Internet Obsession

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Dr. Mir Anayat

Due to the turmoil in Kashmir the young generation has suffered substantially and hit their emotional, behavioural behaviours besides involved them in substance use and adversely affected their academics. Such population comes from diverse socio-economic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds. Youth involved in drug abuse turn vulnerable targets for religious exploitation and   they become prone to anti social and anti national behaviors. Experts agree that Kashmir has lost one generation to guns and is about to lose another generation to drugs.

Changing technology is a boom for nations in terms of growth and development but can turn curse under the circumstances where people are ignorant and distracted. Drug addiction has incapacitated thousands of youth in Kashmir and now perceived threat of internet addiction will be another tough challenge for heath care givers and policy makers.

Photo:Google

Photo:Google

Internet addiction  (general surfing, pornography, chat rooms, message boards, social networking sites, video games, email, texting, cloud applications and games, etc.), is a psychological disorder that causes people to spend so much time on a computer that it affects their health, job, finances, or relationships. People with other addictions have a higher risk of developing an Internet addiction.

Mental health experts believe that Internet addiction — also called Internet addiction disorder or IAD — can have the same troubling effects as substance abuse or gambling addiction. It’s a relatively new condition that’s not listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). A 2012 article in Current Psychiatry Reviews, for instance, noted that Internet addiction “ruins lives by causing neurological complications, psychological disturbances, and social problems.”

How Common Is Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction hasn’t been studied as much as other mental health conditions, so it’s not known exactly how many people have the disorder. But a study in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse found that as many as 8.2 percent of Americans may suffer from Internet addiction. Other studies estimate that the disorder may affect more than 18 percent of college-aged Internet users, according to Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment. While anyone can develop IAD, the majority of people who do so are males in their teens, twenties, and thirties.

Some reports suggest that Internet addiction is a particularly acute problem in Asian countries. South Korea may have as many as 680,000 young people ages 10 to 19 that are addicted to the Internet, according to a 2013 report from Reuters. And China has developed strict, military-style rehabilitation camps designed to force Internet addicts away from online activities. China has more than 1,500 camp instructors who are licensed to treat Internet addiction, according to a 2012 report in China Daily.

Risk Factors and Complications

People who develop an Internet addiction often already feel socially isolated. They may have a difficult time creating and maintaining relationships with their peers. And people with other addictions, such as to alcohol, drugs, sex, or gambling, have a higher risk of developing IAD. Many researchers and clinicians have noted that a variety of mental disorders co-occur with IAD. Studies suggest that people with IAD are also at greater risk for mental health concerns, such as:

              Depression

              Anxiety

              Hostility

              Psychosis

              Social isolation

              Impulse control problems

              Substance use disorders like alcoholism.

Internet Addiction Symptoms

Like other addictions, Internet addiction isn’t based on just an interest or hobby that someone enjoys. If it’s an actual addiction, it may cause one or more of the following:

              Negative effects on your school or job performance

              Reduced involvement with your family or friends

              Loss of interest in other hobbies or pursuits

              Feelings of anxiety or depression when you’re away from your computer

              When not on your computer, you spend most of your time thinking about getting back to it

              Angry or defensive reaction when someone comments on your behavior

              Taking steps to hide the extent of your computer/Internet use

People with IAD may spend excessive amounts of time engaged in the following activities online:

  • Gaming
  • Gambling
  • Trading stocks
  • Shopping for merchandise
  • Shopping” for relationships on dating sites
  • Cybersex or pornography
  • Social media

Many of these activities can have serious repercussions if you do them to excess, such as relationship problems or financial consequences.

Internet Addiction Withdrawal

It is known that addictions activate a combination of sites in the brain associated with pleasure, known together as the “reward center” or “pleasure pathway” of the brain. When activated, dopamine release is increased, along with opiates and other neurochemicals. Over a time, the associated receptors may be affected, producing tolerance or the need for increasing stimulation of the reward center to produce a “high” and the subsequent characteristic behavior patterns needed to avoid withdrawal. Like all addiction behaviors, IAD can lead to excess dopamine in the brain.

Symptoms of Internet addiction withdrawal include depression, irritability, anxiety, sweating or shakiness, insomnia, mood changes, and — in rare cases — a psychotic break with reality.

An example of the rewarding nature of digital technology use may be captured in the following statement by an 18 year-old male “Using internet in my mobile has brought joy in my life. It gives me relaxation when I feel upset. I sit hours in the night and enjoy it”.

Diagnosing Internet Addiction

A variety of questionnaires have tried to scientifically diagnose IAD. Currently, no single scoring system has been supported by research.

But some of the questions that may point to IAD include:

  • Are you preoccupied with using the Internet?
  • Are you unable to resist your desire to use the Internet?
  • Do you have to use the Internet for certain amounts of time in order to feel satisfied?
  • When you cannot use the Internet, do you find yourself in a bad mood, anxious, irritable, or bored?
  • When you are in a bad mood or irritable, do you turn to the Internet to solve your problems?
  • Do you stay online for longer periods of time than you mean to?
  • Do you try to decrease your online time over and over again, only to fail?
  • Do you have any physical symptoms from being online so much (backache, eyestrain)? Do you continue to use the Internet despite these symptoms?
  • Do you have any problems with your school or job performance due to your Internet use? Do you continue to use the Internet despite these problems?
  • Do you have any problems with relationships with family or friends due to your Internet use? Do you continue to use the Internet despite these problems?

 Does your Internet use ever violate known laws?

Treatment for internet addiction

There is a general consensus that total abstinence from the Internet should not be the goal of the interventions and that instead, an abstinence from problematic applications and a controlled and balanced Internet usage should be achieved.

Medications to treat these disorders, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, may help treat IAD. Studies suggest physical exercise may help with the decrease in dopamine levels those with IAD experienced during treatment, due to decreased online usage.

In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy can help with some of the symptoms of IAD, such as depression and anxiety.  Experts offer some treatment strategies which are already known from the cognitive-behavioral approach:

Practice opposite time of Internet use (discover patient’s patterns of Internet use and disrupt these patterns by suggesting new schedules),

  •               Use external stoppers (real events or activities prompting the patient to log off)
  •               Set goals (with regard to the amount of time),
  •               Abstain from a particular application (that the client is unable to control),
  •               Use reminder cards (cues that remind the patient of the costs of IAD and benefits of breaking it),
  •             Develop a personal inventory (shows all the activities that the patient used to engage in or can’t find                      the time due to IAD),
  •              Enter a support group (compensates for a lack of social support),
  •           Engage in family therapy (addresses relational problems in the family)

Therapy that aims to change behaviors may also be used to treat IAD. Severe IAD, or an addiction that is complicated by a gambling disorder or substance abuse, may require an intensive treatment program or even an inpatient treatment program. If you enter treatment for IAD, the goal should not be to eliminate Internet usage, but to reduce it to normal levels that allow you to function and maintain personal relationships.

Early recognition of IAD in youth by parents, teachers and policy makers can minimize its consequences otherwise it may prove detrimental for generations to come.

From the print edition of Jan 24 to 31, 2017.

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