How Does Internet Addiction Affect Your Health

Internet addiction and how it affects your health
Internet addiction and how it affects your health

Thanks to the Internet, we have information and social connections at our fingertips. The Internet makes information more accessible to us and making connections with various people worldwide. But besides the lots of benefits of the Internet, inevitable drawbacks are also associated with it. We spend plenty of our time using the Internet, and it leads to internet addiction.  But, How does internet addiction affect your health?

Statistics of Internet Addiction

We all use the Internet for personal reasons, like completing our projects, doing online assignments, office work, etc. But now, social media is among the most rising trends with faster-growing speed. There are over 66 new social media users per minute. A current Canadian survey highlighted that almost 85% of school-aged children in Ontario utilize social media daily, with approximately 15 % of them spending over 6 hours per day on social media websites.

Currently, experts estimate its prevalence to be between 2 to 8 across the world that shows internet addiction is under-diagnosed. Examining its usage demographic trend may disclose which group may be more at unhealthy internet usage risk.

The internet usage rates are nearly the same for both genders, with 26 % of females and 24 % of males reporting being consistent internet users.

Different education forms increase the risk, with 35 % of college students reporting permanent internet users, compared to nearly 22 % of those in high-schools.

Income enhances the risk, with 36 % of individuals who make $70K or more annually utilizing the Internet at a constant rate, comparing to 23 % of individuals who make less than $35K

The race is also a triggering factor, with 36 % of blacks utilizing the Internet almost consistently, comparing to 22 % of whites or 32 % of Hispanics.

The prevalence of internet addiction has been reported at 7%. This figure is heartbreaking, thinking that nearly 38 % of the population has internet access. It is an essential variation in rates of internet addiction among countries. For instance, among adults, the rate of internet addiction in Italy is reported at around 0.9 %, comparing to 8.9% in China.

It is important to note that limitations may unbalance these statistics in how it is treated and studied.

Now we all know that internet addiction is prevailing at rapid speed. The short-term impacts are incomplete tasks, irritation in doing most of the work, increasing mental health issues and gaining weight. Long-term impacts of internet addiction on our health include backache, neck pain, and eyesight issues from continuously working at the screen.

What Is Considered an Internet Addiction?

It is basically behavioural addiction in which an individual becomes too much dependent on Internet usage, or other online tools, as the only way of handling life problems. Internet addiction is becoming a famous term, especially in states where it influences lots of people, like Canada. In South Korea, internet addiction is taken as a national health issue.

 In Asia, most of the research topics are based on internet addiction, its symptoms, and its effects on health. It is also a severe health concern n in developed countries like the USA and Europe.

Essential Things to Know About Internet Addiction

  • In the medical world, internet addiction is still not declared a mental condition. Scientists have designed diagnostic standards for Internet addiction. However, it is not added in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
  • Internet gaming disorder is a medically diagnosed disorder, and Internet addiction is growing as specialist areas.
  • Its addiction’s minimum subtypes have been studied like video game addiction, online sex addiction, and net compulsion.
  • Moreover, researchers struggle to know more about addiction to devices, lie phones or smartphones, and addiction to social networking websites, like Instagram and Twitter. There may be overlaps among these subtypes. For instance, online gambling includes online games, and they may contain parts of pornography.
  • Sexting, or sending sexual messages, has badly affected plenty of people’s lives.
  • The solutions or treatment are known for getting rid of internet addiction; however, only certain expert Internet addiction services preset. But, psychologists with great information about it may also a great help for people suffering from this issue.

What are the 5 Types of Internet Addiction?

It is an extensive term that may cover a wide range of behavioural issues, including the Internet, personal computer, or mobile technologies. There is no officially recognized method to diagnose internet addictions; scientists and professionals have revealed five computer or internet addiction types.

1.Cybersex Addiction

Cybersex addiction is one of the most advanced internet addictions. It includes online pornography, adult sites, sexual fantasies/adult chat rooms, or XXX webcam service. The obsession with these influenced services can be harmful to your capability to build real sexual, emotional, or intimate relationships.

