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Connection made between Internet addiction and loneliness

There’s a connection between Internet addiction and feelings of loneliness, according to scientific research.

© Sony Pictures Releasing
© Sony Pictures Releasing

Are you someone whose first craving in the morning for your computer mouse? Do you obsessively check email in the middle of the night? Then you may be an Internet addict. Do not worry, there’s help at hand.

There is no precise definition of “Internet addiction disorder.” The condition normally refers to a pathological condition that can lead to anxiety and severe depression, arising from a set of behaviors that have similarities with other forms of addition.

There is a correlation between Internet addicts and those who experience above average rates of mental health problems. This has been shown, for example, by research that uses two different scales to assess Internet use. This has revealed that a considerable level of problematic Internet rests with college-aged students. This has enabled an Internet Addiction Test to be developed, which is based on previously tested addiction criteria.

There is also a connection with certain personality traits, finds research performed at De Montfort University in the UK. For example, at times when digital technology stops working (such as experiencing no Wi-Fi), those with the psychologically recognized condition described as “a fear of missing out” (often manifest as the anxiety felt by some when they are missing a social experience that others might be having) will often display more extreme reactions, including anger.

In terms of the connection between Internet addiction and feelings of loneliness, University of Helsinki researchers have described loneliness as an important risk factor associated with adolescents who become drawn into compulsive internet use.

In the majority of cases the addiction response is adaptive, and this often changes in late adolescence and during the transition to adulthood, where Internet use decreases. However, for a smaller proportion the addiction continues into adulthood and this has implications for work and relationships.

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Such research is of added importance in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, where loneliness has become far more prevalent among adolescents. This matches longer periods of time online.

Lessons learned These types of research areas carry practical medical implications. For example, if a psychiatrist is trying to treat someone for an addiction when the underlying cause is actually a form of anxiety or depression, then traditional forms of addiction therapy may well fail. Instead, an approach designed to address mental health issues may prove to be more fruitful.

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