Internet Addiction and American Youth

internet addiction

Internet addiction disorder, now more frequently called problematic Internet use (PIU), refers to an excess of time spent online which leads to a clear interference in day-to-day life. While this condition is currently recognized as a significant and often severely damaging addictive disorder throughout medical communities nationwide, it is an idea often scoffed at by the majority of the general public. “Everyone is addicted to the Internet nowadays,” some may say. It is probably true that the majority of men and women alive in this day and age indulge in an excessive amount of Internet use. From Googling recipes to researching bed and breakfasts, from chatting via Skype to posting pictures on Instagram, it seems as if everyone on the planet is heavily involved in the worldwide web. But when does heavy involvement become a detrimental and potentially life-threatening disorder?

Internet Addiction – A Serious Issue

Those who suffer from Internet addiction neurologically react to excessive Internet use just as drug addicts and alcoholics react to chemical consumption. Chemicals are released into the brain, and pleasure centers in the brain light up when introduced to this specific stimulus. Internet addiction is believed to result partially from a combination of stressful life events, unresolved childhood trauma, and pre-existing psychological disorders – many of the same contributing factors that those who suffer from substance dependency issues tend to exhibit.

Depressive disorders and anxiety-related issues are commonly linked to cases of Internet addiction, and many young adults who admitted to struggling with compulsive Internet use also disclosed that they were brought up in dysfunctional households. Young adults who struggle with this particular addictive disorder are significantly more likely to have divorced parents, live with a single parent, or be an only child. The Internet can be utilized much like a chemical substance in the sense that it offers a temporary break from reality, and can be utilized to soothe unaddressed emotional pain. Thus many of the same contributing factors (childhood neglect and abuse, PTSD, and difficulties developing interpersonal relationships) that pertain to chemical addiction also pertain to behavioral addictions such as compulsive Internet use.

Young Adults and Compulsive Internet Use

Internet addiction predominantly affects young adults, as reported by innumerable parents and addiction specialists. Young Americans are beginning to drop out of school, completely withdraw from their loved ones, and exhibit signs of severe anxiety in social settings – all as a direct result of infatuation with that tiny screen in the palm of their hands. But is it mere infatuation, or something much more sinister? A recent study conducted by a parent advocacy group called Common Sense Media found that roughly 59 percent of parents believe that their children suffered from a severe Internet-related addictive disorder. Shockingly, 50 percent of interviewed teenagers felt the same way – that the Internet was beginning to overwhelm and devastate their lives. This year alone, over 1,300 parents and children participated in the study.

Limited Treatment Available for Internet Addiction

Because Internet addiction is still so harshly misunderstood and stigmatized, those who do suffer from this condition alone have very few available treatment options. And because Internet addiction is not yet medically recognized in the DSM as a diagnosable disorder, insurance companies will not cover extended-stay rehabilitation exclusively for this newly emerging condition. The few Internet addiction facilities that do exist are out-of-pocket, and exceedingly overpriced. Additionally, without a clearly defined (and medically approved) definition of what exactly Internet addiction entails, those who suffer from the condition are frequently left with no means of adequate treatment. However, many individuals who are afflicted with this specific disorder simultaneously suffer from substance dependency issues. Because of this, they are able to attend dual diagnosis facilities – inpatient drug rehabs that concurrently focus on any potential underlying behavioral addictions.

While we at Next Chapter focus predominantly on contributing factors of drug and alcohol addiction, we also specialize in behavioral addictions such as Internet addiction and compulsive gambling. We understand that many of the same root causes that provoke the initial draw towards chemical substance as a means of coping also trigger a propensity towards excessive and detrimental Internet use. Childhood trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, underlying psychological issues, and long-term interpersonal problems have all been closely linked to Internet addiction – and these are all issues that we specialize in therapeutically treating.

If you believe that you or someone you love may be struggling with an addiction to the Internet, please feel free to contact us today. Internet addiction is a legitimate issue – one that requires intensive, professional help in order to overcome.