Exploring the Internet connection: How overuse is linked to dual diagnosis
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The Internet is a significant technological development that was introduced into society only a short time ago. Although it came from humble beginnings in governmental and academic networks, its digital connections have influenced the lives of billions. The World Wide Web is now an irreplaceable resource for instant information and cross-cultural communication. However, while people can utilize this new technology for various tasks that can increase productivity, knowledge and communication, many depend on it for a needed stimulation that has caused an addiction.

Matters get more complex when the specific reasons for Internet use are detailed. As online avenues and activities have integrated into every aspect of human behavior, logging on became a way of accomplishing certain goals in a much easier manner. Since its access reached a global scale, cases of problematic Internet use have arisen and been examined. A common theme appears to be spending prolonged and uncontrolled amounts of time online, but many other incidences are noted as well.

Problem areas with Internet use

One trend that immediately established itself on the Internet was the access to sexual or pornographic material. With this newfound availability, countless people have reported an increased obsession with viewing adult or mature content online, which contributes to an overall hypersexual disorder or sexual addiction. This concept rests on hotly contested grounds, as different explanations from academic sources are conflicted on whether an official sexual condition exists.

As early as 1998, psychological research has explored the effects of online activity on human beings. One study looked into a connection between those frequently using the Internet and the onset of depression. As a result, 312 surveys were collected and reviewed. An overwhelming amount of 259 responses were from addicted Internet users. Overall, the study reasserted that significant levels of depression were observed and associated with pathological Internet use.

A 2001 case study also examined an adult displaying hypersexual and excessive pornography-viewing behaviors. The man, named “Mr. A” for anonymity, initially sought out treatment to address his recurring depressive moods. Over time with a therapist, he eventually revealed an underlying preoccupation with the Internet that could last several hours per session. In addition, the reasons behind this online activity were rooted in a goal of finding pornographic content. In addition to depression, the person under observation also reported irritability, anhedonia, decreased concentration and changes in sleep and appetite. Furthermore, the behavior was beginning to impact his work productivity and marriage.

Through continual, in-depth interviews, Mr. A’s therapist was able to see the interrelation of his Internet use, hypersexuality and depression. While classifying new clinical disorders for these impulsive and behavioral addictions is theoretical, one cannot ignore the prevalence and correlation of these various elements. Mr. A’s situation highlights the process of dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis refers to when a hidden mental disorder or addiction contributes to another psychological condition. For example, a person dealing with prescription drug addiction who has an underlying mental health disorder like depression which is fueling the addiction as long as it remains untreated. Symptoms may persist and treatment may be ineffective if an overlooked issue is fueling or exacerbating one’s circumstances.

Understanding Internet addiction

However, while these research examples highlight the mingling processes that take place throughout the mind, body and computer, more information is necessary to fully understand such a robust and new technology. A recent summarization of findings and practices state that multiple, theoretical models are developing around the pathological use of the Internet. Concepts range from cognitive-behavioral frameworks to the presence of access, affordability and anonymity.

Frameworks also explore the factor of reward. Due to the degree of interactivity and social stimulation online, many users may receive reinforcing effects like pleasure or euphoria through a chemical release of dopamine. Some scholars propose that some people may have fewer or less functional dopamine receptors, so engaging in excessive Internet use is one of the ways these populations can achieve satisfactory levels of joy and happiness.

However, the collected evidence shows the price of reaching these higher levels of reward. The pathology of Internet usage mimics the symptoms of other behavioral compulsions and addictions much like addictions to gambling, drugs or alcohol. Depression, anxiety, hostility, interpersonal sensitivity and psychotic expression have all been labeled as consequences of this problem behavior. Although research is still limited, those who are dealing with issues such as problem Internet use should not hesitate to reach out to find help.

Sovereign Health Group is committed to treating the current cases of online addictions. Comprehensive therapy and other holistic strategies can craft an individualized care plan to fit any client’s needs. We provide treatment programs for mental health disorders, addiction and dual diagnosis, making sure that every client is provided with an effective recovery and long-lasting support. Chat with a representative online or call (866) 819-0427 for more information.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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