Internet and Gaming Addiction

Internet addiction, also called Internet Use Disorder (IUD), is a compulsive preoccupation with the internet or online gaming where the user experiences withdrawal symptoms if they are prevented from playing or engaging for any reason.

Fantasy escape

Total absorption in the internet or online gaming can be a way of coping with problems in a user's life or dealing with stress and depression.

The online world is used by teens and young people who may be shy or socially awkward as a fantasy escape from real-life problems and "negative" feelings about aspects of themselves or their bodies.

Users are able to meet, socialise, and exchange ideas via social networking sites and "virtual communities", creating an emotional attachment to online friends and activities.

Some online games require a large number of players to log on simultaneously for long periods of time to accomplish a task. Players may feel an obligation and loyalty to other players, which may further provide justification for the increasing usage accompanied by a "sense of relationship" with other players, despite being strangers.

Changes in areas of the brain

Research has shown that internet addiction can produce changes in areas of the brain, which control attention and emotion processing and is similar to substance addiction to cocaine and heroin. The user can become addicted and unable to stop as their need to spend time on the internet increases to achieve the same "high."

Males are more likely to become addicted to online gaming and as many as 10 per cent of those aged 8-18 may be compulsive or addicted gamers.

Symptoms and Warning Signs

RInternet addiction leads to users spending increasing amounts of time in solitary seclusion rather than with real people and some may attempt to conceal the number of hours spent online.

Teens and young people addicted to spending long hours online may display the following behaviour:
  • Fatigue and falling asleep during school lessons
  • Not completing homework or school projects on time
  • Declining grades, or failing classes
  • Dropping out of school activities, clubs, sports, etc.
  • Isolated from family and friends to play online games
  • Lying to family members, friends and others to conceal the extent of involvement

Other symptoms can include: back and neck pains, weight loss and headaches. Addicts can often feel anxiety, depression, guilt and shame as a result of their behaviour.

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