The Link between the Internet Addiction and Mental Health Disorder

How many hours do people wait in line for the newest Apple product? That smartphones and tablets can create such a furor among the populace should be a warning bell. Now, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has announced its intention to list Internet-use disorder as a clinical mental health condition. According to the association spokesmen, internet use has become more than just another sticking point between parents and teens. As internet access costs have dropped around the globe, use has risen and, in some cases, has become an addiction. To deal with this latest mental health issue, we equally need a new approach, such as offered by J Flowers Health Institute.

For a condition to be diagnosed as a mental health disorder, its symptoms must be outlined in an authoritative guide. That guide is known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health or, more simply, the DSM. A new edition of the DSM is currently in the process of being written, and several new disorders are expected to be included. One of them is expected to be Internet-use disorder. The internet-use disorder is part of a list of conditions that the APA says warrants further psychological study. 

Plenty of parents are already concerned about how much time their teen spends online playing video games, checking Facebook, and browsing. But according to addiction experts, Internet-use addiction mirrors other types of addiction in several ways. Tolerance, a key symptom of substance abuse, describes how more and more of a substance is required before the user feels satisfied. The obvious correlation would be that kids are spending ever-increasing amounts of time online. 

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Addictions (behavioral or substance misuse) are often negative coping mechanisms. In other words, people turn to them in order to escape unpleasant realities. If kids are spending more time online because of poor school performance, social struggles, or disruption in the home, then the Internet has become a way to escape. 

Still another sign of addiction is the presence of withdrawal symptoms when the substance or behavior is removed. If kids cannot tolerate going without online access without acting out or becoming depressed, then it is possible that addiction has formed. This is true whether the kids enjoy video games or what otherwise seem like harmless online pursuits. The problem is that the child seems unable to disconnect successfully.

So far, experts feel that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the best approach for treating Internet-use disorder. This form of therapy focuses on correcting faulty thinking patterns which lead to harmful behavior. With CBT, negative patterns of thought are exchanged for positive and healthy ways of thinking about situations which, in turn, yields more appropriate behavior. 

The age of rapid information and entertainment is upon us. For some kids growing up in this burgeoning world of internet use, they are finding that their online choices and opportunities have grown far more quickly than has their ability to process distressing emotions or to practice restraint and self-control. Parents and children need to keep in mind that right thinking drives right behavior and that too much of even a good thing can be bad for us.

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