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The Debate on Internet Addiction Disorder

Internet Addiction Disorder has seemingly joined the growing list of things that people can become addicted to. However, experts in the field of addiction are divided as to whether Internet Addiction Disorder is really a true clinical dependence or simply a social and behavioral problem. Whatever the case may be, understanding IAD is important because some of the parallels to substance abuse and drug addiction are striking.

Internet Addiction Disorder is characterized by negative changes in behavior as a result of a person spending too much time using the internet. However, the definition of how much time is too much isn’t clear, which results in the condition being loosely defined more by the negative effects of the behavior than any clinical or use-specific set of data. Like other forms of addiction, behaviors associated with IAD tend to continue despite significant negative consequences. These behaviors include:

  • Isolation from friends, family and associates
  • Neglect or discontinuation of studies, work, research, training, exercise, etc
  • Keeping odd hours – sleeping during the day, spending all night on the internet
  • Taking meals at the computer
  • Disruption of relationships
  • Deterioration of hygiene
  • Compulsively checking email or other internet communications at irrational intervals
  • Developing intense relationships with others despite having never met in person or talked on the phone
  • Neglect of family, childcare and household duties
  • Inability to find pleasure in the “real world”
  • Lying about or concealing time spent online

When confronted about these behaviors, the responses of afflicted individuals are similar to those who are dependent on drugs or alcohol and focus on “downplaying” the situation or making excuses to explain the behavior as justified or normal.

Overall, the cause of Internet Addiction Disorder isn’t clear, but in general people succumb to this condition for the same reasons that people fall prey to many other types of addictions: escape. When the stress of daily living becomes too much to cope with, many people will seek out some form of escapism. However, this escape isn’t always a negative thing. In an article on the subject for PsychCentral, Doctor John M. Grohol writes;

“Do some people have problems with spending too much time online? Sure they do. Some people also spend too much time reading, watching television, and working, and ignore family, friendships, and social activities. But do we have TV addiction disorder, book addiction, and work addiction being suggested as legitimate mental disorders in the same category as schizophrenia and depression? I think not.” (1)

This is an important distinction to make in the light of a recent trend of clinicians anxious to diagnose the next new trendy addiction. Instead, more focus should be placed on research and treatment advancements for true addictions like alcoholism or chronic substance abuse. These addictions are clinical, neurological diseases that left untreated are fatal nearly 100% of the time. If you or someone you love is suffering from a potential case of IAD, then setting up an appointment with a therapist is a wise idea. But if you’re struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, you need to take action and get help right now.

Call the number at the top of your screen for an immediate, confidential consultation. Or, fill out the insurance verification form to the right of this page to find out what types of treatment you qualify for. Our Florida drug rehab center offers several of the most successful drug treatment programs in the country. However, our beds fill up fast, so call now to reserve your treatment space.

(1) Grohol, John M. Psy.D Internet Addiction Guide 01/05/2012 PsychCentral

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More