Christian Living


Overcoming Addictions 01/24/20

Addicted to the Internet

playing video game

Certainly, I have seen what I think would be considered an Internet addiction. A young man who used to rent a room from us spent endless hours playing an online game. He would go without sleep and meals some days as he progressed in the virtual world. I don’t know the exact name of the game he played. It may have been Everquest, but we jokingly called it “Never-Rest” until it wasn't so funny anymore. It started out a harmless hobby but eventually consumed him.

In hindsight (where many things once thought funny turn out to be serious), we see that this man’s behavior cost him his job, his lodging, his reputation, and his health. He didn't want to work, bathe, or have a conversation that lasted more than five minutes - he would return to the online game and check out from everything else. If it were cocaine he sought, it would clearly have been considered an addiction. But, it was a behavior, not a substance. It’s not an addiction according to the criteria of the American Psychiatric Association (APA 2010). It would most likely be considered an impulse-control disorder, like pathological gambling. 

A gambler is motivated by the potential to win - to win big! Whatever game or risk the gambler chooses varies, but money (or something else of value) is what's risked and money is what's won or lost. In online gaming, this can also be true - but not always. Internet activity of all sorts - gaming, social media, watching porn, doing research, you name it - we gamble with something of great value, our time. 

Are you addicted to the Internet? Probably not. Do you have an impulse-control disorder? Use this checklist below to find out.

This checklist is derived from the APA’s findings on pathological gambling. The concept of “Internet use” is substituted for “gambling” and “time” is substituted for “money" throughout the list. Using this checklist, determine if you or someone you know may be able to define their Internet use as a behavior disorder.

  1. Is preoccupied with the Internet (preoccupied with reliving past Internet experiences, planning the next Internet experience, or thinking of ways to spend more time in an online activity.)
  2. Needs to use the Internet with increased amounts of time in order to achieve the desired excitement. 
  3. Has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use.
  4. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use.
  5. Uses the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression).
  6. After spending more time than planned in an online activity, often returns thinking they will stay online less time the next time.
  7. Lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet.
  8. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of the Internet.
  9. Relies on others to cover time missed to relieve a desperate situation caused by spending time on the Internet.

If someone’s Internet use is defined by many of the criteria above, it does not matter if they call it an addiction or not. The person risks great consequences if he or she chooses to do nothing about it. 

What is this checklist revealing to you? Do you need to make a change? Are you tired of wasting so much time on the Internet?

If your answer is yes, then your first step would be to confess to God that it's gotten out of control, turn away from the Internet, and turn toward God. Say something like this: "Oh, Father in Heaven, I have gotten off-track. I have made this [name your activity] a little god in my life and it's causing big problems. Please forgive me. Please change me. Please help me to spend time seeking you and your ways instead of what I have been seeking. Thank you."

Next, contact your pastor, a recovery group, a counselor, or a trusted friend and no longer deny that you have a problem. The same steps used to break free from addiction can be used successfully to change behavior disorders and other behavior patterns that have gotten out of control. Do something to change before you end up losing more than just time.

You can always call CBN's Prayer Center. They are available 24 hours a day at (800) 700-7000.

Copyright © Beth Livingston, used with permission.

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