Internet Addiction: an Escape from Reality

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Internet Addiction: An Escape from Reality
With the creation of an online world comes the creation of new problems. The great network system known as the Internet has allowed for huge advances in the world, while creating very serious issues as well. Perhaps one of the most common of these negative issues is Internet Addiction Disorder, or IAD. Doctors Aviv Weinstein and Michel Lejoyeux define Internet addiction as being “characterized by excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges or behaviors regarding Internet use that lead to impairment or distress (Weinstein & Lejoyeux, 2010).” One of the reasons this disorder is so prevalent, is the fact that it encompasses a large number of online activities which can lead to it. For example, one of the most common causes of this disorder is pornography addiction. This can often lead to other problems, such as negative marital relationships or sexual addiction. Other addictions caused by or related to IAD include gambling addiction, gaming addiction, online relationships, overuse of social networking, and others. Currently, Internet addiction is not a medically recognized disorder, so diagnosis can often be difficult. This is because it is often unknown whether Internet addiction is being caused by something else. Many medical professionals believe that Internet addiction should be considered a bonafide disorder, but arguments over causality have prevented it from being recognized as a stand-alone condition (Weinstein & Lejoyeux, 2010). Regardless of the way it is perceived, Internet addiction has obvious negative effects on the people experiencing it, but treatment is possible.

Since the disorder is not officially recognized, diagnosis is often subjective. However, an article in a 2010 issue of the journal Addiction proposes a diagnostic criteria for IAD. Based on clinical experience and surveys, eight primary symptoms of IAD were determined. These symptoms are shown in the following list, taken from Addiction:

1. Preoccupation: a strong desire for the internet. Thinking about previous online activity or anticipation of the next online session. Internet use is the dominant activity in daily life 2. Withdrawal: manifested by a dysphoric mood, anxiety, irritability and boredom after several days without internet activity 3. Tolerance: marked increase in internet use required to achieve satisfaction 4. Difficult to control: persistent desire and/or unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back or discontinue internet useful 5. Disregard of harmful consequences: continued excessive use of internet despite knowledge of having persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems likely to have been caused or exacerbated by internet use 6. Social communications and interests are lost: loss of interests, previous hobbies, entertainment as a direct result of, and with the exception of, internet use 7. Alleviation of negative emotions: uses the internet to escape or relieve a dysphoric mood (e.g. feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety) 8. Hiding from friends and relatives: deception of actual costs/time of internet involvement to family members, therapist and others

The article within the journal details a study involving this diagnosis criteria. 408 patients were admitted to a hospital for pathological Internet use determined by the aforementioned symptoms. One year after being released from the hospital the patients were re-examined, and the vast majority no longer met the criteria for IAD. However, IAD remained prevalent in a very small number of patients, most of whom suffered from another psychotic disorder such as personality disorder or schizophrenia (Tao, Huang, Wang, Zhang, Zhang, & Li, 2010). With this study in mind, it becomes hard to deny that IAD is an actual condition. However, it is often difficult to determine whether someone is truly suffering from IAD. The previous list of symptoms was determined by a group of medical...
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