Internet addiction

Internet addiction and video-game addiction are not actual Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-IV classifications. However, the term ‘internet addiction’ has been used to describe overuse, or excessive time spent using these media. It describes a set of behaviours observed in people using the internet to such an extent that it has caused other aspects of their lives to become unmanageable. They appear powerless to alter these behaviours despite the damage they are causing.

Specific pathological internet use affects people who are dependent on a specific function of the internet. Accounts of this include overuse (abuse) of online sexual material/services, online auction services, online share trading, and online gambling. These dependencies tend to be content specific, and would exist in the absence of the internet.

Generalised pathological internet use (what we call internet addiction) involves a general, multidimensional overuse of the internet. It might also include wasting time online, without a clear objective. Generalised pathological internet use is often also associated with online chat rooms and e-mail, which is assumed to be related to the social aspect of the internet. This need for social contact and reinforcement obtained online results in an increased desire to remain in a virtual social life.

Activities that can form a part of internet addiction (either by themselves or as part of a pervasive pattern of use) include:

  • Instant chat and instant messaging
  • Social networking sites
  • Surfing (browsing) the web
  • Checking and sending email
  • Website design
  • Research of popular culture
  • Online gaming
  • Configuring computer preferences
  • Downloading of audio-visual material (mp3, mpeg etc) or software
  • Writing compact discs or music downloaded from the internet

Ask yourself:

Is my excessive internet usage negatively affecting other aspects of my life, such as work and relationships?

How do I get help for myself or my loved one?

The first step in getting help is finding out whether you have a problem. A trained clinical psychologist can effectively perform a professional assessment, which will identify whether you have any problem areas, and will recommend the treatment most appropriate for you if necessary.

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