Internet Addiction (Internet Use Disorder)

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Caught in the web: The rising tide of internet addiction and how to overcome it.

In today’s digital age, everything can be found and done online – work, study, meetings with friends and even remote museum visits. However, as the internet grows, so does its potential for addiction, as it can negatively impact various aspects of our lives.

A study conducted among main campus students at Addis Ababa University found that 28.2% of the participants showed symptoms of internet addiction. Behavioural addictions can manifest in different ways, and it’s even more difficult to pinpoint symptoms when the behaviour is mostly a necessity for normality in the current times. However, some elements are a sure sign of excessive internet use.

A study by Chane Fantaw showed that prolonged internet sessions, particularly spending more than six hours online per day, are associated with lower psychological wellbeing. It also proved a significant negative relationship between internet addiction and psychological challenges. Students who use the internet for entertainment reported feeling worse symptoms of psychological disorders than those who use the internet strictly for academic purposes.

Addressing internet addiction and its consequences is crucial, as excessive internet use can lead to negative outcomes in various aspects of life. CATCH Recovery offers a comprehensive internet addiction treatment programme which helps you overcome your internet addiction and improve your mental health. By understanding the risks and consequences of internet addiction, we can provide the necessary support and guidance to help you regain control of your life and achieve a healthier balance between online and offline activities.

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Causes of Internet Addiction

Internet addiction has become a growing concern in today’s digital age, with numerous factors contributing to its development. One primary cause is spending more than six hours online per day online. This excessive time spent online can disrupt daily routines and responsibilities, further exacerbating the addiction. While this does not involve people who use the internet for work or academic research, it is still advisable to make a 15-minute break between your sessions or impose on your studies and professional responsibilities the Pomodoro technique of alternating work and break times.

Another contributing factor is the excessive use of the internet for entertainment purposes. This excessive use can lead to a dependence on the internet as a primary source of leisure and gratification, as well as a source of distraction from stress and triggers. However, it is not a treatment for these problems, and we do not advise using online activities for such means. Using the internet as a coping mechanism for stress or emotional issues only contributes to internet addiction.

If you turn to the internet to escape from your problems, you become reliant on the virtual world for emotional support. This reliance can result in a vicious cycle, as the internet becomes both the source of comfort and the cause of further stress and emotional turmoil. Curating your social circles and receiving a feed full of cherry-picked posts and information might result in an unrealistic perception of the world, your behaviours and wellbeing.

Lastly, lacking alternative recreational activities or social support networks can contribute to internet addiction. Many who suffer from internet addiction and come to us for help cannot access other leisure or social interaction forms. They confirm this as a primary reason for turning to the internet as their primary means of connection and entertainment. This dependence on the internet can lead to an increased risk of addiction, as it enforces social isolation and loneliness.

Internet Addiction

Signs and Symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder

Internet abuse is a type of behavioural disorder which refers to using the web for non-beneficial and often even harmful periods of time. Excessive computer use can cause mental disorders and can even physically damage our bodies. Being unable to track your internet usage is a risk factor for computer addiction, internet use disorder, and is also a symptom of other related behavioural addictions such as cybersex addiction, online gambling, internet gaming disorder and more.

Physical Symptoms

Sleep disturbances are a common symptom of internet addiction, as spending excessive amounts of time online leads to irregular sleep patterns and insomnia. This can result in fatigue, decreased cognitive function, and a weakened immune system.

Physical discomfort can also arise from prolonged periods of sitting and poor posture while using digital devices, causing muscle strain, back pain, and neck pain.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is another physical symptom associated with internet addiction. This condition occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand, becomes compressed at the wrist. Excessive use of keyboards and mice can contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, leading to pain, numbness, and weakness in the hand and wrist. However, we must also point out that this syndrome is slowly being eliminated from the risks of internet addiction disorder as most users in the UK access the web from their smartphones.

Lastly, staring at screens for extended periods can cause eye strain, dryness, discomfort, and an increased risk of developing computer vision syndrome. This condition can lead to headaches, blurred vision, and difficulty focusing on objects at a distance.

Emotional Symptoms

Feelings of guilt or shame are common emotional symptoms of internet addiction. These feelings may arise from the realisation that pathological internet use interferes with academic performance, social life or personal responsibilities. Increased irritability, depression, and anxiety are prevalent emotional symptoms of compulsive internet usage.

Other emotional symptoms of this condition include:

  • Social anxiety

  • Self-doubt

  • Lowered self-esteem

  • Imposter syndrome symptoms

Behavioural Symptoms

There is still a need for more research on the impact internet abuse has on our psychological wellbeing. However, we can define several side effects that compulsive internet use has on our mental health:

  • Abstaining from social contact
  • Losing track of time and missing out on deadlines
  • Spending too much time online
  • Replacing real-life companionship for online relationships
  • Hiding how much time is spent online
  • Frequenting chat rooms during work or study hours
  • Exhausting your budget on online shopping
  • Looking at problematic internet pornography
  • Pathological internet use where it overshadows work, family or other responsibilities
  • Obsessive computer game playing
  • Deleting previous online activity

The Effect of Social Networking Sites

If you often find yourself scrolling social feeds on your smartphone while becoming frustrated with the time you are wasting on it, then you are exhibiting symptoms of behavioural addiction to social media or internet. To better define the problem and compulsion at hand, please reach out to our assessment team.

