The wide availability of the internet and the adoption of new digital technology such as smartphones over the past decade are influencing society and establishing new social structures. Social networks allow rapid communication with a click of a button – reaching and sending all kinds of messages whether by image, video or text. The use of social networks such as the ubiquitous Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tinder, and many others, promotes virtual interactions and meetings with others, sometimes eliminating the need for personal relationships and commitments.
The excessive use of social networking sites raises the question about the adverse effects on the mental health and well-being of users particularly that of young people, who are the avid consumers of this innovation. But just because one is mostly online on the internet, this doesn’t mean that one has an Internet Addiction disorder or Social Media Addiction. It is when online activities start being disruptive or interferes with daily routine that it becomes a problem.
Is Social Media Addiction/Internet Addiction A Real Thing?
A study was published back in 2010 indicated that problematic internet addiction was so widespread that its prevalence rate in Europe and the United States was between 1.5% and 8.2%. This study is outdated, and the figure could now be as high as 38%. Although not officially recognised as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), its negative impact can not be negated and should be cause for real concern.
Research has proliferated over the past five years to determine how heavy the use of social media can have a detrimental impact on health. Internet addiction is associated with several psychological problems which include depression, isolation, loneliness, anxiety, addiction behaviours as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Internet addiction isn’t just about being on the Internet a lot and watching YouTube videos or playing games or being excessively on social media. It’s also about excessive online shopping, emailing, blogging and inappropriate use of pornography. The riskiness of the kind of activities spent online is just as important as the amount of time spent doing it.
Internet Addiction and Its Effects on the Brain
This disorder targets the pleasure centre of the brain. The behaviour alerts the release of a substance called dopamine. This hormone/neurotransmitter plays a big role in how we feel pleasure, how we find things interesting. The repetitive behaviour elicits a pleasurable response, and over time, creates a dependency. Essentially, the brain changes are quite like those produces by cocaine and alcohol addiction.
Internet addiction disorder also shrinks the brain’s white and grey matter fibres, as well as reduced cortical thickness, resulting in shifts in the way emotions are being processed as well as how the brain functions overall. The neural connections between the brain’s two hemispheres are altered and suffer disruptions on how they “communicate” with each other.
The brain will negatively change for as long as the addiction is not treated.
How Would You Know If You Have Social Media/Internet Addiction?
This multi-dimensional disorder has multi-dimensional risk factors and can result in several impairments – physical, functional, social, emotional as well as developing dependence and impulsiveness on the use of the Internet. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be at risk for developing an addiction to the Internet, here are some checkpoints you need to watch out:
If you have positively answered all the above, treatment is likely warranted. The Arden Centre offers therapy to help you recover from this kind of addiction. Your rehabilitation journey is supported by well-trained nursing staff, counsellors, and therapists to ensure that your recovery would be successful.
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