Diagnosis And Therapy Of Internet Addiction

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Diagnosis And Therapy Of Internet Addiction
Diagnosis And Therapy Of Internet Addiction

Video: Diagnosis And Therapy Of Internet Addiction

Video: Diagnosis And Therapy Of Internet Addiction
Video: Expert Opinion - Internet Addiction 2023, September

Internet addiction

Did you know that the Internet was actually developed to network universities and research institutions? Since then, the World Wide Web has made tremendous progress and everyday life is unthinkable. 6.4 million people in Austria use it according to the Austrian Internet Monitor. Without e-mail, online banking, etc. it becomes increasingly difficult.

Online games and social media also play a major role, especially for young people. So it is difficult to escape from virtual life. The internet has many advantages, but it also comes with risks. In addition, Internet consumption can become so dominant that it leads to an addiction.


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  • more on the subject
  • Advice, downloads & tools
  • What is Internet Addiction?
  • How is Internet addiction diagnosed?
  • How is Internet Addiction Treated?
  • What can relatives do?
  • Can you prevent Internet addiction?
  • Whom can I ask?
  • How are the costs going to be covered?

What is Internet Addiction?

The question of what internet addiction actually is is not that easy to answer. In addition, content and formats change very quickly on the Internet. But what are internet addicts addicted to? The term refers to a variety of internet-related behaviors that can lead to dependency. Above all, this includes the addictive use of forums, computer games, shopping, etc. The addiction potentials are very different. In particular, online role-playing games, online gambling, communities and erotic portals can show increased potential for addiction.

The Internet addresses a wide variety of human needs - for communication, recognition, affection, love, happiness, sex, etc. Many of these wishes seem to be easily fulfilled on social media platforms, when chatting, online gaming or online erotic consumption. The virtual world offers so many possibilities. Your own identity can sometimes be "bolstered", relationships seem to be easy to establish. But the Internet also has unpleasant surprises to offer and phenomena such as cyberbullying and violence on the Internet have long been common. Internet addiction can also occur together with other forms of addiction, such as alcohol abuse, nicotine addiction, the use of illegal drugs and in connection with various mental illnesses. Forms and variants of internet addiction are currently the subject of active research.

Over time, this addictive behavior can lead to other originally positive areas of life becoming less attractive or less important.

How is Internet addiction diagnosed?

Internet addiction is currently only shown in the ICD-10 as "Abnormal habit and impulse control disorder, unspecified" (F63.9). However, the WHO is working to ensure that it has its “own place” in the coding system for diseases in the future. Computer game addiction, which can be seen as a form or expression of internet addiction, is already recognized as a separate disease in the ICD-11.

Internet addiction mark

Possible warning signs / symptoms include:

  • Focusing / Craving: Being “online” becomes the center of life. An intense desire for the Internet arises. You get busy with it, even during other activities.
  • Loss of control: The time spent on the Internet can no longer be actively controlled. More and more often, more and more, is the motto to satisfy needs.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Involuntarily being offline leads to withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, emotional instability, concentration or sleep disorders. However, the presence of physical withdrawal symptoms is scientifically controversial.
  • The addiction cannot be overcome on its own: it is no longer possible on one's own initiative to change problematic Internet behavior. Professional help is needed. However, the addiction is often denied, for example by playing down or justifying it.
  • Alleged problem solving through media usage behavior: Internet consumption is increasingly used to regulate mood and feelings. At some point this behavior becomes almost the only way to deal with problems etc.
  • At the beginning you feel better, over time you feel bad: At first the behavior feels pleasant - according to the “reward principle”, but as the addiction develops it becomes increasingly stressful.
  • Problems with the social environment are increasing: Excessive online behavior leads to neglect of social contacts to loss of job or difficulties at school.
  • Worsening of existing illnesses: However, other mental illnesses that often already existed can also worsen.

In addition, physical consequences are also possible: malnutrition, sleep deprivation, damage to the musculoskeletal system, visual problems up to total exhaustion.

The medical history is collected for the diagnosis. Depending on the individual condition or symptoms as well as possibly existing illnesses, further surveys and examinations (e.g. clinical-psychological diagnostics) are necessary.

