Internet addiction disorder refers to the problematic use of the Internet, including the various aspects of its technology such as electronic mail (e-mail) and the World Wide Web. Internet use does have some great benefits to our daily living. The technology behind the Internet is powerful. However, too much dependency on the Internet can lead to an addiction.
These types of addictions are a growing problem for many people, especially since daily life is relying more heavily on the Internet. Addictive behavioral qualities linked to the use of the Internet do not receive enough attention. There is a tremendous amount of money going into the development of this technology and almost nothing going into understanding how it affects people. That may spell trouble ahead.
It was the beginning of 1995 when Dr. Ivan Goldberg, a leading psychiatrist from New York City, argued that an increasing number of people are actually abandoning their life-related and family-related responsibilities as a result of using the Internet for long hours. This was the first marked account of Internet addiction.
The cycle of Depression and Internet Addiction
Does the Internet cause mental illness, or does mental illness lead people to abuse the Internet? Researchers tried to answer that question in a 1998 study by providing Internet access to 169 people who previously had not been able to log on from home. The researchers reported in American Psychologist that the more time these people spent online, the less time they spent with their families, the smaller their social circles became, and the more depressed and lonely they felt. The research stated that even for people who don’t manifest addictive behavior, the Internet is almost an invitation to obsession.
Different scientific research studies confirm that increasing levels of depression are strongly associated with Internet addiction as well. In other words, excessive personal Internet usage and clinically identified depression symptoms are strongly correlated with each other. However, studies suggest that the accuracy of the evaluation of personal Internet usage and clinical symptoms of depression can be improved if detected at the earlier phases.
Few integral factors such as low self-esteem, weakened motivation, a sense of insecurity, fear of rejection, and need for endorsement as linked with depression are believed to be the most influential factors contributing to Internet usage. Several studies have actually affirmed Internet addiction is directly correlated with an intense sense of anxiety and acute depression. Internet dependents show their anxiety through various modes of operation such as checking emails at midnight after suddenly waking from sleep or connecting to the Internet first thing in the morning.
The perceived detachment from reality, inadequate sleep, persistent anxiety of not being online for hours, social isolation, and occupational dysfunctional condition all lead the individual to experience a sense of extreme depression. The irony of this problem is similar to other sorts of depression, the individual will depend on the Internet itself to get relief from this stress, anxiety, and depression, resulting in more depression as well. The vicious cycle continues.
Teenage Depression and Internet Use
In recent days, many researchers believe Internet addiction may act as a mask for teenage depression. When an adolescent is feeling depressed, he or she will try to spend time online. The relation between time spent over the Internet and levels of depression is directly proportionate to each other. The study conducted by Dr. Sang Kyu Lee found at least 11 percent of the adolescent participants were Internet-addicted and these individuals scored the highest degree of depression also.
Depression leads adolescents to become more preoccupied with the Internet than adolescents without depression. It is mainly because they find their fulfillment on the Internet. But the time they spend using the Internet makes them isolated from others while increasing their level of anxiety and depression itself, eventually leading the adolescent to experience a never-ending cycle of depression and anxiety.
In a two-year longitudinal study (Kraut et al., 1998), randomly selected families were given computers and instructions on Internet use. After one to two years, increased use of the Internet was associated with decreased family communication and reduced size of local social circle. In addition, the participants experienced increased loneliness and depression. Increases in loneliness and decreases in social support were particularly pronounced for the youth. The latter finding highlights the importance of studying Internet use among adolescents, particularly since it is increasing dramatically among this age group.