Dealing with Internet Addictive Behavior

In modern vernacular we frequently label some of our or others’ behaviors as “addictions”. We may refer to exercise, shopping, game playing, reading, working, surfing the Internet or even sun bathing as “addictions”. This label implies excessive practice of a behavior that is beyond the individual’s control and may be hazardous to his/her wellbeing. Is it true that many of us are overtaken with some excessive activities that hinder our wellbeing?

Dr. Marc Potenza, a Yale Psychiatrist and Director of Research on Impulsivity and Impulse Control Disorders wondered whether “Compulsive behaviors and addictions, both of which share urges and cravings that are marked by an inability to stop, activate the pleasure center of the brain and have some common genetic basis, are identical or distinctive forms of conduct.” He highlights that Internet addiction may be difficult to curtail but may also offer us the technology that can eventually help rectify it’s own addiction.

The element of pleasure in excessive behaviors has also been studied. It confirmed that the perseverance in certain activities is often in service of pleasure, escaping the mundane and distracting us from challenging tasks. In “Ethical Decision Making Among Addicted and Non-Addicted Internet Users” Kimberly Young and Carl Chase found that “Addicted users spent nearly 2.5 times the minutes of non-addicted users per week and were more likely to gamble online, use instant messaging, and play games than the non-addicted employees.”

Many employers are aware of the allure of the Internet and some disallow personal use of the Internet and messaging during work hours. In 2000 The American Management Association reported a survey that found, “Approximately 38 percent of 2,100 major U.S. companies check their employee’s email and 54 percent monitor Internet connections.” Results also indicated that 41percent of organizations restrict or monitor Internet use and four out of five employers surveyed stated they have caught employees surfing the Web for personal use during work hours.”

Very often people describe themselves as “addicted to an activity, hobby, interest or a pleasure.” This designation may be a harsh view of one’s preferences. It is obvious that our choices are often propelled by the benefits of the activity we engage in. For some, identifying the elements associated with any compelling action is a difficult assignment. Perhaps what matters is not the “label” of the activity but the analysis of its benefits and costs.

It is also worth abstaining from seeking a tangible bi-product to everything we do. We may be kinder and gentler with ourselves if we reverse the harsh self-criticism and ponder what or if any damage is actually caused by our self-pleasing or self-soothing behavior. Finding none may help us permit ourselves to enjoy what pleases us and harms no one.

Deal with Internet Addiction:

  • First, replace the word “addiction” with self-interest, entertainment or pleasure.
  • Respect work restrictions on company use of the Internet for personal purposes.
  • Permit yourself to enjoy a satisfying activity that is harmless and pleases and soothes you.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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