Author: Amanpreet Kang

We live in a connected digital world, but often experience a strong disconnect – with ourselves, our family, friends, and society at large. The use of digital technologies and devices has become an integral part of our life, and it is difficult to imagine a day without Google, Instagram, or an internet connection. Though these platforms offer many benefits like instant communication, access to vast amounts of data, and an opportunity to connect with people globally, excessive use of the internet is concerning. People who compulsively use the internet and use it excessively experience negative consequences that influence various aspects of their lives including mental health. Such problematic use of internet-enabled technologies and devices is referred to as internet addiction. Though experts are divided whether ‘excessive technology use’ should be classified as addiction, the findings of recent research studies indicate that people (children, teens, adults, and parents) themselves ‘feel’ that they are ‘addicted’ to their devices.

Why the term addiction and risk factors?

The term addiction (from a behavioral perspective) can be described as a chronic condition which involves compulsively seeking and performing an activity despite negative or harmful consequences. Internet addiction is a type of behavioral addiction. Other potentially addictive behaviors include – eating, exercising, or dieting, shopping, shoplifting or other risky behaviors, viewing pornography, video gaming (internet gaming disorder), etc. As of now, DSM-5 only includes gambling disorder as a diagnosable behavioral addiction and unfortunately, there is a lack of scientific research on Internet Addiction. Therefore, Internet Addiction has also been described as a form of impulse-control disorder that does not involve an intoxicant.

There are a wide range of risk factors which can contribute to Internet Addiction, including age, peer pressure, relationships with family and/or community, and pre-existing mental health issues. There may be other reasons, such as low self-esteem, loneliness, or depression, that may contribute to a person using the internet problematically/ excessively.

Screening Tools

Several tools are available for finding if we are experiencing problematic/ addictive technology use. Some of the popular ones include – virtual addiction test, Greenfield video game addiction test, digital distraction test, smartphone compulsion test, etc. You may want to contact a counsellor at Crossroads Collective for additional information.

Possible Solutions

Addressing internet addiction requires a comprehensive treatment approach that addresses underlying psychological issues and modifies problematic behaviors. Some effective strategies for treating internet addiction include – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness-Based Interventions, Behavioral Interventions and Peer Support Groups. Contact a counsellor at Crossroads Collective for help and additional information. Our counsellors work with individuals and groups to develop effective coping skills and practical strategies for healing.

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