Internet Addiction - How the Internet can be Addictive

internet addictionWhen talking addictions, most think of alcohol and drugs.

But there are other addictions, that don’t involve the ingestion of a substance, but rather a type of behavior. According to an article in Forbes, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V) is looking to include Internet Addiction Disorer (IUD) as an actual mental health disorder after more research is concluded.According to the American Psychiatric Institute quoted in the article, a person with IUD “will experience preoccupation with the internet or internet gaming, withdrawal symptoms when the object (internet) is no longer available, tolerance (the need to spend more and more time on the internet to achieve the same “high”), loss of other interests, unsuccessful attempts to quit, and use the internet to improve or escape dysphonic mood.”

Some may argue that time spent on the information highway is all about personal choice, but the professionals may argue that fact.

People with internet addiction have demonstrable changes in their brains,” states Forbes contributor Alice Walton in the piece. Those changes involve cell connections in brain areas controlling attention, executive control, and emotional processing. Changes have been found in the brain’s dopamine system, with dopamine being the chemical responsible for pleasure and reward.There have been tragic consequences to internet addiction – children and teens who have died after playing games for hours on end. Lack of sleep and inadequate nourishment may also contribute to the negative consequences of the addiction.The problem is worldwide and harder to treat than a substance addiction, since like food addictions, treatment must be about managing use, rather than the abstinence approach used for other addictions. Japan Realtime reported a Japanese government study conducted by a health ministry panel found an estimated half a million students nationwide who were addicted. The problem has become so severe in South Korea, where everyone is highly connected, cyberly speaking, that they have developed the Jump Up Internet Rescue School – the first treatment of this kind to be developed. Part rehab and part boot camp, teens are monitored and motivated, using physical activity to replace the hours on end spent online.Here in the U.S., Jason Russell spent so much time online in response to a documentary about African warlord Joseph Koney that he developed a reactive psychosis – a temporary form of insanity – which sent him to a busy San Diego intersection naked, where he was pounding his palms on the pavement and ranting about the devil. That viral video landed it’s star into treatment and off the net for awhile!

Internet addictions can encompass internet pornography or sex addiction, online gambling, gaming or shopping, cyber relationships (risky, since it’s easy to fudge details about oneself), compulsive web surfing or database searching, and excessive dependence on social media sites, sometimes taking the place of real-life social interacting. Depression, isolation, inability to deal with day-to-day tasks and anxiety are some of the hallmarks of this condition.

Addictions like the IUD, also referred to as Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) by some, fall into the category of process addictions, and are highly treatable with the proper approach. If you know someone who has shunned reality in favor of their cyberspace world, they may be in need of help.

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