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Understanding Internet Addiction

At New Method Wellness, we provide many different programs for all sorts of addictions. 

However, the first step toward getting over any addiction is admitting that you have a problem in the first place. When someone is suffering from an internet addiction disorder, it’s not as easy to tell as a substance abuse disorder.

However, internet addiction can cause serious problems. It can affect someone’s mood, attention span, sense of self-worth and even fuel other addictions.

Depression and Internet Addiction

Internet use addiction isn’t just a problem in itself. While it’s frustrating to see someone giving up on responsibilities, social engagements, and friends, it’s even more frustrating to see them suffering from depression. But studies show that too much internet use can lead to mental health issues

The science around this is complicated. But essentially the brain’s rewards system gets rewired to focus on the internet when someone spends too much time online. The online world moves a lot quicker than in real life. People used to getting quick rewards online develop emotional regulation problems in the real world. 

As one goes to the internet as a coping mechanism, their ability to make use of other coping mechanisms falls away. This creates a vicious cycle familiar to those who understand drug addiction. To an addict the internet causes problems that can only be solved by more internet usage; interference and rehabilitation is the only way to get someone out.  

Sometimes, it can be a bit tough to figure out whether or not one is suffering from depression. While depression’s symptoms often consist of an inability to perform important tasks, others are able to mask their depression — you’d never realize. This is known as high-functioning depression — check out our article on it to learn the symptoms. 

Someone addicted to the internet might not realize they’re depressed because they feel fine when they’re using the internet. It’s your job to recognize the symptoms and get them help. 

Short Attention Spans and Internet Addiction

It’s often said that the internet is shortening people’s attention spans. The status of this fact as a cliche doesn’t preclude it from being true, however. 

This isn’t because of any hackneyed boomer pseudo-science like “TV rots your brain”. The shortened attention span isn’t because of the internet qua internet, but because of the way information is formatted on the internet. 

Take, for instance, written content on the internet. When a person reads a well-written book, they’re getting thoughts in the form of thought out, revised, and often complex sentences. These are strung into paragraphs that demonstrate concepts in-depth. 

These paragraphs are put up against other paragraphs, which provide multiple points of view or develop an argument. Then, this information is organized into chapters, so one understands exactly where these points fit into the writer’s central argument. 

This is not true of most written content on the internet. Twitter — which is perhaps the most popular written platform out there today — has a famously short character limit. A person can hardly develop a single thought in this time. 

This has led to people firing out quick “hot takes” instead of fully formed concepts. On top of this, more outrageous, polarizing, and extreme takes get popular, which encourages people to think in a more extreme way.

All of this is added to the fast-paced nature of the internet. People are encouraged to eschew grammar and syntax for speed. 

This is also true of applications like TikTok, which favor fast-paced, simple, stimulating content. These things aren’t bad in moderation, but when they become the main source of information people consume, they cause attention problems.

The Link Between Short Attention Spans and Depression

Short attention spans don’t just cause people to become distracted easily. The fact that one isn’t able to focus on a task can easily become frustrating and depressing. When one isn’t able to recall a thought that they were just having, they can easily see a significant drop in their self-worth. 

A short attention span can lead to one failing to absorb information or complete tasks, which can make one feel as though they have a lower intelligence. It can also decrease external perceptions of a person, which will also lead to poor self-worth.

Types of Internet Addiction

The best and worst thing about the internet is just how many things you can do on it. It’s the instant library and the kaleidoscopic vasts of information on it can be liberating or destructive. 

Because one can access so many things on the internet — and access them immediately — it’s easy for the internet to fuel other addictions. If one of your loved ones has suffered from one of the following addictions, they might be suffering from an internet addiction as well.

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Pornography Addiction

A pornography addiction develops when someone’s emotional state becomes dependent on pornography. This person might become less sexually satisfied with their partners. They might prefer pornographic images to sexual activity. 

Pornography addiction used to be significantly less prominent. Now, however, everyone has instant access to pornography whenever they want it. This has led to many more people becoming addicted than ever before.

Generally, people who develop pornography additions have other pre-existing mental health issues. However, the fact that excess internet usage leads to addiction and attention problems suggests a link. 

A pornography addiction is especially scary in this post-pandemic world where camgirl sites, OnlyFans, Fansly, and premium porn sites are generating more revenue than ever. A person can easily turn a porn addiction into a rough financial situation.

internet addiction treatment

Gaming Addiction

Video game addictions became a very real problem in the 21st century. While perhaps exaggerated by some suburban middle-class parents, a dependence on video games can easily ruin someone’s life. 

All games operate on the human brain’s reward system. People like to win, and games inspire in one a sense of competition. Through repeated play, a person begins to desire that high feeling they get from competition more than they do winning. 

Videogames are especially stimulating in this regard. They move faster than board games and card games, creating a system of rewards that’s more effective than ever before. 

Just like certain parts of the internet, this is okay in small doses. However, it’s very easy for one to completely give themselves over to the rewards system of a video game. 

The internet makes playing video games easier than ever before. The platform Steam by Valve makes video games accessible and easy to buy, mobile gaming is becoming more and more popular, and online gaming allows people to interact with friends. 

If someone who previously wasn’t as into video games suddenly develops a video game addiction, keep on the lookout. They might have been sucked into this world because of excess internet usage. 

internet addiction treatment

Gambling Addiction

Online gambling is also growing in popularity. Gambling sites are getting more secure, more varied, and more aesthetically pleasing. While it’s good that fewer people are getting scammed out of their money, someone can easily fall down the hole of losing money online. 

Just like gaming, gambling has been an issue since long before the internet. In fact, Leo Tolstoy himself wrote his early short novel, The Cossacks, to pay off his gambling arrears. You can explain it away with science, but at the end of the day, there’s something within the structure of gambling that addicts the human brain — that’s all you need to know. 

The world of the internet makes gambling addiction especially dangerous because of accessibility. A person no longer needs to call up their bookie, head to a casino, or find a local poker game to lose tons of money — they can simply go online. 

Not everyone who gambles is an addict. The key aspect of something becoming addicted to a substance or activity is impulse control

Impulse control is something that the more stereotypical addict (drug addict, alcohol addict), and less thought-of addict (gambling, internet), have in common. If you see that a friend of yours is atrophying in the aspect of impulse control, they might be on a slippery slope toward addiction. 

internet addiction treatment

Shopping Addiction

Everyone likes to get new things. Shopping, receiving presents, and discovering new music all create a dopamine rush in the brain — it makes the world feel fresh, new, and alive.

However, unlike receiving presents and discovering new music, you have to pay to shop. Some people, in the pursuit of this new world feeling, tank their bank accounts. 

If you read the above items on this list, you understand how this works by now. The internet makes shopping easier than ever, which makes addictions extra dangerous. 

Getting Help

If you notice the signs of internet addiction in yourself or a loved one, seek help as soon as possible. While internet addiction might seem commonplace nowadays, it can easily slide off into other damaging addictions which can destroy a person’s sense of self-worth.

For more information, please contact us today.

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