By Joel Stephens.
You don’t have to look around for too long to notice plenty of people who seem oblivious to their surroundings and have their eyes firmly focused on the screen in front of them, but there comes a point when the need to check your Facebook status or keep surfing the internet becomes more than a passing interest in what is going on in the world and what your friends are doing.
Any addiction is a serious problem and often needs some form of intervention to break the cycle and put your life back on a normal track and there is a growing awareness that so-called internet addiction is a modern phenomenon that is just as damaging and debilitating as any other addictions.
A genuine problem
Considering technology and the internet are now a fundamental part of how we live our modern lives and communicate with each other it can be understandably easy to suggest that internet addiction is not a real affliction but just something we all use in our daily lives.
Although it is not exactly a precise science by any means, a study published on Motherboard suggests that an estimated 6% of the world’s population is addicted to the internet. If that is anywhere near accurate, that equates to some 420 million people who are considered to have a damaging behavioral problem with their internet habits.
Technology and internet addiction is a real and genuine problem and these sorts of numbers strongly suggest that it needs to be recognized as such so that something can be done to address this growing issue.
Different name but same symptoms
A good starting point when talking about internet and technology addictions is to point out that there are striking similarities with the symptoms displayed by people suffering from any other sort of completely unrelated addiction.
Issues with substance abuse and alcohol, for example, have been widely documented and there are plenty of studies and support networks established to try and help people face their addiction problems in these specific areas, but internet addiction is still something we are coming to terms with, which makes it challenging for someone who may have been affected.
China is an interesting and perhaps surprising leader in this arena but they were amongst the first countries to officially recognize internet addiction as a clinical disorder.
The Chinese government has even taken the drastic step of establishing a series of boot camps across the country where teens are sent in order to break their internet addictions. That is unlikely to be the approach taken in most other countries but it does offer a clear indication that the symptoms are significantly similar to other addiction problems and therefore, need to be treated with the same degree of seriousness.
Spotting the warning signs
Internet addiction is widely described as an impulse control disorder, but the fundamental difference is that it does not involve the use of drugs or alcohol, although the symptoms of internet addiction come alarmingly close to the traits displayed by someone with a severe gambling problem.
It has been found that some people with an internet addiction will develop an emotional attachment to the online world they have created through various activities such as using chat rooms to communicate with others.
Nothing wrong with socializing with others online of course, but it is when you can’t stop checking their status and find yourself unable to walk away and do something else that there is a potential addiction problem.
Other people with a potential addiction problem might spend countless hours researching topics of interest or just finding activities that they find hard to break away from once they start.
An unhealthy preoccupation with the internet is a clear warning sign, as is when you find yourself increasing your internet time in order to try and achieve a certain level of satisfaction, spending longer online than you originally intended to spend.
If you find yourself becoming restless or irritable when you can’t spend time on the internet and you are shutting out personal and family relationships in favor of internet use, these are all clear signs of an addiction problem.
An internet addiction can also cause a number of medical problems too, such as dry eyes, severe headaches, and even Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Staring at a screen is something that many of us do for hours each day as part of our daily personal life and work routine, but being able to take a break and do something else is something we should all be capable of doing.
It’s when you can’t do that willingly that might be an addiction problem.