We are a nation of addicts — and I don’t mean that are many of us who are addicted to illicit drugs, street drugs and alcohol — there are. But as human beings we have the capacity to become addicted to anything we find pleasurable — from sex, to shopping, to porn, to food, to reading — even to exercise. At what point does fascination with something become an addiction?
According to HLN’s Dr Drew, even “good” things become an addiction if our pursuit of them interferes with our daily lives. When we become addicted to something, someone, or to a particular activity, we feel compelled to satisfy our craving, regardless of the affect this has to our families, and even to our personal well-being.
Over the last several years, there have been an increasing number of teenagers and adults who have become addicted to the internet and/or social media. For the purpose of this article, we’ll lump an addiction to the internet and social media together.
Several years ago, a Taiwanese study illustrated how prevalent online addiction has become — it also gives us a glimpse into those who are the most likely to become addicted.
The study found that adolescents who had hostility issues or ADHD were more likely to become obsessed with the internet than others; girls who are depressed or phobic tend to be more likely to want to escape into the pseudo-real world of cyberspace.
On the one hand, the internet provides a safe haven for teens to be themselves without the stress of face to face interaction; the problem with this is that teenagers have the tendency to take everything and everyone they encounter online at face value.
Nothing illustrates this more than the tragic story of a preschool teacher with two young children; the wife of an abuser, she became involved with a man online. Increasingly, their conversations became more passionate and sexual in nature — the two began planning a life together. Because the guy she fell in love with kept putting off meeting in person, she began to do some investigating, and discovered that the man she wanted to build a life with was actually a woman.
You might think you know where this is headed, but you’re probably wrong — instead of breaking off the relationship, she couldn’t let go of the excitement she felt every time she logged on and saw “his” name pop up on her screen.
Symptoms of Internet Addiction
Just as is the case with a chemical addiction, once a person becomes addicted to cyberspace, there’s time for little else. Symptoms include getting an online fix above everything and everyone else, regardless of who gets hurt. Teens who become addicted become more withdrawn than is normal for them — they begin isolating themselves from family and “real” friends.
Other symptoms: moodiness or sadness when not online, lying about being online, weakening of personal (sexual, romantic) boundaries.