Dealing with and Overcoming Internet Addiction
I’ve always had a predisposition for getting stuck on counterproductive behavior but recently, I’ve noticed a new trend. I’ve been spending hours of my precious time online. It’s mostly been constrained to Facebook and Yahoo News, but the Internet provides a bevy of attractions that aren’t always easy for an aspiring 33-year old marketing writer/social media geek/slightly-obsessed sport fan to subdue (not to mention I love music–YouTube anyone??)
So I set out to research this new, mostly-unexplored phenomenon and discovered a world hereto unknown to me. Keep the following two points in mind while reading this: 1) If an activity doesn’t help you progress on a personal/career level, there’s no reason for engaging in it. 2) If you know that you have a short attention span and get carried away with destructive activities, that, may be in itself reason enough to at limit Internet consumption.
Internet addiction is a problem that has evolved in recent years to take center stage as one of the relevant—if not primary addictions facing teenagers in developed countries. While the Internet is widely seen as a technological tool that enables large population groups to better take care of their everyday needs and meet business goals, it’s also home to a growing cluster of troubling influences such as online gambling, drug trafficking and pornography.
Mental health experts have been called upon to assist individuals who spend long hours online, ignoring their responsibilities to family and friends. These clinicians have noticed emerging patterns that are relevant in nearly all cases of Internet addicts: self-esteem issues, anxiety-related problems; a traumatic life event such divorce of death of loved one, or a diagnosis of OCD or depression.
Internet addiction shares common features with other addictions so it makes sense that clinicians have used existing treatment models to help patients overcome their predicament. Like drug and alcohol addicts, Internet addicts flock online to flee reality. In many cases, these are people who don’t lead very happy, productive lives. They seek companionship in chat rooms, comradery on social media outlets, and frequent gaming and gambling sites as an outlet for their daily routine.
But Internet addiction doesn’t solve any long-standing problems—it just intensifies these, dragging the patient into a vicious cycle whereby they benefit from comforting online interaction only to feel sorry in the long run and regret wasting precious time. Depending on age and circumstances, Internet addiction usually hurts people either in their academic endeavors, family life or career. There have been cases of employment termination, divorce and even suicide resulting from this seemingly benign malady.
There are a number of techniques social workers recommend for dealing with Internet addiction. Amongst these are: setting reminders for when one intends to cease their online presence, filling in the vacuum created once a patient has ceased his/her addictive behavior with healthier, more productive activities and simple but complex abstinence whereby the patient undergoes a period similar to drug or alcohol detoxification.
As the Internet becomes available to millions of new users with every coming year, mental health experts would be wise to focus more time and resources to dealing with Internet addiction. We need to remain vigilant especially when the individual in question is a young adult with their whole life ahead of them. All too often, this troubling trend is viewed as an imaginary problem that can be easily remedied. As a society, we’ve yet to fully comprehend the inherent dangers of this disease brought on by an excess of good and genuine human ingenuity.