What are the Symptoms and Consequences of Internet Addiction?

When the Department of Defense began constructing the Internet decades ago, there was no way even the most advanced thinker would have had any idea what their invention would eventually morph into. The number of people suffering from some kind of web addiction is unknown, but scientists believe it could be as high as 5-10 percent of all online users. Internet addiction begins when you start to replace real-life relationships with the internet itself or with relationships that you have only online, such as on a bulletin board system or in a chat room. Over time, this addiction can cause serious issues with one’s behavioral health. With proper diagnosis, internet addiction can be treated.

Ironically, Internet addiction was originally proposed as a joke by a scientist in 1995. As it turns out, Internet usage has grown exponentially since then, and the number of things we do online has grown, as well. For the most part, Internet addiction is found in people who wish to replace awkward or difficult real-life relationships with ones online. They feel that real-life relationships take too much effort to create and maintain, and they prefer to hide in an environment in which they feel they can control. Internet addiction can take many forms. A person could be addicted to online pornography or addicted to chat room usage where they experience explicit sexual chats with other users. They could be addicted to online gaming that offers a completely realized universe where they can think, act, and talk like a completely different person. A person could even develop an Internet addiction based on visiting educational websites or answering emails. Any activity that a person does online to such an excess that real-life relationships are pushed to the background can be considered an addiction. What makes the Internet such a dangerous place is that there are a million new activities of that sort available every day.

To a close observer, the signs of Internet addiction are fairly easy to spot. A person will slowly become more and more obsessed with the internet to the point where they skip work on a regular basis, avoid friends, family, and even their spouse so they can spend time online.  They lose interest in long-time hobbies and subjects. If a person with internet addiction is bothered, they will often react violently or at least with a much greater degree of disgust than what is normal. Eventually, a person won’t want to leave their computer screen for even a moment.

Most of the consequences of Internet addiction are mentioned above, but one issue that is often not addressed is that when an addiction like this develops, it stops a person from growing, developing new interests, and leading anything resembling a normal life. Internet usage is a fun and interesting way to spend time, but just like with all aspects of life, it should be used in moderation. Interaction with the Internet should never supersede interaction with real people, no matter how tempting that alternate reality is. Help is out there for Internet addiction, so talk to your doctor to learn more.

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