According to research by Statista Research Department, in the United Kingdom, almost the entire nation has access to the internet with an estimated 62.8 million monthly users in 2021 and expected to rise to over 65 million monthly users in 2026. While another research says that London continued to be the UK region with the highest number of internet users (95%).
People in the UK spend time online for various reasons, including work, staying in touch with loved ones, attending to their finances, getting ideas for cooking or DIY projects, learning new courses, or to binge watch their favorite movies and shows. Be it personal or professional work, individuals cutting across generations are using the internet. While there are legitimate reasons for internet use, consistency can cause internet addiction.
Also, staying online is quite normal, and because it is normal, it becomes easy for people to hide their addiction towards the internet. Internet Addiction Treatment and help are available for those with severe problems.
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Internet addiction or internet use disorder is a growing phenomenon that is characterised by the excessive use of the internet. Like other addictions, compulsive internet usage causes undesirable changes in a person’s life, such as minimal participation in the activity, breakdown of communication, etc.
Internet addiction can also result in a range of other behavioral addictions, such as gaming addiction, wrongful use of social media, shopping addiction, and more, which ultimately calls for internet addiction therapy or treatment.
To diagnose if a person has an internet addiction, the following five criteria are required according to most addiction specialists:
- You find it difficult to stay away from online activity for a long time.
- You find yourself using the internet excessively. In other words, you built a tolerance for it.
- You tried stopping internet use but failed repeatedly.
- You experience mood changes, restlessness, irritability and feel depressed when you try to cut down internet use.
- You know that you stay online for longer than you intend to.
Types of Internet Addiction
Types of internet addiction include:
- Compulsive Web Surfing: Dodging conversations or meetings with family, and friends or running away from responsibilities at work and home to surf the web.
- Internet Compulsions: Addictions like gaming, shopping, gambling, stock trading, and more lead to compulsive internet use, which disrupts personal and professional life.
- Online Relationship Addiction: It happens when a person values online relationships more than offline relationships.
- Online Sex Addiction: When a person spends more time than required on websites, adult chat rooms, or viewing online pornography.
Signs and Symptoms of Internet Addiction
- Lying about internet use
- Concealing internet use
- No longer engaging in physical activities
- Spending most waking hours online
- Anger or agitation when asked to stop
- Digestive problems
- Unintended weight gain/loss
- Social isolation
- Employment problems
- Academic failure
- Irritable mood
- Strained interpersonal relationships
- Memory impairment
- Poor concentration
- Trouble facing reality
Harmful Impacts of Internet Addiction
People who indulge in online activities often stay unaware of any changes or effects of internet addiction, while these changes become more apparent to their friends and loved ones. Internet addiction such as cyber-porn, online relationships, gambling, or gaming can pose threats to personal relationships.
On the other hand, online activities like continuous web surfing may not be directly responsible for damaging relationships but can still be harmful. These dangerous impacts of internet addiction can also turn face-to-face meetings into only interacting through emails and texting. Ultimately, these damaged relationships can also cause a loss of self-identity.
Spending a lot of time online gradually takes a person to self-isolation. This distance from friends and loved ones or lack of social interaction can specifically disrupt the brain chemistry and affects the physical health of a person. Just like any other addiction, the symptoms become severe as long as the person continues using the substance of choice.
Inability to Focus
Nowadays, people have this obsessive need to share everything on social media platforms. As a result, they struggle to live in the moment because they are too busy sharing it with people around the world. Hence, this constant need of sharing life with others or to know what is going on in other people’s life can open the doors to jealousy, comparison, and judgment.
Internet Addiction Treatment or Help
Once you realise that you or your loved one is suffering from Internet addiction, you need to look for help. While it is not easy to conquer the addiction to the internet, you can adopt a few ways or modify your patterns of thoughts and behaviours.
A few self-help methods that you can adopt are:
- Keeping a record of your online surfing and writing down your feelings can give you a reality check about the addiction. It will also help you to identify the problem areas.
- Finding alternate ways to enjoy or relieve stress and loneliness can help you reduce addictive behaviours. You can indulge yourself in activities like exercising, reading, spending time with family, and picking up new hobbies.
- Temporary abstaining from social media platforms that you are addicted to.
- Setting goals and achieving them step by step.
If these self-help options fail to keep you away from the internet, you can opt for other forms of professional internet addiction treatment, such as:
- Counselling with addiction treatment specialists
- Counselling for mental health disorders
- Addiction support groups
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT to change the negative thoughts and behaviours and learn new coping skills
- Medications, such as antidepressants to treat the physiological aspects of addiction
Whether you rely on self-help techniques or want to check into a residential internet addiction treatment program, remember that recovery is possible and small steps every day will help you in your journey. Also, the choice of treatment depends on the severity of the problem. Thankfully, internet addiction is not life-threatening as other addictions.
Therefore, finding alternative ways to keep yourself distracted from the source of addiction is significant. Also, before considering serious treatment options, such as joining internet addiction rehab or joining internet addiction therapy, learn about them from your nearest behavioural addiction counsellors or enquire at the rehab itself.