What is internet addiction? Does it really exist? What are the symptoms and how would you know if you are suffering?
Internet addiction is an impulse control disorder and can be compared with gambling addictions. Excessive use of the internet disrupts relationships and quality of life.
A leading US psychiatrist has claimed internet addiction is now a serious public health issue that needs to be recognized as an official disorder. With excessive use of the internet including constant emailing, games, videos and constant browsing, Dr Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health & Science University based in Portland argues that internet addiction is a compulsive impulsive disorder. The first inpatient facility for internet addiction was opened in the US in 2013.
Symptoms of an internet addiction include excessive use, tension, depression and feelings of anger – especially when internet-connected devices are hard to access. Losing track of time and feeling the need to compulsively check your computer, are also signs of internet and technology addiction.
If you feel moody, depressed or restless when you try and cut down on your use of the internet and if you’re risking aspects of your life including relationships and your job because of the internet then you could be suffering from internet addiction.
Set boundaries around the time when you access the internet. Avoid answering emails after work. Go for a walk. Leave the house/office and all internet-connected devices for small periods of time and build up to longer internet-free time. Keep laptops, tablets and all internet-connected devices out of the bedroom and away from mealtimes.
A regular complete digital detox will also ensure you completely disconnect from digital and the internet.
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"Amazing! The experience made me realise how much I use my phone as a distraction. Not having my phone meant I could really escape from the stresses of everyday life. From now on I’m deleting work email from my phone at the weekends and I’ll be checking my phone a lot less regularly.”
“It was great to ‘lose’ my phone. I thought it would be stressful but it was surprisingly easy. I will definitely have down-time with technology in the future.”
"It was a revelation! I wasn’t aware how bad my digital addiction had become. Feel deliriously refreshed and restored – will definitely be incorporating regular technology breaks into my life. Everyone should!”
"Time To Log Off offers retreats in places such as Hawaii, Italy and Cornwall. Perhaps for 2016 we should all have a go at stashing away our digital addictions ... and indulge in some good old analogue fun.
“Doing this retreat has actually revealed just how unhealthy my internet obsession is. I've slept better, felt less stressed and had more energy. The retreat has given me some great ideas to help control my phone. I feel fantastic!”
"I found myself connecting much more deeply with the people around me. Without distractions, our conversations were much richer and more interesting."
“I found the first day difficult but it subsided quickly. By the end of the break I didn’t want my phone back!”
“A really great experience. I will be implementing a restricted phone and digital regime at home, i.e. no screens on a Sunday and no phones in the bedroom. I’ll also take off work email from my phone and be really mindful during the week of when I use the phone and Internet”.
"We came away feeling astonishingly refreshed and restored. Our eyes have been well and truly opened to the extraordinary benefits and pleasures of a hiatus from the constant noise of information."
“I loved it. After this, I’m going to get a landline and turn my mobile off for some weekends. I’m also going to take social media off my phone.”
“My expectations were very high but this exceeded them all. I feel like I have completely rebooted my life!”
“I wanted to test how I would react without my phone. Generally I felt much more relaxed and with better concentration. From this experience I know that I can live without my phone. I’m going to encourage other people in my life to develop this ability a bit more too!”
"Three weeks later, I can’t quite believe I have managed to keep my tech use under control. Already I feel more connected and present during chats or out with friends"
“It was so peaceful. I’m going to buy a non-smartphone to use at weekends and ask friends to call me instead of texting/Whatsaspp-ing!”
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"Corny as it sounds, when the retreat was over, I felt cleansed. I hadn’t checked the news but I didn’t fear that the world had fallen apart. I felt recharged, not anxious about the work I’d missed."
"Small talk becomes big talk and silences become longer, more comfortable. It occurs to me how frantic technology makes me."