Given how the internet has become such an integral part of modern society, it isn’t easy to imagine life without it. In fact, the internet is one of the most influential technologies ever to be created. Still, given its relatively short existence, we are only now learning about the long-term effects on psychological and mental health, especially concerning internet addiction. While playing some games or scrolling through videos may seem harmless, excessive internet usage may hinder one’s daily life. When being connected to the internet takes precedence over relationships, work, or school, it can become classified as an addiction. Mental health professionals classify internet and phone addiction as impulse control or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Computer addiction refers to any online or offline activity performed on a computer or other personal device. These days, phones often present the greatest temptation. Therefore, for this article’s purposes, the term “phone addiction” can also be inferred.

Is it an Addiction?

There are several indicators that an individual suffers from an internet use disorder. If someone exhibits five or more of these characteristics, they may be diagnosed with an official disorder or addiction.

  • The individual is inappropriately preoccupied with the internet/phone, thinking about being online even when they are not.
  • They feel compelled to use the internet more and more to feel satisfied.
  • They cannot put their phone aside for any period of time.
  • They have tried to control their internet/phone usage to no avail.
  • They stay online longer than intended, often making themselves late for other appointments.
  • They become depressed or irritable when limiting their time on the internet or their phone.
  • They have lost (or put at risk) a job, relationship, or significant opportunity because of their excessive internet usage.
  • They are dishonest about how much time they spend on the internet and try to conceal usage from their loved ones.
  • They use the internet as a method of escape from problems or real-world issues.

Harmful Effects Of An Internet or Phone Addiction

An addiction of this type can result in many physical and mental adverse effects.

Physically speaking, the individual may experience body aches, carpal tunnel syndrome, insomnia, vision issues, and fluctuations in weight. Emotionally, excessive usage can cause depression, social isolation, dishonesty, mood swings – and even aggression.

Internet/Phone Addiction And Mental Illness

Those diagnosed with an internet disorder or addiction may have significantly more trouble coping with their normal daily activities, such as family relationships, work-related responsibilities, and socialization. Internet addicts also tend to experience more depression and anxiety than their peers.

Did You Know? There is some professional debate regarding the cause and effect of this disorder. Some believe that a phone or internet addiction is the cause of poor socialization skills and depression – while others think the presence of these mental health issues fuels excessive usage. Those with internet addiction also are more susceptible to symptoms commonly associated with ADHD, such as poor time management and an inability to plan ahead.

Treatment Options

Depending on the extent of the addiction, various types of treatment may be appropriate. If a loved one is handicapped by excessive internet abuse, you’ll need to confront the situation to express your concerns. Mental health counseling for a compulsive disorder, as well as any associated conditions such as depression or anxiety, can help break the hold of the internet.

To learn more about regaining control of your time and your life, call Denise Schonwald, a nationally certified mental health counselor.

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