Are you aware that we are spending too much on our devices? Some experts have pointed out concerns surrounding the concept of individuals suffering from internet addiction as the internet plays a greater role in our lives, explained Melanie Burke of Healthline, an online medical information and health advice platform.
Often referred to as internet addiction disorder (IAD), internet addiction is not recognized under the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Many psychologists assert that excessive internet use should be treated the same as other forms of addiction. There’s no single cause of internet addiction, as there are certain factors that can influence the development of internet addiction. However, these factors may vary between people.
The Influence of Internet Addiction (IA) and Online Interpersonal Influences On Vietnamese Youth (2017)
Bach Xuan Tran and colleagues of BMC, an open access journal portal, recruited 566 young Vietnamese aged 15 to 25 years using the respondent-driven sampling technique. 21.2% of 566 participants suffered from IA, while the remaining 78.8% were those without IA. 23.6% of males had IA compared to 19.7% (versus 76.4% of those without IA) of females that had IA (versus 80.4%).
With regard to the frequency of communicating with friends online, 9.3% of those with IA said “often” (versus 6.7% of those without IA), 27.1% said “frequently” (21.6%), and 63.6% said “rarely or never” (versus 71.7%). Regarding their self-perception of the effects of online relationships on behaviors and lifestyles, 31.6% of those with IA said it had a high influence on them versus (5.3%), 31.6% answered it had a normal influence (19%), and 56.4% said it had little influence or no influence (75.7%).
16.4% of respondents with IA said they often visit places recommended by online friends (versus 10.8%), unlike 56% and 27.6% of those who said frequently (48.5%) and rarely or never (40.7%), respectively. 15.3% of Vietnamese youths with IA said they often engage in activities recommended by online friends (versus 5.3%), while 50% and 34.8% answered frequently (49.7%) and rarely or never (45.1%), respectively.
As for the occurrence of physical and mental health problems and health-related quality of life, 23.3% of respondents with IA said they had difficulty with mobility (versus 17.7% of those without IA), 15.8% said they had difficulty with self-care (versus 7.2%), and 30% said they had difficulty with usual activities (versus 21.1%). Further, 85% of those with IA reported suffering from anxiety or depression (72.9%) and 57.5% stated that they experienced pain or discomfort (46.4%).
When the researchers compared the occurrence of other forms of addiction, they found that 10% of participants with IA were current cigarette smokers (versus 9% of those without IA), 4.4% were current water-pipe (Shisha) smokers (versus 4.9%), and 31.7% were currently dependent on alcohol (versus 25.2%). The researchers concluded that IA is a common problem among Vietnamese youth and the prevalence of IA is one of the highest compared to other Asian countries. The findings would aid health professionals to create evidence-based intervention to combat adverse online interpersonal influences associated with IA among Vietnamese youth.
What Is Addiction?
Playing video games for a few hours during the weekend or browsing for products in a store does not mean you are addicted to video games or shopping. However, there is a line between a habit and an addiction. Habit is defined as something you regularly do either because you have practiced it or incorporated it into your daily routine.
For instance, washing the dishes after dinner is a “good” habit. Bear in mind that habits can also include nail chewing to cope with stress. On the other hand, an addiction is defined as engaging in a behavior or consuming a substance because you feel high when doing these activities. You might be aware that the behavior or substance is harmful, but you cannot stop yourself from engaging in these activities.
Dr. Anna Lembke, a Stanford University psychiatrist and assistant professor in addiction medicine, stated, "Addiction begins with intermittent to recreational use, then progresses into daily use, and then progresses into consequential use, which in some cases will progress to life-threatening use.” Daria Kuss told New Scientist, a science news website, that addiction is a specific mental health condition and not every person uses the term correctly. She said that it’s only a small number of vulnerable individuals who excessively use smartphones or the internet who develop signs of addiction.
What Are the Causes and Symptoms of Internet Addiction?
Several factors can result in the development of symptoms of internet addiction such as underlying mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, genetics, and environmental factors. According to a study by Hilarie Cash and colleagues of biomedical and life sciences journal PMC, you may be experiencing internet addiction if you spend many hours online for nonwork-related activities like surfing the internet.
You may also start to notice some symptoms of internet addiction such as sudden changes in mood, intensive worry about what’s happening online while you are offline, and not being able to control or monitor how much time you are spending online. Other symptoms also include withdrawal symptoms (ex: depression, irritability, physical aches) when you don’t reach a certain amount of time online and continued online behavior and consumption despite having a conflict with your loved ones or facing consequences at work or school.
How Can I Control My Internet Use?
If you think you have or are worried about having internet addiction, you can set a timer on your phone and computer to limit the time you spend online. For example, you can set your timer to block use after a certain time period if you already spend six hours a day on Facebook.
If you are spending a lot of time online because you are lonely or disconnected from the world, this is also a good time to join a volunteer group, a neighborhood book club, or any local organization. This way, you will meet new people who will contribute to something than yourself for a few hours each week. Joining a group will also make you feel less isolated.
Spending a bit of your time on the internet is not bad per se, however, excessively surfing the internet is unhealthy and will pose dire consequences on work or school. It is also recommended to consult a professional to help you combat internet addiction.