In addition to drugs, alcohol and nicotine, there is another addictive substance that is becoming increasingly popular, which is often completely underestimated: the Internet. In today’s life, most people can hardly imagine life without it and of course it is part of everyday life as a constant companion: on the tablet, with the smartphone or in front of the laptop – many people are online around the clock, some privately, some even online Framework of their profession.
It harbors a danger for both user groups, because as many advantages and work facilitations the global network may have to offer, it has at least as many dangerous temptations ready for every user. These include online role-playing games, chat rooms, forums and other social networks that cast a spell over the user and thereby exert the pull of a drug.
The Federal Ministry of Health is now posting terrifying figures: Over 560,000 people in Germany are now considered internet addicts, and around two million Germans are at risk. It mainly affects young adults between the ages of 14 and 24. But this negative trend can not only be observed in Europe, in Asia – especially in South Korea and China – the numbers are much higher.
How to recognize an internet addiction
Recognizing the signs of an existing internet addiction is not always easy, as those affected usually also cover up their symptoms. One of the most significant features is of course the excessive use of the Internet, which can often last not only hours but also several days and can no longer be justified with normal activities such as work.
Affected people often develop downright withdrawal symptoms should they be denied access to the internet – this ranges from nervousness and anxiety to severe irritability or even depression. The constant need to be online often preoccupies those affected even at night – many internet addicts sleep poorly or only irregularly, as their thoughts constantly revolve around the next move in an online game or the next chat, even in bed.
However, this not only leads to sleep disturbances, but also has far-reaching consequences in everyday life: Those affected often experience a severe drop in performance; they can no longer concentrate properly and increasingly fail at school, university or at work. This is where the people around them or friends often notice for the first time that something is wrong with the person concerned.
If the addict is confronted with the problem by others, he usually reacts evasively, using excuses and white lies to justify his excessive Internet consumption. As a result, social contacts are often lost; Friendships are no longer cultivated, and the family often withdraws as well.
In particularly severe cases, after a certain point in time, those affected also show external signs of their Internet addiction: days of surfing are often associated with poor personal hygiene, and nutrition also suffers as a result.
Causes of Computer Addiction
Abbreviated on IAD by abbreviationfinder, Internet addiction can have many causes. Often those affected are tempted to flee from reality and to build their own virtual reality. On the Internet, you don’t have to confront any social problems, you can build your own social network and design your own virtual self.
Often those affected flee from negative experiences from everyday life, often they suffer from inferiority complexes, shyness, loneliness or even a social phobia. In many cases, addicts can only satisfy their need for social closeness or exchange with like-minded people online and therefore spend hours and days in chat rooms or forums.
Another conceivable cause of internet addiction is the many ways that the global network makes work easier and offers options for action: Almost everything can be ordered online and delivered to your home. In expert circles, experimenting with one’s own identity is often viewed as a time phenomenon that corresponds to the demand for flexibility that is common in today’s professional world.
Nowadays, young employees are confronted with frequent changes of job, with new gender roles, with financial and future uncertainty. These circumstances require an increased ability to adapt, the individual must remain flexible and agile. This is symbolized by the structures of the Internet – everything here is usually short-lived, everyone can change their virtual personality at will.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
The internet has long been part of everyday life and is used by many people. In some cases, however, surfing the Internet becomes a downright addiction. Those affected have the constant need to go online and can no longer control this desire. This has negative consequences for both mental and physical health.
Typical symptoms of internet addiction include decreased attention and difficulty concentrating. In addition, the addiction often leads to social isolation. The person concerned spends a large part of his free time in front of the computer and neglects contact with family and friends.
Physical symptoms are also associated with online addiction. Sitting for hours on end leads to muscle tension and damage to the spine. The eyes are damaged by constantly staring at the screen. The uncontrolled consumption of the Internet affects the regular daily routine.
