Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is affecting our entire population, especially the millennial generation. This addiction to the Internet has been shown to cause and contribute to cognitive decline, specifically social intelligence. The Internet is a bottomless pit of information; the content has evolved into more opinionated blogs and promotional pieces, less research-based. Logging on with a purpose in mind can be replaced with several distractions and alerts, leading to longer sessions on the Internet and less productivity. Keep on reading and discover more interesting information on the cognitive issues associated with Internet addiction.
Symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder
IAD is actually classified by psychologist as a mental disorder. Symptoms vary but include:
- Fewer interactions with friends and family
- Less productivity at work
- Compulsive spending on Internet gambling, gaming, shopping even stock exchange
- Cyber Sex addiction, watching too much online porn, which affects real life relationships and sexual activity
- False sense of relationships, putting too much value on cyber relationships, and not spending quality time with loved ones. This can lead to depression and reduce quality of life.
- Depression and Anxiety
- “Mental high” when in front of computer
- Poor time management
- Isolating themselves and loneliness
Statistics on Internet Addiction Disorder
- Those who are feeling depressed or anxious turn to the Internet to escape.
- Those who suffer from other addictions like food, alcohol or sex are also prone to IAD.
- Common among males ages 20 to 30 years old.
- Those who already suffer from mental illness are susceptible to Internet addiction, especially if they have a poor emotional support system at home.
The research and studies are limited due to this type of addiction being somewhat new. One study involved 59 Internet addicted middle school age students and 43 non-addicted middle school aged students using an IQ test as a baseline measure. The Internet addicted group had comprehension scores significantly lower than those who were not addicted. The research does point out that it may not be the internet causing cognitive decline, it could be that those who have weak cognitive abilities are more susceptible to internet addiction, but it still could be true that the internet addiction is truly causing the decline in cognitive functioning.
Professional interventions can help reduce and eliminate the IAD. Non-psychological therapies include taking antidepressants or mood stabilizers but this is not addressing the issue as deeply as the psychological therapies.
Psychological therapies include motivational interviewing with a trained therapist. Sometimes simply realizing there is a problem is the best way to help solve the problem with behavior modifications. Reality therapy works with motivational interviewing. Reality therapy encourages individuals to commit to changing their behavior to improve their life. This has been proven to reduce the addiction and improve self-esteem.
Physical and Emotional Effects
It is sad that phone calls, play dates, outside exploring, art, and other soulful activities are not the norm. We are not playing outside or being in the moment as much as we once were. Pictures are posted immediately on social media; parents are living behind their phones to record and not miss a milestone or activity. The overall creative and exploring personality of a child is not being facilitated as much as it once was. Entertainment is now behind a screen.
Actual pen to paper requires more mental stamina and energy, therefore engages more areas of the brain then pecking away on a keyboard or touchscreen. Those who have eliminated pen to paper journals are losing cognitive creative writing skills. A study produced by the Princeton School of Psychology has shown pen to paper is also a better way to comprehend and remember material, specifically for students who are trying to pass a test. It simply requires you to process and think more than mindlessly typing away.
Writing pen to paper actually slows a person down in a beneficial way, specifically during a brainstorm, goal setting or study session. They take their time and are forced to think more than normal computer sessions. Also, there are no ads or alerts in a paper journal or on a whiteboard.
Those who suffer with IAD are not developing social and communication skills compared to the previous generation. The upcoming generation has a harder time having meaningful conversations among their peers and adults, they are not benefiting from connecting emotionally with other human beings.
Social media is also creating a false reality of everyone’s highlights and positive events. We only see the good never the bad or the ugly. This can lead to an unhealthy comparison and unfulfilled feelings about our personal lifestyle and accomplishments.
The upcoming internet addicted population is suffering in many ways other than cognitive decline, they have “texting neck,” an actual physical therapy term that refers to chronic pain in the neck area from looking down at a phone or tablet for several hours out of the day. Other physical symptoms include back pain, carpel tunnel, and even depression.
Plan of Action
Technology is not going anywhere so implementing behavior modifications or seeking professional treatment are the best options.
- Limit leisure screen time, (this would be unrelated to work tasks) like social media, gaming, shopping, etc. to 1 hour or less per day.
- Download an application to disable Internet distractions on your phone during hours that you do not want to be on the Internet. “Freedom”, is a popular app that has great reviews for this.
- Regress your cellular phone to a flip phone, this will force you to only sit behind a computer and avoid mindless scrolling with your smartphone.
- Plan out soulful activities to prevent boredom, go for a hike, read a book, write a letter, make a phone call, paint a picture, plant a garden, adopt a dog to walk, clean out your closets, cook more, exercise or play more sports. This list is full of healthy leisure activities that will not only make you feel like a kid again, they are good for the creative side of your brain.
- Make the decision to be present and in the moment. Avoid comparing yourself to others on social media.
Be honest with yourself and start tracking your Internet behaviors including when you get the urge to log on, how much time you are spending behind a screen, and what it is taking away from your real life, like quality time with family, friends or being productive at work. Then make suggested behavior modifications and/or seek professional help if you are struggling to make the appropriate changes. And, remember, the cognitive issues brought on by Internet addiction can be solved, as long as you are willing to make a change. Albeit addiction can be resisted totally if we control our mind. However, sometimes your cognitive functions become too damaged to control your own thoughts. You might use a brain product such as Cognium to improve your mental clarity and focus.