my and I’ll really want to get home so I can check my facebook or many of the other websites that I use on a day to day basis. I have more of an ADD problem that stems from use of the internet I think, in that I might need to be studying for something or doing something productive for a class, but I find myself straying from it every five minutes to check scores on espn.com or to watch a youtube video of something of that ilk. So much of my school work is on the computer that I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to the internet purely out of it being a necessity.

    I think if you want to look at internet addicts, Twitter is a great place to start. Since starting my Twitter account for this class I think I’ve posted 44 tweet? and most of them are re-tweets of other people’s posts that I thought were funny or insightful. Looking at some of the people I follow though I notice the immense amounts of tweets that a person can accumulate in such a short time. for example, my friend Gilberts tweet count currently sits at 30,000. How does someone even have time for that? I think constantly having to post little insignificant details about your own life as they’re happening constitues an addiction of sorts.

  7. When I hear the word “addiction” I think of the negative consequences a particular behavior causes and the inability or unwillingness to stop the behavior despite those consequences.
    I don’t know if calling this phenomenon “internet addiction” is particularly useful. People do lots of different things on the internet- this could be online gaming, social media, blogging, reading science or pop culture articles- all very different activities that involve varying levels of interaction with other people or content creation. How do these various aspects of online culture impact one’s life and is this impact positive or negative compared to the time that could be spent in the “real world”? This obviously cannot be quantified but it’s something that we should think about before labeling any excessive time spent online as simply an “addiction”.

    • In the DSM, addiction criteria includes:

      (1) Tolerance, as defined by either of the following
      (a) A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect
      (b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.

      (2) Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: (a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance (refer to Criteria A or B of the criteria sets for Withdrawal from specific substances). (b) The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

      (3) The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

      (4) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.

      (5) A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance (such as visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance (such as chain smoking) or recover from its effects.

      (6) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.

      (7) The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance

      (Yes, I am a psychology major)

      Therefore, an Internet addict would need to meet multiple criteria to be diagnosed with an Internet addiction. An addiction inhibits your daily life. therefore, if you spend a lot of time on the Internet playing a game and it does not inhibit your daily life, you do not have an addiction. An Internet addiction diagnosis would be helpful to those people whose addiction actually inhibits their daily life. In fact. Studies have shown that naming a diagnosis is very beneficial to the client. For this reason, I think naming this diagnosis is very beneficial.

  8. There are many reasons why people go on the internet (learn, find love, shop, play virtual games, connect with friends and loved ones, or read the news), and the Internet sucks up a surprisingly large amount of our time. I think through the Internet there have been changes even in the styles of communication and have been led by these new medias and is proof of how the internet is profoundly transforming our culture. I am a psychology major and from my classes we I have learned that the growth in computer use and internet access has accompanied the idea of internet addiction which has been attracting attention from researchers and the media and this attention is certainly going to grow. I also that the number of people addicted to the Internet is going to grow and also the extent to which people are addicted to the Internet is going to grow

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