Increased use of the internet at home during the pandemic has resulted in an increase in mental health issues. In this Verywell Mind article, Mindpath’s Health’s Julian Lagoy, MD, discusses how it can affect our mental health.

The Recent Pandemic Triggers An Increase In Internet Addiction

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the usage of technology in everyday life has intensified for almost everyone. Addiction to the internet, which has been related to depression and anxiety, affects more than half of American adults according to new research published in Psychiatry International.

With 1305 people involved, this national research project found a correlation between internet addiction and mental health one year after the pandemic began. The results showed that those with internet addiction were ten times more likely to suffer from depressive or anxiety disorders and fourteen times more likely to have both disorders.

Internet access could be important for certain things, including education and work, during the pandemic, but the outcomes of this study provide a glimpse into how much time might also be better spent in other ways.

Our social lives have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, neuroscience coach and clinical social professional Renetta Weaver, LCSW-C, tells Verywell, “The key takeaway that readers should have is that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to our social lives. Many of us turned to internet usage for personal and professional reasons.”

Uncovering the data

This national study found that increasing levels of internet addiction were associated with worsening mental health issues among the people taking part, who were 64% men, 78% white, 70% non-Hispanic, 72% married, 57% between the ages of 18 and 35, 86% employed full-time, and 83% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.

45% had no online addiction, whereas 41% had probable or possible internet addiction, 14% had definite or severe internet addiction, and 28% experienced depression or anxiety. These researchers concluded that 28% had depression or anxiety.

There was a high correlation between internet addiction and depression, anxiety, and mental health problems in individuals who had definite or severe online addiction, as well as depression and anxiety concerns in those who were addicted or at risk of internet addiction.

Enhanced survival mechanisms

For many people, the pandemic has encouraged them to use the internet at home in ways that they hadn’t done before, according to Renetta Weaver, LCSW-C, a neuroscience coach, and clinical social worker, tells Verywell, “The lines between starting and stopping work, scheduling school, consuming news, and being social have become blurry for many of us,” she says.

Weaver points out that as the internet’s role in people’s life grew, it may have seemed as if it was the source of everything. “This pseudo form of being socially connected has distanced many of us from being in a harmonious emotional state, many are more anxious and depressed,” she adds.

I wish the public knew that the rise in internet addiction is really a survival mechanism that our brain uses to try to maintain certainty and normalcy in abnormal times. — Renetta Weaver, LCSW-C

Weaver highlights, “I wish the public knew that the rise in internet addiction is really a survival mechanism that our brain uses to try to maintain certainty and normalcy in abnormal times. “

While internet use increased, Weaver notes, “Our world, in the way we used to navigate it, has been turned upside down since March 2020 and we are all just trying to find a roadmap back to emotional safety. “

Weaver explains, “In my work, I have noticed that many of my clients are presenting with feelings of anxiety and stress in response to the pandemic. Many people feel disconnected and hopeless that their lives will never go back to some sense of normalcy. “

As a result, Weaver helps clients feel more comfortable talking about their thoughts. “It also helps for me to do a lot of grief work to help them navigate their feelings, establish a routine that is congruent with their new normal and provide alternative outlets in order to reduce their internet usage,” she says.

How the internet is used matters

Julian Lagoy, MD, a psychiatrist at Mindpath Health, tells Verywell, “Basically living during a pandemic increases the risk of Internet usage and Internet addiction. Internet addiction increases the risk of depression and anxiety.”

Lagoy notes, “Readers can start making changes immediately to prevent Internet addiction and make their lives better. Internet addiction has increased during the pandemic and those with internet addiction are at more risk of mental illness, however, it fails to answer why.”

When it comes to human beings, Lagoy says it’s important to have close relationships and feel like you belong in a community. According to him, “If we are addicted to the Internet, this causes us to be alone all the time, which is detrimental to the overall wellbeing,” he says.

Readers need to be aware that using the Internet is not bad in and of itself, but the way we use it is what matters. — Julian Lagoy, MD

Lagoy highlights, “This publication further proves that what we do with our time highly influences our mood and overall mental health. For example, if we spend all our time alone and are addicted to the Internet, we are more likely to be depressed and anxious. Readers need to be aware that using the Internet is not bad in and of itself, but the way we use it is what matters. “

Even though the Internet is a valuable resource for many people, Lagoy advises that it be used in moderation. “This rule can apply to a lot of things that are good; For example, it is nice to enjoy food but if one gets addicted to it, there will be negative consequences,” he says.

Lagoy explains, “I tell patients all the time that it is good to enjoy certain things in life such as food, drink, video games, etc.  What we need to do is use these things in moderation.  Regarding the Internet per see, it is a good tool to keep in touch with family and friends and read up on the news. “

Despite the many benefits, Lagoy warns that excessive internet usage might take time away from socializing with friends and exercising. “While water is necessary and good for our health, too much water will kill you,” he says.

Read the full Verywell Mind article with sources.

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Julian Lagoy, M.D.

San Jose, CA

Julian Lagoy, M.D. is a board-certified psychiatrist. He received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his medical degree from St. George’s University. Dr. Lagoy completed his psychiatry residency at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Lagoy has published in multiple medical journals and has presented his research at the American Psychiatric Association National ... Read Full Bio »

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