Is he Internet addicted?

By David Joel Miller.

Is this just having fun or is it internet addiction?

Internet addiction

Internet addiction
Photo courtesy of Flickr (mandiberg)

How much internet usage is a problem?

When it comes to behaviors how can you tell when enough is too much?

We know that behaviors can become problems. Some like pathological gambling can destroy lives and families but when is a behavior an addiction?

Is internet addiction a real addiction?

It would appear so. Brain scan studies show that in both drug-addicted individuals and people with problematic internet usage the same areas of the brain light up when they think about their preferred activity. The brain has changed in response to their habit and has resulted in characteristic symptoms of addiction.

The hallmarks of addiction are; building up a tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, excessive involvement with the drug or activity and continued participation in the activity despite negative consequences. We should also mention here that cravings for the drug or activity are the factor that maintains the addiction.

Let’s look at how these characteristics will manifest in someone with an internet addiction. We think there is a difference between high levels of computer usage and a true internet addiction. Computers and the internet have become parts of modern life. They can have good and bad aspects. Many jobs now require the use of the computer, often for many hours per day. We use computers and the internet for business, person and social applications. Some usages have more risk of becoming a problem than others.

Internet addiction is one of these “behavioral addictions” or compulsions that are poorly understood and little researched.

First, the 4 characteristics of addiction applied to excessive internet usage. Then some information on possible psychiatric connections.

1. Tolerance.

People who become addicted to the internet need more and bigger computers, more software, and the time they spend on the computer continues to increase. They may spend excessive (for their income) amounts of money and time on their computer activates.

2. Withdrawal.

When unable to do their usual activities the internet addict will become angry, fearful, anxious or depressed. Should their connection fail they are unable to do other activities in the place of their internet routine.

3. Excessive usage.

What is excessive is a matter of perspective. Most addicts can’t see that their activity has become excessive until it has become too late. Neglect of other areas of the life is a good sign this activity is becoming excessive.

Does the internet user stay up too late and then are they tired all the next day. Does this time online interfere with their job, school work or family life? Is this person neglecting their role responsibilities?

All of these are signs that the use of the internet has become excessive.

4. Continued use despite negative consequences.

The internet addict will begin to lie to others around them about their usage and the nature of their online activities. We have talked elsewhere, or will soon about how this lying may be a sign that the person is using the internet in the service of another addiction, like an affair, gambling or a sexual addiction. The lying we are talking about here is not about covering up the why of their usage but this lie is about covering up the extent of their usage.

Poor school work or job performance are common results of excessive internet usage. Chronic fatigue with a loss of motivation and interest in other activities occurs. Social isolation, with few friends and few offline activities, also occur.

Psychiatric considerations and co-morbidity.

So why should we be concerned about an internet addiction? They could be addicted to books (an incurable condition for a writer.) As long as they do not lose their job or family, what’s the harm?

Internet addiction may be a symptom of other disorders rather than a primary disorder. Internet addiction coexists with several other serious mental health problems. Those with an internet addiction often have depression from mild all the way to serious. Anxiety is a common co-morbidity and may be of the generalized, over-anxious, variety or the social phobia type.

Among those with excessive internet usage, alcohol and marijuana abuse is common. Addictions travel in flocks and switching one addiction for another is commonly reported in recovery circles.

Internet addiction is not yet a recognized disorder in the DSM. One variation Internet Gaming Disorder has been proposed for further study. The mental health community is still not quite sure how to understand this internet addiction thing.

Some authors have proposed that this may be a variant of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD.) Use of the internet may be a way of reducing anxiety in those with OCD. Other authors have noted that the anxiety in Internet addiction is more like that in drug addiction, the addict becomes anxious when they are unable to get the thing that is the object of their addiction.

Internet addiction may be another of those catch-all groups that are really a set of similar symptoms that represent several distinct disorders. A cough can be a symptom of many illnesses and what if excessive internet usage is really a symptom of many differing mental health disorders?

Three variations of internet addiction appear likely

1. Internet Gaming.

This variant is the need for the repetitive playing of games and racking up points. They may be playing against others online or this may be a solitary activity. Research currently distinguishes this from internet gambling. Gambling Disorder (formerly called Pathological Gambling) seems the same online and offline and pathological gamblers move between various settings and games of chance.

