America’s Newest Epidemic – Internet Addiction

Addiction to the internet is sweeping across America. More and more people are getting sucked in to the vast online world, and it is having very noticeable effects.

The internet is a relatively new invention, and the effects it has on us are still not fully understood. One thing’s for certain, however. It is addicting. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is a mental health disorder defined as obsessive or compulsive internet use that interferes with daily life. It is considered an Impulse Control Disorder (IED), and grouped together other disorders such as, kleptomania, pyromania, compulsive gambling and intermittent explosive disorder. With a myriad of activities available online, it’s easy for anybody to get sucked in.

Types of Internet Addiction:

  • Cybersex Pornography, adult chat rooms, adult role-playing sites
    • Free and instant access to pornography is dangerous. Nowadays, if you’re old enough to browse the web, you’re old enough to stumble onto adult material.
  • CompulsionsGambling, stock trading, shopping and auction sites
    • When money is symbolized as just a number, it is much easier to spend. Gambling is one of man’s oldest vices, and is now accessible from the comfort of your own home. Online shopping allows shoppers to browse clothing substantially faster, and provides and endless amount of stores to choose from.
  • Obsessive gamingBrowser games, MMORPGs, shooters.
    • DSM-V, the Holy Grail in diagnostic psychology, suggests that the neural pathways triggered when a drug addict gets his fix are also triggered in the same way when gaming.David Fitzsimmons - The Arizona Star -  Web - English - internet, ISIS
  • Information overloadingObsessive surfing of the web and databases or encyclopedias
    • Wikipedia now has over 5 million articles (Worth nearly $500k in print), and the indexed web has almost 5 billion. You could spend lifetimes reading and still not scratch the surface of what’s out there.
  • Cyber RelationshipsSocial Media, chat rooms, dating sites
    • Online relationships are replacing the face-to-face relationships for the first time since the birth of man. Popular sites such as Tindr, eHarmony, and Match allow users to find partners with little effort.

Risk Factors:

  • Anxiety – People are now using the internet to distract themselves from worries and fears. High anxiety and other disorders such as OCD can lead to obsessive refreshing or social media. The instant gratification from a notification ow new post is short lived, and thus the cycle repeats
  • Depression – The internet can provide an escape from reality, but excessive time spent online can only make things worse, only furthering the descent into depression
  • Addictive personality – People with addictive personalities already have a hard enough time resisting temptations. The internet might not seem so bad compared to drugs or other dangerous behaviors, so people are more likely to become susceptible to IAD.
  • Lack of Social Contact– Lonely people may turn to the internet instead of the real. The internet provides easier access to meeting new people, especially on dating sites, chat rooms, or social media.
  • Stressed – Using the internet to relieve stress can often be counterproductive, as people tend to spend more time online than they originally intended. Studies have shown that the internet even lowers our attention span.
  • Less active– More common amongst the elderly or disabled, people turn to the internet when they can’t get around or participate in activities like they used to. Why leave the house when there’s a virtual world accessible from bed?

Physical symptoms:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Pain and numbness in hands and wrists caused by extensive activity.
  • Dry eyes or strained vision – Staring at a screen for hours can be detrimental to your eyesight. Taking regular breaks from the computer will help alleviate this.
  • Back aches, neck aches, and headaches – Many people find themselves slouching over hours. Again, getting up, walking around and stretching after every 30 minutes can significantly help prevemt this.
  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia – Looking at a bright screen before bed delays the body’s production of melatonin and can prevent you from falling asleep. Studies have shown sleep deficiency also leads to other diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Avoid electronics for an hour before bed and try reading a book instead of watching TV or using your phone/computer.
  • Weight gain – Less time spent active and more time spent sedentary is a recipe for weight gain.
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