The Internet addiction: Are you an online junkie? Symptoms and risk factors of IAD

Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is a compulsive need to be online all the time. This medical condition is unknown to many in this age of technology. The symptoms can be confused with other forms of disorders since IAD is more psychological than physical like in drug abuse and it can be masked easily.

The effect of online addiction is similar to that of drug use. The pleasure that rushes through your body when you finally get to click on the ‘power’ button on your device and check your social accounts or websites to see who poked you or sent a reply, makes you crave for more and more until you glue yourself to the computer or smartphone.

Symptoms of IAD

  • Irritability, anxiety and aggressiveness when offline
  • Depression
  • Irresistible need to be online when you are not logged in.
  • Spending more and more time in the internet.
  • Social awkwardness and unsocial behaviours
  • Feelings of loneliness, not fitting in and rejection when around real people.
  • Craving attention and recognition from online friends eg by posting numerous selfies,videos, game conquests/achievements and photos.
  • Pathological lying about your online activity to psychologists, counsellors and family.
  • Low self-esteem
  • Not being in-touch with your present activities or hobbies. (You mentally live in a virtual world.)

Are you at risk?

Post traumatic stress Disorder (PTSD) is common in those suffering from IAD. Previous bad experiences may drive you into online addition as an outlet to express or hide yourself from the world. Internet may be a solace for many who underwent emotional or physical abuse such as bullying or rejection. Hurt from the past, may turn you into an internet ‘troll’ or drive you to seek approval from followers by posting updates of your activities and photos/selfies.

Online gamers are more likely to get hooked on this form of addiction. The compulsive behaviour to finish many levels and gain rewards afterwards have been linked to the release of dopamine and other neurochemicals that activate the brain’s pleasure pathway which makes you feel great, self fulfilled and happy. Constant use of gaming apps and devices creates a pattern of pleasure activation in the brain that is dependant on technology, making the body tolerant to the neurochemicals and therefore more need of the games. At the end, you become an addict.

Low self esteem. For people whose courage goes down the drain when they try new things or meet new people, internet has provided a haven of isolation and privacy where you don’t need to match up to the expectations of a first meeting. You don’t need to dress up fine, put on make up or look attractive when you can add filters to your pictures, create a fake profile and put an awesome picture belonging to someone else. Modern standards of beauty and attraction tend to favor a particular physique which is uncommon and unreal at the same time, causing many people to feel way below the average mark of attractive. The rise of dating sites, social media and chatrooms has proved how self esteem is plummeting for many as the need of like’ increases. The approval from followers makes you crave for more and more. Eventually, you get addicted to social sites and chatrooms.

Depression is also a factor that pushes people to the internet. This is a treatable psychological issue and can be overcome by talking more to the people you trust or seeking medical help from counsellors/doctors. Depression needs an outlet and the internet provides countless options for that i.e chatrooms,social sites,online games; but these choices leads into another problem called IAD.

Computer scientists,hackers,website developers, v/bloggers, online buyers and others whose occupations revolve around technology are at high risk of developing IAD. Frequent exposure and use of online platforms create the need of using technology all the time since it is familiar and comfortable than walking, jogging, going to cafe’s or movies, driving, sports,surfing,writing and other things that don’t involve a screen and a keyboard.

Technology has made the world smaller and communication easier, but it has caused isolation and mental disorders to those who are fully dependant on it. Enjoy the world, experience life not from a screen but under the sky. There is a real world out here.

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