Plenty of Treatments are found for people suffering from cybersex addictions, usually in the intervention shape followed by ongoing patient therapy.

2.Net Compulsions

It considers interactive activities online that are highly dangerous, like internet gambling, trading-stocks, and online auctions, and online shopping. These addictions have a harmful effect on your financial stability and may destroy your job-related duties.

Spending a considerable amount of money may also lead to depression, anxiety, relationship issues and stress-related diseases. With quick and simple access to online markets, it is most uncomplicated for most people who are already vulnerable to gambling or be an addict to become a fool due to online scam.

3.Cyber Relationship Addiction

Cyber addiction includes people searching and maintaining relationships online. They are too busy building new relationships that they totally forget the already existing real relationships. Usually, online relationships are created in online platforms like chat rooms or various social networking websites but can happen anywhere one can link to individuals online.

Sometimes, individuals prefer online relationships. They create these relationships while hiding their real identity. This advanced process caused the formation of the new term catfish.

After being used by online social life, most people are left with limited social-skills and unrealistic expectations relating to in-person interactions. It causes an inability to build real connections, in return, leading these people more dependent on their cyber relationships. Counseling or therapies are usually needed for the treatment of this addiction. So, cyber or online relationship addiction is also a big issue that you cannot ignore.

4. Compulsive Information Seeking

The Internet offers people lots of meaningful information and never-ending knowledge. For some individuals, it also provides the opportunity to search for things so quickly, turning into an uncontrollable urge to collect and organize data.

In different situations, info seeking is an expression of obsessive-compulsive tendency. Usually, compulsive information seeking also minimizes job productivity and ability. It ultimately causes job termination.

Depending on the severity of the habit, treatments can range from various therapy modalities. These treatments hit changing compulsive behavior and growing coping strategies. Doctors or psychiatrists can also suggest the medications for the treatment, but it depends on your situation.

5. Computer or Gaming Addiction

These additions are also well-known as computer gaming addiction. It includes online or offline activities that can be finished using your computer. As the computer has become more extensively available, games like Supermario and Minesweeper were built into their software.

Scientists instantly realized that obsessive computer games had become severe issues in particular settings. Office workers may spend a tremendous amount of time playing these games, leading to a tremendous productivity reduction.

Currently, these classic games are not only available but also present with the advanced version. This type of internet addiction is the oldest one, and it is still prevalent. Computer addiction is so much harmful that you cannot even imagine.

How Does Internet Addiction Affect Your Physical Health

There are several ways how internet addiction affects your physical health. Lets explore these further.

Dietary Habits

Internet addiction can rule your life; even you ignore your life’s most essential tasks, improving good eating habits. Eating well typically needs taking time away from your laptop cooking meals, and unfortunately, you don’t have enough time. This busy lifestyle and altered sleeping pattern led by your addiction also disturb regular appetite patterns that, joined with your addictive preoccupations, keep you away from healthy eating schedules.

Being an internet addict-your dietary habit has altered as your internet usage led you to eat a smaller meal, have a poor appetite, and eat at a more varying speed than a person who does not use the Internet unnecessary. You are more likely to eat unhealthy foods like fast food, snacks, and other sugary items. This unhealthy eating causes several medical conditions like diabetes, obesity, and many more.

Immunity

Internet addiction suppresses your body’s ability to combat diseases. Still, scientists also highlight something particular about it, which leads to extra damage to your natural defence system.

Research by scientists from Milan highlighted that a person with internet addiction was highly susceptible to more likely get ill than individuals not suffering from it because of drastic cortisol level changes that maximize your vulnerability to diseases.

The addiction works to inhibit the immunity biochemically; it also minimizes your behavioral gathering of healthy immune-responses. Significantly, the social isolation that is usual amongst these addicts suppresses your interaction with others and, in return, your exposures to the microbes that help strengthen your ability to resist illness.                    

