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Are Internet Addictions Really Possible?

The concept of Internet addiction has debated back and forth in medical and scientific circles with many individuals arguing about whether it is a legitimate mental disorder or an overblown fad. But there does seem to be at least partial validity to the condition’s ability to stand on its own as a disorder as well as a need for definitive diagnostic criteria and treatment approaches.

Internet Addiction Vs. Other Behavioral Problems

According to the Better Health Channel, “Medical opinion is divided on whether Internet addiction exists as a mental disorder in its own right or whether it’s an expression of pre-existing mental disorders or behavioral problems. For example, a person who compulsively trawls the Internet for online gambling venues may have a gambling problem rather than an Internet addiction.”

However, there are ways in which Internet addiction has been seen as an entity clearly separate from other addictions. Individuals who spend hours and hours online doing almost nothing and to the detriment of the other aspects of their lives are clearly more interested in their computer time than anything else. And this sort of behavior does occur independently from substance addiction, sex addiction, gambling addiction, and other compulsive behaviors in some cases.

A Habit Vs. An Addiction

addicted to the internet

An internet addiction can cause adverse effects on the user.

A person who spends a lot of time online but still is able to live their lives fully and achieve their goals without issue is not addicted to the Internet. An addiction occurs when someone cannot stop a specific type of behavior that they know is bad for them. According to a study from the NCBI, “Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) ruins lives by causing neurological complications, psychological disturbances, and social problems.”

When caused by Internet use, these issues lend validity to its addictive powers in that they are harmful to the individual as well as to others involved in the person’s life. And if that person still cannot stop using the Internet at the extreme levels which they normally do so, it seems likely that an addiction has formed.

Can Internet Addiction Be Diagnosed?

The NCBI study cites several rehab centers in Washington state, Korea, and China where individuals can receive treatment for Internet addiction as well as different tests that have been used to evaluate whether or not an individual is being negatively affected by their computer use. In general, Internet addiction has still not been widely accepted as a legitimate disorder, but there is a large amount of research on the subject that points toward its validity.

In addition, many individuals are quick to diagnose themselves as Internet addicts, but remembering that a behavior is not an addiction until it becomes compulsive and harmful is key. And excessive Internet use has become both to many individuals.

From the research that has been provided thus far, it seems a person can be addicted to the Internet. Unfortunately, whether or not they will be diagnosed and treated properly is not as smooth of a process as that which exists for substance use disorders and other mental illnesses. Still, existing research suggests that Internet addictions are really possible and that they may often require professional treatment for individuals to fully recover.