Unveiling the Effect of Internet Addiction on Mental Health: Screen Obsession

effect of internet addiction on mental health

The effect of internet addiction on mental health is a topic of concern due to the significant role the internet plays in our lives. It has transformed the way we communicate, work, and access information. This article aims to delve into the impact of spending excessive time online on our mental well-being.

Within this discussion, we will explore the signs that indicate internet addiction, examine the link between internet addiction and mental health disorders, understand how prolonged internet use can affect the development of our brains, and provide useful tips for preventing internet addiction.

Effect of Internet Addiction on Mental Health

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Understanding Internet Addiction and its impact on Mental Health

Internet addiction, also known as problematic internet use1,2, happens when a person excessively and compulsively spends time online, causing disruptions in their daily activities. It involves an uncontrollable urge to be online, neglecting personal responsibilities, and feeling withdrawal symptoms when not connected to the internet.

Studies have found that there is significant effect of internet addiction on mental health. People addicted to the internet often experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, and social isolation. They may struggle with forming and maintaining real-life relationships.

The constant exposure to social media, online gaming, and other online platforms can distort their perception of reality and harm their self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

Signs and symptoms of internet addiction

It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of internet addiction1,8,10 so that the issue can be addressed and appropriate help can be sought. Here are some common signs to look out for:

1. Excessive preoccupation with the internet: Spending a lot of time thinking about being online, planning the next online session, or eagerly anticipating internet use.

2. Loss of control: Struggling to limit the amount of time spent online, even when attempts are made to do so.

3. Neglecting personal responsibilities: Ignoring work, school, or household tasks in order to spend more time online.

4. Withdrawal symptoms: Feeling restless, irritable, or sad when not connected to the internet.

5. Escaping problems: Using the internet as a way to avoid facing real-life problems or cope with negative emotions.

6. Neglecting relationships: Prioritizing online activities over spending time with family and friends.

If you or someone you know exhibits these signs and symptoms, it may indicate internet addiction, and seeking professional help is recommended.

The link between internet addiction and mental health disorders

Internet addiction is closely linked to various mental health disorders. Research has found a strong connection between excessive internet use and conditions like anxiety, depression, ADHD, and substance abuse4.

People who are addicted to the internet often turn to it as a way to cope with their emotions or real-life difficulties. This reliance on the internet to regulate their emotions can contribute to the development of mental health disorders.

For instance, spending too much time on social media platforms can lead to feelings of inadequacy, which can trigger depression and anxiety.

overcome internet addiction

Furthermore, individuals who already have mental health conditions may be more prone to internet addiction. The internet provides a convenient and easily accessible outlet for them to engage in activities that temporarily relieve their symptoms, such as excessive gaming or online shopping.

Recognizing the connection between internet addiction and mental health disorders is vital for offering the right interventions and support to those struggling with these issues.

Related: Read out our full article on the importance of Emotional Intelligence for success

The effects of excessive internet use on brain development

The effects of excessive internet use extend to brain development, resulting in diminished attention span, impaired cognitive abilities, and increased social isolation, emphasizing the significance of moderating online behavior. 

1. Disrupted Brain Development: Excessive internet use, especially through online gaming and social media, can disrupt brain development, especially during adolescence and young adulthood.

2. Structural Changes: Prolonged internet use, like excessive gaming, can lead to reduced gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex. This affects decision-making and impulse control, causing difficulties in behavior and emotion regulation.

3. Functional Changes: Excessive use of social media platforms can alter brain connectivity in regions linked to social cognition and self-referential processing. This impacts the ability to understand social cues accurately, potentially leading to feelings of social isolation and low self-esteem.

4. Importance of Healthy Online Habits: Recognizing the potential effects of excessive internet use on brain development, particularly in young people, it is crucial to promote healthy online behaviors and habits.

Understanding the effects of excessive internet use on brain development5,6 helps us prioritize and encourage balanced online activities for the sake of our overall well-being.

The Impact of Internet Addiction on Young People

Internet addiction is a major concern for young people, who are increasingly spending excessive time online through smartphones and tablets. This addiction, affecting 1.6% to 18.3% of youth, depending on studies, has serious consequences for their mental well-being9,10.

Excessive internet use leads to poor academic performance, reduced social interactions, and higher risks of mental health disorders. It also impacts cognitive abilities, attention span, and emotional regulation.

Parents and educators have a crucial role in addressing internet addiction by promoting healthy screen time, open communication, and alternative activities. Striking a balance can make the internet a positive aspect of young individuals’ lives.

overcome internet addiction

Technology addiction vs. internet addiction: what’s the difference?

Internet addiction and technology addiction have a slight difference. Technology addiction includes various devices like smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and computers. Internet addiction focuses on excessive internet use.

Technology addiction covers internet addiction and other dependencies on technology. It recognizes how technology affects our lives and leads to addictive behaviors.

Understanding this difference helps identify and address addictive behaviors related to the internet and devices. People can seek help and support to regain control over their digital habits by recognizing the complexity of technology addiction.

Related: Read out our full article on Internet Addiction and How to overcome it

Strategies for Preventing Internet Addiction

Preventing internet addiction8 involves using different approaches to address both individual actions and the surrounding environment. Here are some strategies that can help:

1. Set clear limits: Decide how much time you can spend on the internet and create areas at home where technology is not allowed.

2. Do other activities: Engage in hobbies, exercise, and spend time with friends offline instead of being online all the time.

