Internet addiction is defined as an addiction in which we rely on the Internet as technical support, or on technology as an aid.
What is internet addiction? Addiction to games, pornographic sites, cyber sex. This includes addictions to gambling on the Internet (pathological gambling online) and it is related to addiction to the phone.
Internet addictions have the same characteristics as addictions that involve the same offline activities. They can be seen as separate types of addictions.
On the other hand, the term internet addiction refers to compulsive activities on the Internet that are primarily related to the network – answering and writing emails, group discussions, informing in general, reading downloaded news, magazines, articles, texts, etc.
In addition to the term Internet addiction, various terms are used in the literature to denote this problem, such as: problematic Internet use, compulsive Internet use, Internet abuse, pathological Internet use.
How to recognize Internet addiction and what are its causes
It would be wrong to interpret that any use of the network leads to internet addiction. This is the time of new technologies, so it is normal to use them and rely on them in everyday life.
However, why does normal use sometimes become problematic?
Genetic susceptibility to addictions and certain personality traits (so-called addictive personality) can contribute to the problematic use of the Internet. And to addiction.
With the various possibilities it offers, the Internet satisfies various psychological needs:
Self-treatment of a mental disorder
Many people use the internet to mask anxiety, depression or some other mental disorder.
Hunger for information
Some people are information addicts – their hunger for knowledge is so strong that they are unable to stop searching the internet and reading articles that provide certain information.
… or social phobia can also be the basis of internet addiction. A person can try to escape from the real world into a fantastic online world.
Many people with anxiety are uncomfortable in direct contact with people, so it is easier for them to interact online.
The desperate need to meet other people can lead to addiction to internet dating sites and online chat.
Replacing other addictions with internet addiction. It often happens that a person becomes addicted to the Internet due to some online activity that feeds some other compulsive behavior. Pathological gamblers or shopaholics will switch to online gambling or online shopping.
Symptoms of Internet addiction
Internet addiction has not yet been officially declared a psychiatric disorder, which requires confirmation through further research. Given that an increasing number of clients with this disorder are encountered in clinical practice, there is a need to define diagnostic criteria. Although still outside the official classifications, Beard’s criteria (Beard, 2001) are most widely accepted in professional circles. They are based, in large part, on the common clinical characteristics of behavioral and substance addiction.
In order to diagnose Internet addiction, it is necessary to meet the first 5 conditions and at least one of the following 3:
- the individual is preoccupied with the Internet, thinking about previous online activities and planning future activities;
- has the need to use the Internet at ever-increasing intervals to satisfy the need;
- makes an increasing effort to control, reduce or discontinue Internet use;
- attempts to reduce internet use cause restlessness, irritability and depression;
- the person stays on the Internet much longer than intended;
- endangered or risked losing a significant connection, job, business opportunity due to Internet use;
- lies and deceives family members, therapists and others to disguise the true extent of Internet attachment;
- using the Internet becomes a way to avoid problems or alleviate a bad mood.
Consequences of Internet addiction
For the internet addict, this activity becomes the most important activity in life, he/she is obsessively preoccupied with it. Unable to voluntarily resist the need to spend more and more time online. It is often more than six hours of free time.
Due to these activities, important social and professional activities and significant relationships are neglected. Ambitions and goals are neglected. Personal hygiene and taking care of one’s own health are neglected.
Internet addiction in young people
It is known that video games on the Internet, as well as the use of Facebook and sending messages, are practiced much more often by young people and children than by adults. This was confirmed by the findings of our two extensive studies conducted on nearly 3,000 respondents in Serbia (Đukanović, B., Knežević-Tasić J., 2015) and 1,500 in Montenegro (Đukanović B., Knežević-Tasić J., 2016).
Internet addiction is one of the leading addiction diseases among young people.
According to the observation of psychologists, there are several signs that indicate that there is excessive use of the Internet:
Excessive fatigue – the child has difficulty getting up in the morning, is drowsy and the rhythm of sleep is visibly disturbed
- Decreased concentration and attention – worsening school success, etc.
- Decreased social contacts and emotional ties – with both family members and friends
- Decreased interest in all hobbies except the Internet
- Disobedience that helps to refuse to accept problematic Internet use.
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Knežević-Tasić J., Đukanović B., “Bihevioralne zavisnosti u Srbiji” (Bihevioral addictions in Serbia), Izdavačka knjižarnica Zorana Stojanovića, Sremski Karlovci, 2015.
Đukanović B., Knežević-Tasić J., “Bihevioralne zavisnosti u Crnoj Gori” (Bihevioral addictions in Montenegro), Crnogorska akademija nauka i umjetnosti, 2016.
Beard, K. W., & Wolf, E. M. (2001). Modification in the proposed diagnostic criteria for Internet addiction. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 4(3), 377-383.