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Can internet addiction lead to depression?

Depression and Internet – how is that possible? Isn’t the Internet a cure for depression, many of us would ask?

Unfortunately, several studies provide enough proof to indicate that the Internet is indeed one of the causes of depression, especially among teenagers and young adults.

depression and internet

The Internet is considered as an essential tool to our existence as breathing would be. Everybody and anybody, who can read and write, is hooked onto the internet, using it as an outlet for their fantasies, as an opportunity to lose oneself in the virtual world, escape the real world and its problems, and so on.

Social interactions are more online now than offline. Well, what can you say when people even get married online!

So you may question as to how Internet can cause depression? It, in fact, is a source of happiness for many. To understand the connection between Internet and depression, let us first understand what depression is.

What is depression?

Usually, all of us feel sad, dejected, worthless, helpless at one point in time or other. However, when the intensity of such feelings increases so much as to affect our normal day-to-day lives, it is categorised as clinical depression.

How can something so good be so bad?

While the Internet has been the biggest boon to humanity after fire and wheel, it has also been our greatest bane. There is no doubt that the internet has made our lives much easier than our ancestors had, but it has also brought in difficulties that our ancestors did not have to face. The Internet has allowed us to cross all borders and put our lives out there for all to see. Things that were considered sacred earlier are no longer so. The secrets are no longer secrets.

Initially, when a person starts using the Internet, it is usually for fun, entertainment and information. However, over a period, this can turn into a pathological condition if it is abused. Especially, teenagers and young adults who are addicted to social networking sites, pornographic sites, gaming sites, etc. are mostly affected by this. Some of the classic symptoms of internet-induced depression are:

  • Withdrawal from the real world interactions
  • Introverted personalities
  • Abnormal social interactions
  • Need for isolation
  • Loss of interest in day-to-day work
  • Adverse effects on performance at school or workplace
  • Anger or defensive personality development
  • Constant urge to check status on your social network profiles for comments
  • Sneaking around to avoid detection of extent or duration of internet use

Internet intoxication is the new high that all of us are guilty of. So much so that Internet addiction has been recognised by the mental health experts as a psychological condition that has the same effect as like substance abuse. Several studies have been conducted that have established a clear connection between Internet usage and psychological breakdowns, depression, etc.

Depression, that was earlier considered the ailment of aged, while the young were resilient to it, is finding more and more victims in the younger generation. Not only adults but also the teenagers and children are falling prey to this psychological condition. Pre-internet days would see the family taking out time to talk to each other, children opening up to their parents to talk about problems at school, teenagers, etc. This helped families to be aware of each other’s problems and provide help when necessary.

People, especially teenagers, have isolated themselves on account of Internet addiction. They have difficulties creating and maintaining relationships with peers and family. Their self-image is governed more by the reactions that they receive from their interactions on the Internet.

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Research on this phenomenon

Research work conducted across age groups indicates that excessive Internet (medically termed as Internet Addiction Disorder – IAD) use can cause depression. It has been found that youth in Asian countries is the most affected. So much so that countries like China have regimented style rehabilitation camps to cure people of this addiction and its side effects. It is also noted that the male population in their teens, twenties, and thirties are more likely to be depressed due to IAD.

But it is the classic case of the egg or chicken. Nobody knows whether depressed people are drawn to the Internet to find some social interaction and (anonymous) outlet for their feelings or is it the other way round, Internet usage causing depression?

What has been a gift to mankind can become mankind’s nemesis? It is important that we recognise such disorders in people around us (family, friends, colleagues) and help them to acknowledge the fact that they need help.

Consult a top Psychiatrist

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References

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  • PsychCentral – Internet Addiction and Depression – Accessed on March 5, 2016 – http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/02/03/internet-addiction-and-depression/
  • The Relationship between Depression and Internet Addiction – Kimberly S. Young and Robert C. Rodgers – Cyber Psychology & Behaviour, 1(1), 25-28, 1998 – Accessed on March 5, 2016 – http://netaddiction.com/articles/cyberpsychology.pdf
  • US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – The relationship between excessive Internet use and depression – Accessed on March 5, 2016 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20110764

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