The Internet is a great tool, allowing us to connect with other people, get a lot of necessary information, and order food whenever we want these things. However, when used excessively, the Internet can also cause us to have social anxiety – a complex disorder that can significantly interfere with our daily lives. This all starts with internet addiction (IA).
What is IA?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), internet addiction (IA) isn’t a diagnosable disorder. However, compulsive behavior that’s centered around online activity can damage your life. This type of internet usage takes many forms (e.g., trolling and excessive online activities). Another diagnosable compulsive online behavior is what’s known as Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD). Before being added to the DSM, it’ll need further study as well.
How do I know if I’m addicted to the internet?
There are some common signs of IA, including:
- Feeling compelled to check the Internet at every opportunity, you’re given
- Feeling moody, agitated, anxious, or irritable when you’re away from the internet for a while
- Being told by others that you’re always online
- Obsessing about what you’re missing online when you’re offline
- Spending 3+ hours a day in virtual communities (e.g., chat rooms)
- Using the internet when with others or engaging in other activities (e.g., using the bathroom)
- Checking email or social media every few minutes
- Neglecting other areas of your life because you’re always online
- Trying unsuccessfully to cut back on your Internet usage
- Keeping your computer on 24/7 so you’re always online
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these issues, you may have IA. When left unchecked, this can lead to social anxiety. This is because addictions are something you must spend your time engaging in. When you don’t, you’re bound to feel tense until you do. Unfortunately, if you have IA, then you have impaired control over your compulsive behavior, even if you know that it’s causing you harm and you want to stop.
What’s Lurking Behind IA?
Sometimes social anxiety is lurking behind IA because you’re trying to escape from or avoid social interactions that occur offline. Here the internet looks like a safe place where you can avoid the threat of direct human contact. When this happens your computer acts like a buffer that keeps you at a safe distance from other people so that you don’t have to deal with possibly being rejected, criticized, or embarrassed. Therefore, internet usage is reinforced by relief from these feelings.
While online, you can be selective about navigating the social world but what you’re also doing is substituting a virtual world for real person-to-person engagement. Sometimes people will take this a step further with the avatars that they create. These avatars are designed to online project an alternate identity for themselves so that you can safely mask your true self. When you start doing any of these things, it’s important to see whether you actually have social anxiety.
How do I combat IA?
Although modern technology has done a good job of transforming our lives for the better, too much of it can interfere with our “real world” lives. When you have IA, you may feel powerless to resist the urge because then you’ll have to deal with your social anxiety, but you can change these habits. Since the internet plays an integral role in our daily lives, moderation should be your goal. The first step is committing to change. Then you must develop a plan to cope with your social anxiety. If you’ve found that this is something you need to do, contact us today at TMS Advantage Clearwater in Clearwater, FL, so we can help you start down to wholeness.
Picture Credit: VistaCreate