As technology usage continues to increase, problematic internet use has become an increasingly prominent issue worldwide. Problematic or pathological internet usage, which is also referred to as Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), is characterised by excessive time spent engaging in non-work internet-related activities. IAD is also characterised by a loss of control over internet-related behaviours, and/or an excessive preoccupation with internet-based activities. This disorder affects all age groups and stages of life.
Effects of IAD
IAD may cause impairment or distress to individuals who are impacted. Research has identified an extensive list of negative physical, psychosocial, and financial consequences of IAD.
Negative physical health consequences include:
- Back and neck related pain;
- Carpal tunnel syndrome;
- Strained vision;
- Weight loss or gain; and
- Sleep disturbance.
Psychosocial consequences include:
- Decreased self-esteem;
- Interpersonal conflict;
- Face-to-face social withdrawal.
Emotional-related symptoms of IAD may include:
- Poor concentration;
- Decreased motivation;
- Behavioural disinhibition;
- Mood fluctuation;
- Feelings of guilt and shame;
- Decreased sense of time; and
Financial issues due to IAD may include:
- Increased online spending and online gaming; and/or
- A loss of incom, due to missed work as a result of engaging in internet-related activities.
Treatment for IAD
Using the internet has become an integral part of our home and business lives. Traditional abstinence is therefore not a practical intervention strategy (i.e., a prescribed internet ban). The focus of treatment is usually centred around moderation and controlled usage. Research regarding treating of IAD is still in its infancy. However, based on individual practitioners and prior research findings regarding other types of addictions, several techniques are used to treat IAD.
These techniques include:
- Practicing opposite time of internet use;
- The use of external stoppers;
- Goal setting;
- Abstaining from particular application;
- Using reminder cards;
- Developing a personal inventory of internet usage;
- Engaging with a support group; and
- Family-based therapy.
These interventions are fundamentally time management techniques. The development of effective coping strategies is also targeted in therapy, in order to modify and replace addictive behaviours with more adaptive ones. If the affected individual finds more adaptive ways to cope, reliance on the internet to deal with frustrations should decrease. Finally, the social support system of the affected individual is also explored and maximised during the treatment phase.