In a landmark diagnosis by the NHS, a 15-year old boy is set to be diagnosed with internet addiction. It came to light after his obsession with gaming caused him to lose confidence to leave his house, resulting in him needing to take one year out of school. The first of its kind, the case comes just months after the World Health Organization (WHO) classified internet gaming as an official mental health disorder.
It’s not just gaming, ever since the internet began there have been many different elements to become addicted to. Online shopping, porn, social media, as with any tool that helps you escape the real world, the internet hosts various aspects that cater to various different desires we can abuse. But when our professional and private lives are very much dependent on the internet, at least in the more privileged parts of the world, how do you quantify internet addiction?
According to Christopher Gore, a psychotherapist specializing in internet addiction, there are usually outside factors at play that makes the internet the perfect place to escape reality. ‘The internet is an insatiable place, you can get anything you want at the touch of a button,’ he told Grazia, ‘but I think about it as an addictive state of mind, so if you’ve got really difficult things going on in your life you may find the escape - whether its pornography, gambling or anything – where suddenly there’s a release and you have to repeat it, and in the end it becomes addictive’.
While most of us that are concerned about our internet use, including our own social media apps, it may not be as simple as limiting your use to a few hours a day as Instagram would tell us. ‘That would give an idea that your completely in charge and in control of what you’re doing,’ Christopher continued, ‘however if you’re addicted it’s just like drugs or alcohol, you can tell yourself “I’ll just have one drink a week” but you know in your addictive state of mind that if you have one you’ll have another and another.’
Essentially, being addicted to the internet isn’t necessarily about quantifying the amount of time you spend on there, but why and how you’re using it to avoid other important things in your life. As with any hobby or habit, if it’s often disrupting your other commitments or stopping you from addressing deeper emotional issues, it isn’t likely to be a healthy habit.
‘It becomes painful,’ Christopher said, ‘and you know somewhere it's at the expense of real relating, it impacts on your life and relationships in reality, you become more isolated and you know that you need it. ‘
So how does he suggest we tackle internet addiction? As with most mental health disorders, it all starts with talking about it. He advises people to ‘seek help’ in order to ‘come out of the shame’ people who are addicted often feel and address the feelings of low self-worth that often surround internet addiction.
If you’re worried you may be suffering with internet addiction, contact your GP or call Samaritans on 116 123.