Those affected often sit in front of the computer late into the night and suffer from sleep disorders as a result. Other needs are also neglected. Since most people find the preparation of meals to be too time-consuming, those affected often eat mainly fast food and sweets. The unhealthy diet and lack of exercise then lead to obesity.
When everyday life can no longer be managed
Every person is different and so internet addiction can take a different course for every person affected. In most cases, however, certain characteristics repeat themselves: Internet consumption, which initially appears normal, increases daily, and those affected usually surf the Internet until late at night.
Social isolation occurs, and the person concerned increasingly begins to become alienated from friends and family. And addiction also soon leaves its mark in work or school life: Internet addicts usually suffer from poor concentration, are nervous or irritable. Those affected soon skip school, no longer come to university or take sick leave week after week. It is not uncommon for students to drop out or even lose their job.
And in private life, too, those affected usually lose all form of control. Not infrequently, they can no longer manage the household, neglect washing and cooking and often increasingly litter the apartment. The more everyday life gets derailed, the more the social problems of the addicts are joined by major changes in personality.
These are often caused by virtual reality, but often also by the changed perception of the person concerned: Almost everyone who recognizes the addiction behind Internet consumption and could possibly even take action is viewed and treated as a potential opponent. In addition, the patients usually also suffer from physical symptoms such as weight gain, headache or back pain, which make it more difficult for them to cope with everyday life.
More and more people are becoming addicted to the internet. If users can no longer get away from the computer, take breaks, play online games for hours, gamble, are on the online shopping frenzy or overwork themselves with online jobs on online portals, they should pull the rip cord at the right time and see a doctor.
Many take work home with them or continue surfing the Internet after the work day. Frequent smartphone use and game consoles can also result in permanent stress that may need to be dealt with. If a doctor is consulted, he or she can give tips on how to behave and balance out further treatment.
Some internet addicts surf late into the night or even into the next morning. There are also cases where people sit in front of the computer for days, sometimes even with the help of stimulants or drugs. This can mess up the entire sleep and biorhythm. Even then, you should definitely see a doctor or even a specialist, ideally a psychiatrist.
Forms of therapy include talk therapy, occupational therapy, discussion groups or targeted relaxation methods. Many municipalities offer therapy groups for internet addicts. The problem now causes considerable economic damage, since, for example, in addition to sleep disorders, eye or back problems can also arise, which costs the health insurance companies a lot of money.
When should you go to the doctor?
Surfing has become an everyday activity today. There is hardly a middle or young person who is not interested in the Internet and its possibilities. In this respect, surfing, which takes up a large part of the day, does not have to be unusual or even pathological per se. Medical help is advisable when surfing the net makes a regular everyday life impossible.
Signs of addiction are given when the normal daily routine breaks down, as those affected do everything to spend as much time as possible on the Internet. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the day continues in its usual structure. However, if those affected notice that they are neglecting their professional duties or their family in favor of the network, there is a risk that normal everyday life will soon collapse. Even if the addiction is so far that ordinary things like personal hygiene or food intake are neglected, there is an urgent need for action. Medical therapy can help to restore the importance of surfing the net that allows a normal life.
Help & therapy options for those affected
There is currently no standardized therapy for Internet addiction, as this is still a fairly new phenomenon. Nevertheless – as with almost all addiction disorders – those affected must first of all understand and accept their addiction and clarify the reasons for this. Only then can appropriate countermeasures be initiated with professional help.
Behavioral therapy plays a decisive role in this. Here, techniques are developed together with those affected, with the help of which they can learn how to better use the Internet. Often times, Internet use is initially limited. It can also be helpful to avoid certain sites that are particularly addictive for the person concerned.
Another important component of therapy is to develop alternative leisure activities that leave as little space as possible for addictive behavior. This includes primarily hobbies, but also reactivating old friends or making new social contacts. In this respect, relatives or friends can also be an important factor that has a decisive influence on the success and failure of the therapy.