At CATCH Recovery, we understand the detrimental effects internet addiction may already have on your psychological wellbeing. Our internet addiction treatment programmes are designed to identify and address the root causes of addiction and provide support to regain control over your internet usage. Participating in our programmes can improve your psychological wellbeing and achieve a healthier balance between online and offline relationships.

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Co-occurring Disorders

If you’re suffering from any co-occurring mental health disorders alongside an Internet Addiction Disorder, you might be feeling taken aback about the treatment options available in your area. CATCH Recovery’s dedicated team of addiction counsellors and therapists can help you identify your triggers and discover new ways to cope with them.

Commonly Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are associated with IAD. If you are struggling with attention deficits or focus control, you might also spend too much time online. Many people with this dial diagnosis fall into the traps of social media marketing and feed manipulation, giving birth to terms such as “death scrolling”.

Co-Occurring Substance Abuse Disorders

Many people who are struggling to control their internet use also suffer from one or more substance abuse conditions such as:

  • Drug addiction (including cocaine and opiates)
  • Alcoholism
  • Stimulant abuse
  • Amphetamine addiction

Diagnosing Internet Addiction Disorder

Diagnosing Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is crucial in addressing the negative consequences of excessive internet use. To diagnose problematic internet use, we use one of many widely used assessment tools.

The Internet Addiction Test (IAT), created by Young in 1998, plays a significant role in evaluating the extent of internet addiction and its impact on daily functioning. Young’s internet addiction test consists of twenty items that measure various aspects of internet usage, such as the frequency of use, the level of preoccupation, and the extent to which internet use interferes with daily activities and relationships.

Another tool which we might look at is the CIUS. This self-report uses a 14-item scale to assess the severity of internet usage or compulsive, pathological and other online behaviours that could be considered problematic. 

At CATCH Recovery, we understand the significance of early diagnosis and intervention in addressing Internet Addiction Disorder. Our comprehensive internet addiction treatment programmes incorporate the use of evidence-based assessment tools, such as Young’s IAT, to accurately evaluate the severity of internet addiction and its impact on an individual’s daily life. By identifying the specific areas of concern, our team of experts can tailor treatment plans to address the unique needs of each individual, ultimately leading to improved psychological wellbeing and a healthier relationship with technology.

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How the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Defines Internet Addiction

While excessive internet use has not been formally recognised as a disorder by the World Health Organisation, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), it is being actively researched and we soon expect the classifications related to internet addiction to change.

Treating Internet Addiction

Internet addiction counselling effectively addresses the underlying causes of your online habits and supports long-term recovery. Through therapy and counselling, we can help you learn how to manage your emotions and behaviours more healthily while building strong relationships online and off.

Internet addiction counselling involves various techniques and strategies, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behaviour therapy, family counselling, and mindfulness-based interventions. Through these therapies and interventions, we will guide you into your behaviour and assist in learning how to practice better self-care to support your recovery from an Internet Addiction Disorder.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) 

This type of psychotherapy focuses on changing negative thinking patterns and behaviours. It will help you understand the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and actions, so you can learn how to manage them more healthily. With CBT, we can work together to identify the triggers of your internet addiction, develop better coping skills and strategies for managing stress and anxiety, and explore healthier ways of dealing with difficult emotions.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

This form of psychotherapy teaches new skills for managing difficult emotions, improving relationships, and building positive coping strategies. It combines cognitive behavioural techniques with mindfulness-based approaches to help you become aware of your thoughts and feelings to make more mindful decisions in the future. With DBT, we will work together to identify how internet addiction has affected your life, explore healthier ways to manage stress and challenging emotions and develop a recovery plan.

Family Counselling

If your internet addiction impacts your family, family counselling can help strengthen the relationships between family members and learn how to support each other in recovery. We will work together to identify underlying issues in the family system, find healthy ways of expressing feelings, and create an action plan for managing your addiction.

Mindfulness-Based Interventions

Mindfulness-based interventions such as meditation, yoga, and breathwork can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings at the moment so that you can make more mindful decisions. Through mindfulness-based interventions, we will work together to develop better coping mechanisms for managing stress and anxiety and learn how to practice self-care more healthily.

CATCH Recovery can help you manage your time online with a variety of tools and techniques. We offer face-to-face and online therapy to ensure we are using the least invasive and most suitable approach.

Seeking Professional Help for Excessive Internet Use

If you are struggling to stay focused, productive, and connected with your friends and family because of your internet use, it might be time to consider seeking professional help for internet addiction. CATCH Recovery’s counselling service can provide support and guidance for long-term recovery from an unhealthy relationship with technology.

With a safe space to process thoughts and feelings surrounding your addiction and tools for better managing online activity, counselling can help you feel better, improve your self-image, and remove doubt in your behaviours.

Benefits of Seeking Treatment with CATCH Recovery

While seeking help for a behavioural addiction may seem challenging, the CATCH Recovery team is experienced in utilising proven techniques to help heal from compulsions. You can trust our therapists to provide individualised treatment tailored to your needs.

The primary benefit of counselling with us for internet addiction is gaining insight into the underlying issues that have led to compulsive online behaviour. Our therapists use a combination of techniques to help you better understand your triggers and develop tools for managing urges and stressors healthily. Through therapy, you can learn how to use digital devices without falling into compulsive behaviours and create an online routine that enables you to stay connected without feeling overwhelmed.

The CATCH Recovery team is here to guide you through recovery and help you make lasting lifestyle changes. Our dedicated counsellors provide ongoing support as you move towards a healthier relationship with technology.

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