Internet Addictions in Review: 2013

2013 saw a huge rise in the social awareness of Internet Addiction as an actual classified “disorder”. The average American started to realize that it’s really not just about, ‘Oh, I just use my iPhone too much’. It’s really become a very pathological sensitivity. It’s actually now classified a compulsive disorder- something that you’re not able to control- that is now jeopardizing more and more lives.

2013 also saw the first hospital in the USA to treat severe internet addiction. Bradford Regional Medical Center, in Pennsylvania now has a 10-day inpatient program. Patients admitted to the voluntary behavioral health treatment center must first undergo 72 hours at least without Internet use, followed by therapy sessions and educational seminars to “help them get their Internet compulsion under control.”

Ding = Dopamine

We are currently a society fueled by the rapid-fire connectivity of pc’s, tablets, Ipads, iPhones, smartphones… obsessive internet behavior has basically become a cultural norm. At a certain point, an over reliance on internet—and the rabid need to distract oneself with online video gaming, shopping, tweeting, scrolling, “liking,” and blogging at all hours of the day and night—morphs into an addiction.

Addiction implies a pattern of use that you can’t stop. The compulsion continues, even though time spent online is no longer productive or enjoyable. An addict, by nature, is seeking a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of reward and pleasure. The rush one is now conditioned to get every time they hear a “ding” on their phone or computer. It is a critical aspect as far as what separates addiction from just a bad habit

2013:Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V)

Signaling a slow but steady change in how psychologists are defining variants of addictive behavior in recent years “Internet Gaming Disorder” did make it into 2013’s DSM-V (the “psyche bible”) as a condition for further study.

The DSM is “the manual used by clinicians and researchers to diagnose and classify mental disorders. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) will publish DSM-5 in 2013, culminating a 14-year revision process”.

In the diagnosis, the criteria are limited to “internet gaming” and do not include general use of the Internet, online gambling, or social media.

However, by listing internet Gaming Disorder in DSM’5 Section III, the APA hopes to encourage research to determine whether the condition should be added to the manual as a disorder. Progress, not perfection.

Review: Internet Addiction criteria

With 2013 studies showing that the average American teen is clocking in at over seven hours of daily Internet use, it might be useful to review what is commonly accepted as the five key criteria of Internet addiction:

1. Excess: The Internet becomes the most important activity in the teen or young adult’s life, affecting feelings, behaviors and thoughts.

2. Mood modification: The teen or young adult receives an emotional “buzz” from using the Internet.

3. Tolerance: They become acclimatized, requiring increasing amounts of Internet time to get that “buzz.”

4. Withdrawal symptoms: Abruptly ceasing Internet activity will cause them emotional or physical distress.

5. Relapse: The addict tends to fall back into the same behavior very easily, even after some abstinence or control.

When these types of behavior are seen, it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. You’re often going to find underlying mental health issues- like ADHD, depression and anxiety. All of which frequently go undiagnosed until Internet addiction spins out of control.

The real problem being that most people laugh, shrug it off and don’t consider it a serious thing.

2014: Digital Detox

Of course, not every person who spends hours surfing the web each day suffers from an internet addiction. But seriously, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, we might discover that many of our own online habits have more of a negative than positive effect on our lives! After all, what good really comes from checking one’s Facebook page 15 times a day, or avoiding the outside world to live in a virtual one?

Digital detoxifying, in wilderness therapy programs such as Pacific Quest, are a popular form of treatment for teens and young adults struggling with addictions of many kinds, including abuse or misuse of video games and the Internet. Pacific Quest has the advantage of giving teens, adolescents and young adults the constant access to mental and physical health care professionals and frequent therapy sessions, while removing them completely from the object of the addiction and the life situations that may have supported the addiction in the first place. At the same time, treatment centers give addicts a chance to get a hold on to underlying issues, such as depression and anxiety.

A wonderful “New Years Resolution” for people of any age, would be to start off the New Year by using some “digital detox”. Let’s try putting down the phone, powering off the computer, and making some real memories without the aid of an electronic device. We might be surprised by how much, or how little, we actually miss it.

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