How Does Internet Addiction Affect Your Mental Health

Internet Addiction & Brain Health

Internet addiction changes the volume of your brain. The brain alterations are similar to those created by alcohol or cocaine addiction. Internet addict disorder shrinks the grey and white matter fibres of your brain, leading to emotional or brain functioning changes. In this situation, your brain continues to alter as long as this condition continues adversely.

Sleep Patterns & Quality

Internet addiction also badly influences your sleeping pattern. The reason is that you feel helpless in turning off your laptop. After visiting one page, there are other pages to refresh, other links demanding your presence, and other content to post on.

It leads to hours of searching around the Internet and disturbs your sleep cycle as you are continuously sacrificing your health for unnecessary wandering on the Internet. Even if you go to sleep, the glow of a laptop screen inhibits your ability to fall asleep and get your beauty sleep by reducing melatonin levels.

Individuals who spend plenty of their time using online sites are more susceptible to show depressive symptoms. This internet addiction also leads to anxiety and lots of stress. These internet-addicts spent their productive time searching films, dramas, sexually gratifying sites, online gaming websites, and online communities.

They also have higher chances of low to severe depression than non-addicted users. The research highlights that excessive internet use is linked to anxiety and depression.

Internet Addiction Disorder and the DM5 – Is It a Relevant Diagnosable Disorder?

There are lots of controversies concerning the so-called internet addiction and DSM-5. According to recent studies, Internet addiction, or in medical term Internet Use Disorder, will soon be added to a genuine, diagnosable mental health issue. However, scientists or experts do say it still requires plenty of additional studies.

Gaming addiction is explained in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 that is utilized by mental health experts to determine mental issues). There were insufficient shreds of evidence to determine whether the condition is an innovative mental disorder or the perfect opportunity to classify it when DSM-5 was published in 2013.

It revealed that internet gaming disorder recommends further research, along with caffeine use disorder and other conditions. The DSM-5 may include substance-related addictive issues like alcohol, stimulants, and opioids. Gambling disorders are the only behavioral addictions classified in DSM-5.

What are the Negative Effects of Internet Addiction?

Cyberspace has become a major part of modern life. The usage of the internet in the global world has been increased by about 3.8 billion. Well, we all know a little bit about the effects of cyberspace on our mental health and physical functioning, as well as on social life and behavior.

Breakdown of Communication

 We almost depend on the internet for everything. It changes our way of communication with others. Instead of spending time with our family and friends, we prefer less communication like text messages and emailing each other. It has a lack of emotions and voice effects on the people and leads to like ignore peoples.

How often have you been out for dinner, and there is a family across from you all on their devices? They go out for a nice meal and sit there connected with social media on their phones.

We are the most connected, disconnected generation that has ever existed.

Psychiatric Disorders

Many physical disorders are related to internet addiction. The most actions observed in cyberspace addict has low-level self-esteem, mood function, attempting suicide, anxiety, and poor sleep quality.

Increased Need for Instant Gratification

We can get knowledge about everything from the internet, and anyone can contact us by the touch of a single button. It is advantageous for us by developing advanced technologies and how it connects the peoples with the world. But worried about the rapid increase of need for instant gratification!

Inability to Focus on the Present

With advancements in social media platforms like tweeter, FB, Instagram, and YouTube, everyone is obsessive about sharing personal life with the world by a picture or video message. The people have an issue like “living in the moment,” sharing special moments of life with others. That increases the feelings of jealously and judging others by their lifestyle and neglecting, further making innocent people criminal.

Effect on Children

Cyberspace addiction affects our youth in various ways, from sleep disturbance to social isolation.

Children who are using the internet without any restriction may gain some harmful knowledge that may threaten their living style. Cyberspace bullying and commenting are very serious issues in youth that leave a lasting effect on emotions and mental state.

Internet Addictions and Mental Illness

People addicted to cyberspace may face issues in dealing with their daily routine activities like house-life work on duties at schools and offices. People with internet addiction have faced more depression and anxiety problems.

Behavioral problems

Behaviour is depending on personal factors. The high usage of the internet for students may cause insomnia, social isolation, and poor studies performance. The people who are facing these problems behave differently from their use way.

