While internet addiction isn’t formally recognized as an addiction, and there are a variety of different definitions floating around out there, it’s still something to be addressed. It also can behave similarly to a variety of process addictions, like compulsive gambling, sex and love addiction, and compulsive shopping, among others. In fact, going online can lead an individual down a rabbit hole of other process addictions like the ones just named, which makes the internet itself fertile ground for a host of other compulsions to play out.

Internet use by itself, even if it’s moderately excessive, doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with addiction. It does, however, become an issue when it begins to interfere with our relationships, our finances (in the case of online shopping), and our professional lives. It’s also something to pay attention to if it begins leading to things like unhealthy levels of depression, procrastination, aggression, feelings of isolation and so on.  

Some of the more common types of compulsive internet uses surround gaming, social networking, excessive online shopping, and compulsive online pornography use. This compulsive online activity can impact the pleasure centers in our brain much in the same way that drugs and alcohol can, which can easily lead us to overuse more, particularly if we’re prone to addictive behavior. Also, if we happen to be shy or socially awkward, getting online doesn’t require any interpersonal interaction, but we still get the emotional reward.  

No true or standardized criteria for internet addiction have been established so there’s no firm statistic on how many people it affects, but various sources report that anywhere from 8% on up to 38% of the general population could be affected. Certain age groups tend to be affected more than others, and specific regions with, for example, higher percentages of smartphone users also impact these figures. In any event, there’s a huge discrepancy in the numbers and, once again, compulsive internet behavior is not formally recognized as an addiction. The bottom line, however, is that the behavior is something to pay attention to if you know you’re addiction prone.

How excessive or compulsive internet use can affect you…

Compulsive online behavior impacts everyone differently, but it can have some pretty serious mental and physical consequences. Physically, it can lead to things like headaches and vision problems from staring at a screen for hours at a time, back aches and posture problems from constantly being hunched over at a keyboard, poor nutrition and the list goes on. Emotionally, excessive internet use can lead to depression, anxiety, withdrawal and aggression, and isolation.

While some of this may sound a little far-fetched, it’s a reality for many, but it’s also not something to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be addressed and there are more and more support groups cropping up for people who are having a hard time ditching their compulsive online behavior. It’s a slippery slope that many of us fall into as well in this digital age where so many of us work online, and handle so much of our day-to-day personal business on the internet, like our banking, bill payments, and even grocery shopping. So, how do we break the chain? 12-step support groups for behavioral addictions can be very beneficial, addressing the issue with a psychologist, and various other support groups can be very effective. Kembali Recovery Center’s Recovery and Beyond Program is also a great program for anyone who’s successfully remained clean off of drugs and alcohol for a while, but is noticing other addictive or compulsive patterns cropping up. We never have to do this stuff alone. And finally, go easy on yourself. If you’ve recently kicked a drug or alcohol habit, then just focus on staying clean and sober. You’ll know when the time is right to address a potentially unhealthy internet habit or compulsion.

Kembali Recovery Center

If you or someone you know and love is struggling with addictive patterns in any area of your life, Kembali is here to help. Contact us today to learn about our residential treatment program, Recovery and Beyond, and to address any other related questions or concerns.

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