2. Cyber Sex.

This appears to fit in with other sexual issues. It is distinguished from the use of the internet to facilitate affairs or other crimes. This can vary from sex chat and sexting all the way to a pornography addiction. In a cybersex addiction, the goal is to get sexual gratification online rather than the goal of meeting a real person offline.

3. Obsessive use of the internet for social contact.

This includes frequent usage of emails, text messages, and social media sites. The internet addict may become obsessed with how many friends they have on a particular site, what others are saying and so on. This reliance on the internet for human contact may lead to a lack of social skills and few friends when in offline situations.

One serious concern with excessive reliance on the internet for social contact is the risk of pain caused by online stalking and cyberbullying which can result in suicide or other emotional crises.

Hope this brief summary of the problem of internet addiction and the link to other behavioral disorders may be helpful to someone. As always appropriate comments are welcome.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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4 types of addiction

By David Joel Miller.

Not all addictions are created equal.

Addiction

Addiction

The word addiction and the whole concept of addiction have taken on a number of meanings. The result is that when we talk about addiction we are not all meaning the same thing.

As a counselor, I have come to see 4 different classes or patterns of addictions.

The meaning of the word addiction has changed so much it becomes difficult to know when to use the word addiction in one way and when it is being used in another.

My favorite dictionary, a real physical, book type dictionary, is the Century Dictionary from 1889. It defines addiction as “A state of being given up to some habit, practice or pursuit; addictedness; devotion. This definition explains why so very many different patterns of behavior have come to be called addictions.

Modern on-line dictionaries have inserted a first meaning of drug dependency and reduced the notion of devotion to something to a secondary position. Both meanings bring people to the counseling room.

Here are 4 primary types of addiction that may call for treatment or recovery.

Physical tissue dependency on a substance is addiction.

Doctors might refer to this form of addiction as “Chemical Dependency.” We all know about addictions to chemicals which result in severe withdrawal symptoms when the user stops. The Heroin or opioid user gets violently physically ill when they are without their drug for a period of time. Alcoholics may experience the D T’s if they are without a drink for a period of time.

Psychological dependence on a substance is addiction.

This manifests when the addict goes through a rehab, 28 or 30 days, and then, when they leave rehab, they return to drug or alcohol use. Clearly, this form of addiction is in the mind, not the body.

One reason we might develop this variety of addiction is the belief that we should be able to handle our alcohol or that we need substances to have a good time. The idea of heavy alcohol or drug uses is almost synonymous with the concept of a party and with having fun.

When people develop problems, DUI’s or similar issues, from drug use, they think it is their fault, that they should be able to handle their alcohol. We are mostly reluctant to admit that drugs, including alcohol, are inherently problematic.

By the way – it is quite possible to have fun, enjoy yourself – without resorting to drugs or alcohol. And this is one case where more is not better, more is a bad thing.

Process addictions, when doing takes control of the doer.

Some processes are psychologically rewarding and become so reinforcing that people find themselves unable to stop an activity or to regulate the time they spend on this behavior.

Slot machines and gambling are one activity that can form a process addiction. Video games, sexual activity, and shopping can all become repetitive patterns that a person can give themselves over to. The result is an addiction, a loss of control of your life, as a result of over participation in this activity.

Overeating may well be a form of process addiction. Other eating disorders anorexia or bulimia may fall into the psychological dependency category.

Lifestyles can become addictions.

The dope game or criminal behavior can also be addicting. Dope dealers get caught up in the game. The lifestyle provides large amounts of money, status, and recognition within a subgroup. The lifestyle also provides many other personal benefits. Every dope man knows there are plenty of customers willing to trade sex or other illegal activities for more dope.

The great fallacy of this game is that because you can make a lot of money in a short time it is very profitable. Careful studies have shown that many a young man thought he had it made; the cars, women, the bling, and the cash. But when we factor in the fines, the legal fees and the time locked up and making nothing, it is not unusual for the dope man to make less than minimum wage. The catch is that he makes thousands in a weekend and then nothing for the years he spends in prison.

No doubt I have left out listing examples of other items that might fit these four categories. Have you experienced an over-dependence, a devotion to something that has affected your life? Have you been chemically or psychologically dependent on a substance or developed an excessive reliance on a process or a lifestyle?

If you have any of these issues help is available.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.