How is Internet Addiction Treated?

First of all, it is important to look into the existence of a possible pre-existing mental illness (e.g. anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, social phobia). This is because the addictive behavior may initially be used as a supposed "problem-solving strategy" for it and it is important to treat the existing diseases well and to develop other problem-solving mechanisms.

Addiction treatment is mostly about avoiding the substance / trigger, recognizing the needs hidden behind the addiction, and finding ways to deal with those needs. But when it comes to internet consumption, abstinence in everyday life is very difficult. Treatment is therefore about restricting use. To regain control over one's own internet behavior. This includes time management and the learning of coping strategies. Above all, psychotherapy is used. Clinical-psychological counseling / treatment is also used.

Regain control of life

Therapy includes the following:

  • Analysis of internet behavior as well as interaction strategies with the environment - also to find out what significance the behavior has for the person
  • Psychoeducation - developing an understanding of the disorder.
  • Emotional regulation and awareness of one's own needs.
  • Resource orientation: using personal strengths for recovery.
  • Develop problem-solving strategies.
  • try to minimize risk factors or train how to deal with them (e.g. counteracting "seduction situations"),
  • Processing of the consequences of addiction (e.g. job loss, etc.),
  • Mediation of media skills.

Those affected should regain quality of life and control over their everyday life step by step. Everyone has a different life story as well as risk factors, but also resources. Therefore, the treatment is tailored to the individual. The motivation for therapy is a prerequisite for psychotherapy or clinical-psychological counseling / treatment. In other words, those affected want to work on their "addiction", alleviate it and have reasons to do so. The motivation for therapy is usually preceded by a long phase of denial. Relapses may also occur during treatment. Group psychotherapy can be useful. In this it can help to talk to other affected persons. Accompanying mental illnesses are treated depending on their severity (sometimes also with medication).

What can relatives do?

Relatives should get support and advice and, if possible, be involved in the therapy. You can support those affected, but you can also get help yourself. Because the situation is also very stressful for many relatives and people close to them. Self-help groups for relatives can also be helpful. You can find more information under relatives of the mentally ill.

Can you prevent Internet addiction?

Several factors can increase your risk of internet addiction:

  • Childhood and adolescence,
  • heavy professional internet use,
  • existing mental illness (e.g. anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, social fears, etc.),
  • substance-dependent addiction (e.g. alcohol),
  • severe anxiety, low self-esteem, increased susceptibility to stress,
  • Tendency to social isolation and increased vulnerability,
  • low emotional stability and low self-regulation skills,
  • high impulsiveness,
  • Crises / problems or neglect e.g. in the family,
  • frequent online gaming in multiplayer mode.

Which skills are taught in addiction prevention?

Prevention starts best in childhood or adolescence in terms of appropriate media education.

Skills (skills) that are taught (risk groups) in addiction prevention:

  • Dealing with the Internet: self-control, abstinence from particularly "seductive" Internet applications.
  • Recognize feelings and thoughts that could lead to inappropriate compensation.
  • Dealing with stress and feelings: learning coping strategies, dealing with feelings and difficult situations in everyday life.
  • Strengthening positive existing resources.
  • Strengthening self-confidence.
  • Training of social skills and communication "offline".
  • Sleep hygiene.
  • Active and varied leisure activities.
  • Socially involved.
  • Healthy sport activities

These skills generally concern behavioral addictions. The prevention of Internet addiction in particular is still partly the subject of active research.

Improving parent-child interaction can also have a preventative effect:

  • spend quality time with the child,
  • Improving parents' mental health, if compromised.

You can find more information on this under Youngsters & New Media.

You can find links to addiction prevention centers here.

Whom can I ask?

If you suspect that you are addicted to the Internet or if you would like to help someone around you, you have come to the right place:

  • Specialist in psychiatry or child and adolescent psychiatry
  • Psychotherapist
  • clinical psychologist

Under Health Search you will find helpful information on the search for a doctor or therapist.

How are the costs going to be covered?

For information, see Dependency: Benefits and Costs.