Internet Addiction in Children

Internet addictions among kids are a huge concern for parents. Online access is the main element of the advanced world and significant equipment in kid’s education.

Besides, it is an incredibly entertaining or informative platform. But, these attributes also make it unhealthy for plenty of children.

They may get involved in an online chat room or play adventurous and challenging games with others from all corners of the world.

Like drug or alcohol addiction, the internet provides kids and adults ways to escape painful feelings. They sacrifice the required time of sleep, spending time online and withdrawing from family and friends, escaping into a convenient online world that they have produced and shaped.

The signs of online internet addiction for kids are following;

  • May lose track of time while using the internet
  • Sacrificing the required time of sleep spending time online
  • Becoming angry or irritated when online time is halted
  • Checking email or online texts many times daily
  • Becoming irritable if not permitted access to the internet
  • Spending time online in place of schoolwork or other responsibilities
  • May prefer spending quality time online instead of spending it with friends or family
  • Telling lies about amounts of time spent online
  • Sneaking time for online games when no one is around
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable before they had online access
  • Becoming irritable, moody, or anxious when not online

Internet Addiction Treatment

The first step of treating internet addiction disorder is to consider it as a disorder. Some of the more famous treatments for treating Internet Addiction Disorder include;

  • Behaviour modification
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • The individual, group, or family therapy
  • Equine Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Reality Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Recreation Therapy
  • Mindfulness Practice

I have written a post on mindfulness practices that may be beneficial if your experiencing signs of internet addiction.

https://nursemummy.com/mindfulness-practice-benefits-and-awareness/

Internet Addiction Withdrawal

If anyone is suffering from cyberspace addiction:  it affects their relationships, financial state, student, or work life.  The person suffering from this problem separates themselves from others and likes to spend their time alone or with their social media apps. That creates a negative effect on their relationships with loved ones’. These people try to hide the time spent by remaining online on the social network that raises dishonesty and distrust.

 The withdrawal means the changes occur in your life by using cyberspace. Internet addiction withdrawals are not the same as alcohol or drug withdrawals. These mostly are mood and physical problems, such as anxiety, depression, and a high blood circulation rate.

The high blood rate and pressure have been observed in people using the internet for some time.  The researches show a little bit of change in their points before and after using the internet.

Where to Get Help

United States

The USA lags behind plenty of countries that already officially recognize internet addiction as a disorder, causing government and health-care officials to grow a series of major initiatives to combat this issue. Research on internet addictions is being funded by The National Institutes of Health, a signal that the issues stemming from extensive internet usage may finally be getting the extreme attention it may deserve from the American mental health community.

The study is being conducted at the University Of Connecticut School Of Medicine for fighting off this condition. It helps to get to know whether internet addictions, particularly online gaming, must be listed in the Diagnostic or Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders —extensively called the DSM-5 (a genuine mental health issue).

Canada

Canadian government understands the impact of internet addiction. It correlates with, or leads to, other behavioral addictions like gambling addiction, despite the reality that neither of them includes the usage of substances.

Users can develop unnecessary emotional links to people they meet online or activities they produce on their computers via games or sites, and despite the reality that it cannot be socially acceptable; it is a serious condition that have impact on the lives of users and their families. In Canada, there are different rehabilitation centers for treating this issue.

Australia

Internet addictions are the fastest growing addictions in Australia.  They can also facilitate you combating the feelings of guilt that come from addictions and offer you techniques to maximize your willpower helping you stay free of addiction in the long term.

Take-Home Message

Internet addiction is not a medically diagnosed condition, but it still leads to plenty of other medical issues. Its short symptoms include weight gain, irritation, and fatigue. While long-term symptoms include behavioral changes, headache, neck aches, etc. there are several potential treatments for this issue.

Many states like Canada, the USA, and China are taking initiatives to curb this issue. We can see there will be a positive response to these efforts. But you should also make your effort and try to improve your health by limiting your internet using hours.

Emilie MASI

Registered Nurse, Masters in Advanced Nursing Practice Graduate Diploma of Wound Care Working towards Masters of Wound Care

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