15 January 2020
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What Is Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction has attracted much attention with scientists and addiction counselors. Yet, diagnostic criteria has not clearly been established. Internet addiction does not even appear in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association). Nevertheless, problems stemming from this addiction affect 1.5 to 2% of the population. These figures taken from the clinical study done by Magali Dufour, Director of the intervention en toxicomanie programme at the Université de Sherbrooke, are approximate since there is no consensus on the definition of the problem.

According to clinical psychologist, Marie-Anne Sergerie, PhD, internet addiction is defined by «the use of technology and means of communication via internet that causes problems for the individual». The distress and problems caused by problematic internet use can have repercussions on psychological, social and professional levels. Marie-Anne Sergerie, PhD. describes the physical and psychological symptoms caused by internet addiction: 

Do you feel pain or discomfort:

  • Carpal Tunnel (numbness, muscle weakness)
  • (Dry) eyes
  • Head
  • Back

Have you changed your habits regarding :

  • Personal hygiene
  • Your diet
  • Sleep

Do you experience some or all of the following regarding internet use?

  • Are you constantly thinking about being online? Does being on the internet hold a dominant place in your life? Often at the expense of other activities or real life relationships?  Are you persistently reliving past experiences or planning your next venture on the internet?
  • Does using the internet sometimes affect your mood? Does being online make you feel relaxed or happy?
  • Do you increase time spent on the internet? Do you spend more and more time online in order to feel happy? This can manifest itself by betting more money on sports, spending more time on massively multi-player role-playing games, watching pornography, etc.
  • Do you feel a certain type of withdrawal when you are not online? Do you feel restless or irritable when you cut down or stop being on the internet? Do you feel empty inside?
  •  Does your use of internet lead to conflicts? Are you jeopardizing relationships with your life partner, your family or even at work because of your excessive use of technology? Do you lie to avoid confrontations?
  •  Are you still able to be in control? Have you made repeated unsuccessful efforts to cut back or stop the times spent online?

What are the types of internet addiction?

Research done on the subject does not give a clear consensus on the types of internet addiction. However, there are broad categories that often come up in the studies. Problematic use of the internet can take various forms but the most frequent are:

  • Online shopping: Do you often give in to the temptation of online shopping and go overboard? Does this negatively affect your budget? Do you compulsively buy products, stuff or other goods that you do not really need? Do you regularly participate in online auctions or stock market transactions?
  • Online gaming: video games, gambling (ex: online poker, keno, etc.). This type of internet addiction can also lead to devoting many hours to it at the expense of other activities.
  • Online sex: Are cybersex, swapping, downloading and watching porn, looking for sexual partners online, masturbating while online, chatting or communicating via webcam behaviours you regularly engage in? Do you prefer online sexual activities to real life sexual relations with your partner?
  • Cyber-relationships: Do you prefer meeting, communicating, developing relationships or maintaining them via internet or new technologies? Are you addicted to cyber-relationships such as dating sites, social networking, chatting, texting or e-mailing to the point of putting them ahead of real friends and family? This could contribute to jeopardizing real life relationships and thus isolating you.
  • Information overload: Do you compulsively surf the net looking to accumulate large quantities of content and information? Do you spend long periods researching information online which decreases your productivity (work, studies), as well as, performing other tasks? Are you feeling overwhelmed at work, which leads to stress while continuing to use the internet compulsively?

Resources

The Addiction Rehabilitation Centres (CRD),  Maison l’Alcôve, and the  Grand chemin specialized centres for adolescents can help you with internet addiction.

If you need help finding appropriate resources, Gambling: Help and Referral is available 24/7.

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