3. Use the internet mindfully: Be aware of how you use the internet and set goals for yourself. Avoid mindlessly scrolling and prioritize meaningful online interactions.

4. Create a positive online space: Surround yourself with supportive online communities and avoid negative or upsetting content.

5. Seek professional help: If you’re struggling to control your internet use, consider talking to a mental health professional who specializes in internet addiction.

By following these strategies, you can develop a healthier relationship with the internet and reduce the risk of becoming addicted.

Related: Read out our full article on 5 Effective ways to overcome Internet Addiction

Treatment options for internet addiction and mental health disorders

For people struggling with internet addiction and mental health disorders6, there are different treatment options available. These options include:

1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors associated with internet addiction. It aims to develop healthier coping skills and improve self-control.

2. Support groups: Joining support groups or online communities can provide a sense of connection and understanding among individuals facing similar challenges.

3. Family therapy: Involving family members in therapy sessions can address family dynamics contributing to internet addiction and provide support for recovery.

4. Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage underlying mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression, that occur alongside internet addiction.

It’s important to seek professional help to determine the best treatment approach based on individual needs and circumstances.

The Role of Parents and Educators in addressing Internet Addiction

internet addiction and mental health disorder

Parents and educators have an important role in preventing internet addiction and promoting healthy online habits in kids and teens. Here are some strategies they can use:

1. Talk openly: Have open and non-judgmental conversations with children about their internet use. Encourage them to share their experiences and any worries they may have.

2. Lead by example: Be mindful of your own internet use and show good online habits. Children are more likely to follow what they see from parents and educators.

3. Teach about risks: Educate children about the potential dangers of too much internet use, like cyberbullying, online predators, and how it can affect mental health.

4. Set clear rules: Establish age-appropriate guidelines for screen time, online privacy, and appropriate online behavior. Regularly review and update these rules as children grow older.

5. Encourage offline activities: Promote engagement in activities outside of the internet, such as sports, arts, and spending time with friends, to create a healthy balance.

By actively addressing internet addiction and promoting healthy online behavior, parents and educators can create a safe and supportive digital environment for children and teenagers11.

Related: Read out our full article on Mental Health Day and its significance

Conclusion: Finding a healthy balance in the digital age

The effect of Internet addiction on mental health is a growing concern. Excessive internet use can harm our mental well-being, leading to anxiety, depression, and isolation.  Preventing internet addiction, we must recognize its signs, understand its connection to mental health disorders, and take proactive measures.

Setting boundaries, engaging in offline activities, practicing mindful internet use, and seeking professional help when needed help develop a healthy internet relationship and improve overall well-being. Parents and educators also play a crucial role in addressing internet addiction in children and teens. They can promote open communication, set a good example, and encourage alternative activities.

In our connected world, finding balance between the internet’s benefits and mental health is vital. By being mindful online and taking proactive steps, we can navigate the digital landscape for our well-being and thrive in the digital age.

Call to Action: If you or someone you know is struggling with internet addiction, seek professional help from a mental health expert specializing in internet addiction. Remember, it’s never too late to regain control over your digital habits and prioritize your mental health.

Sources 

1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. [Book]

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3. Lin MP, Wu JY, You J, Hu WH, Yen CF. Prevalence of internet addiction and its risk and protective factors in a representative sample of senior high school students in Taiwan. J Adolesc. 2018 Jan;62:38-46. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.11.004. PMID: 29149653.

4. Davis, R. A. (2001). A cognitive-behavioral model of pathological internet use. Computers in Human Behavior, 17(2), 187-195.

5. Griffiths, M. D. (1999). Internet addiction: Does it really exist? In J. Gackenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the internet: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. New York: Academic Press. [Book]

6. Kim K, Ryu E, Chon MY, Yeun EJ, Choi SY, Seo JS, Nam BW. Internet addiction in Korean adolescents and its relation to depression and suicidal ideation: a questionnaire survey. Int J Nurs Stud. 2006 Feb;43(2):185-92. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2005.02.005. PMID: 16427966.

7. Kuss DJ, Griffiths MD, Karila L, Billieux J. Internet addiction: a systematic review of epidemiological research for the last decade. Curr Pharm Des. 2014;20(25):4026-52. doi: 10.2174/13816128113199990617. PMID: 24001297.

8. Young, K. S. (1998). Caught in the net: How to recognize the signs of internet addiction and a winning plan for recovery. New York: John Wiley & Sons. [Book]

9. Cheng C, Li AY.Internet addiction prevalence and quality of (real) life: a meta-analysis of 31 nations across seven world regions. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2014 Dec;17(12):755-60. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2014.0317. PMID: 25489876; PMCID: PMC4267764.

10 Wang S, Xia L, Wang J, Yuan X, Shi Y, Wang X, Li X, Hu Y, Zhang Y, Yang Y, Geng F, Liu Z, Chen C, Wen X, Luo X, Gao F, Liu H. Prevalence and Clinical Correlates of Internet Addiction Symptoms and Their Association With Quality of Life in Adolescents With Major Depressive Disorder: A Multicenter Cross-Sectional Study. Front Psychiatry. 2022 Apr 25;13:819704. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.819704. PMID: 35546955; PMCID: PMC9081563.

11. Trumello C, Vismara L, Sechi C, Ricciardi P, Marino V, Babore A. Internet Addiction: The Role of Parental Care and Mental Health in Adolescence. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Dec 7;18(24):12876. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182412876. PMID: 34948485; PMCID: PMC8700934.

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