It is therefore important that Internet addicts always seek conversation and, before relapse, first turn to friends, family or appropriate counseling centers. There are specialized therapeutic contact points for this, which, for example, offer online advice for addicts or their relatives.
The fact that this form of counseling takes place on the Internet of all places has a plausible background: When looking for help, the Internet is usually the first port of call, especially for Internet addicts – this is their familiar environment and the threshold is lower because they are often no longer have any contact with the outside world.
Outlook & forecast
Internet addiction is not considered a disease in its own right. Therefore, it cannot be diagnosed in this form. Nevertheless, abnormal behavior on the part of the person concerned should not be underestimated and should be discussed with a doctor at an early stage.
Since the disease progresses slowly over a longer time window, the start of treatment often takes place very late. This has an impact on the forecast. If the patient experiences psychological distress, he often shows insight and wishes for an improvement in his state of health. In these cases the chances of recovery are most favorable.
In therapy, cognitive patterns can be edited and changed. The improvement can take place over several weeks, months or years. There is currently no uniform forecast. There is also the possibility of relapse. Due to professional obligations, it is increasingly impossible to completely renounce the use of the Internet. This affects the therapy and can have a negative effect.
The patient needs disciplined and controlled behavior when surfing the Internet so that relief can occur. Since the frequent use of digital data exchange is expected to increase the number of people affected, various therapeutic approaches are in the test phase with varying degrees of success. Currently, individual treatment plans are used with different prognostic prospects.
Why we should be offline more often than online
All in all, the internet is both a blessing and a curse. As many advantages are available to the user, the network is also a potential threat to economic and social life. Those who only surf or gamble will soon lose the connection to their circle of friends and become increasingly isolated.
It is therefore important to develop a healthy relationship with Internet use – and this turns out to be very difficult, especially for people who have to do with it professionally. It is therefore important to find the right balance for yourself, for example to set fixed times and, in case of doubt, prefer to be off instead of online.
Since multimedia and mobility with mobile devices determine our age and are therefore present everywhere, follow-up care for Internet addiction is particularly important. This can be done in conjunction with the treating psychologist or psychotherapist, but it can also be carried out with the support of the family doctor. Self-help groups are ideal for long-term follow-up care.
Conversations with like-minded people and experienced psychologists ensure stability through the exchange with those affected and can significantly reduce the risk of relapse around Internet addiction in this way. Relatives and friends can also be involved in aftercare by paying attention to the person affected and their leisure time behavior.
Follow-up care for internet addiction does not mean that the person concerned is banned from the internet. Surfing the Internet is allowed in most cases for private and professional reasons. The decisive factor is the conscious handling. This means that the person concerned takes a close look at his surfing behavior: Are the times on the Internet normal? Is the Internet used for purpose or for boredom? Can the internet be turned off at any time?
These are questions that the psychologist could ask the patient to follow up on. Leisure behavior is an important factor in aftercare. It is varied and motivating and also pays attention to socializing with others outside the network.
You can do that yourself
The dependency on daily surfing on the Internet now poses particularly great challenges for those affected. This is because online access is available almost everywhere. For those affected, the best and most sensible self-help measure is as extensive a distraction as possible. It is useful to rebuild your own life away from the internet. Friendships should be especially encouraged. Hobbies are also very important. Exercise can reduce stress hormones and make it easier to break free from online addiction. It releases feelings of happiness, which make the dependency and the detachment from this more bearable.
In some cases, a vacation can also help, and ideally there is no boredom. Anyone who feels up to the challenge can face a smaller or larger adventure – of course without the support of a smartphone.
Furthermore, access to the Internet should be restricted as much as possible for at least a few months. The smartphone is being replaced by a simple cell phone that only has telephony and SMS functions. If a computer is not needed for work or training, it should also be temporarily abolished or at least disconnected from the Internet. There are also auxiliary programs that automatically limit the online time or the total computer time. These must be set up and managed by a third party.