Continuing advances in technology now mean more people than ever before are able to use the internet extensively for both work and social purposes, with research and communication which previously would have been very time consuming now taking just a matter of minutes. Smart phones, tablets and interactive TV mean the internet is at our disposal 24/7. This is why it’s hard to recognise when internet use may have become an addiction. However, the symptoms and consequences of internet addiction are similar to those of other addictions. For example, do you suffer from mood swings if the internet is unavailable or do personal relationships suffer due to the internet taking priority? Are you distant and focused on the screen instead of life? At it’s worst, you can become sleep-deprived, paranoid and anxious.
Internet addiction disorder covers a variety of compulsive Internet activities including the following:
Cybersex and pornography
Spending excessive amounts of time on the internet, engaging in cybersex, viewing pornography, spending time in adult chat rooms or carrying out relationships in online fantasy worlds can desensitise you to emotion and have negative repercussions on an individual’s real-life relationships.
The Internet is a great way to meet and interact with new people and may even lead to the development of a genuinely romantic relationship. One problem with online relationships is that many people online lie about their sex, age, appearance, relationship status and job, meaning that when you meet in real-life, unfortunately they may not live up to their online persona, resulting in significant emotional distress and possible personal danger.
According to the Gambling Commission, there are an estimated 236,000 to 378,000 problem gamblers in Britain and the ease and availability of gambling online has made it more accessible than ever.
Many people find enjoyment in playing online role-playing games in their spare time. The vast majority of online gamers are able to strike a balance between gaming, work, friends and family, but unfortunately for some the compulsion to play online games becomes uncontrollable, meaning that other areas of real-life are neglected and relationships can suffer.
Online shopping or auction site shopping can be just as financially detrimental as gambling if it gets out of control. Shopping addicts have a tendency to purchase things they don’t really need and can’t really afford, but they do so in order to experience the temporary high of winning a bid or owning something new.
Counselling can help you identify these addictions, the effect they have on you and those around you and work towards a realistic solution.