Workaholics are at risk of compulsive internet addiction

60% of people are at risk of compulsive internet usage, says research (pic:

60% of people say they use the internet compulsively, says research (pic:

It’s Monday morning. You log onto your emails at work and yet there are no surprises. Why? Because you’ve had your smartphone by your side all weekend and you’ve been checking your emails compulsively, unable to switch off. You see ‘relaxing’ as a pointless waste of time. Pushing yourself harder to achieve career success is what drives you. But it can also be what drains you.

If you recognise yourself here, then you could be among the 60% of workers who use the internet compulsively, often as a coping strategy. Increasingly it is high-fliers and overachievers whose internet usage can be excessive and compulsive, rather than students and the unemployed. That’s according to research among 516 people aged 18 to 65 by Dr Cristina Quinones-Garcia of Northampton Business School and Professor Nada Korac-Kakabadse of Henley Business School, which was presented at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology’s Annual Conference in Brighton.

Using the internet was strongly linked to working obsessively, and overuse of the internet could lead to “measurable withdrawal symptoms” such as anxiety, isolation and depression. The researchers said that workaholics will often wake up several times in the night to check their emails, and their health and relationships suffer because they can’t manage to tear themselves away from their computer. They tend to be the high-achieving successful employees, but continued compulsive usage could lead to burnout.

This research is the latest in a growing body of evidence around the dangers of excessive internet use. A study by Missouri University of Science and Technology investigated the impact of heavy internet use on mental health and found that young people who used the internet excessively – including games, social media and email – showed signs of addictive behaviours, such as introversion, craving, loss of control and tolerance.

The Guardian offers five ways to curb your internet use and get your life back. However, if you’re worried that your internet use is getting out of control and having a negative impact on your life, email or call 07956 823501 to take the first step to speak to a therapist about it.

Can shopping be therapeutic?

anima shoppingThere’s a reason they call it ‘retail therapy’: going shopping for something because you want to, not because you need to, can certainly put a spring in your step. Shopping, in short, can be a short-term mood booster.

The number of people who shop to feel better is rather high. An survey of 1,000 Americans found that 64% of women and 40% of men indulge in retail therapy. Women generally shop for clothes and men for food. And more than a third of American women believe retail therapy improves their mood, compared with a fifth of men. A separate study by psychologists found that 62% of people had bought something to cheer themselves up – and they didn’t feel guilty afterwards.

There’s some food for thought (or should that be shoes for thought?) in this Time article Is retail therapy for real? Five ways shopping is actually good for you. It says shopping can be relaxing, creative, enlivening, confidence-inspiring and a way of connecting with people. It quotes therapist Peggy Wynne saying that shopping, in moderation, can “soothe the soul”.

The key word here is moderation. If shopping becomes a habit, or addictive, or an excuse for not getting on with your life, then it won’t be therapeutic at all. But otherwise there’s no reason why you shouldn’t allow a perfect little purchase to brighten your day.

Is social media good or bad for your mental health?

Social media can offer a support network that doesn’t exist offline. (pic:

There was a tweet doing the rounds recently that said: “Gym: full of people you see every day but never speak to. Twitter: people you never see but speak to every day.”

The tweet jokily sums up the role social media has come to play in our lives. But is your daily life on Twitter/ Facebook/Pinterest etc always so light-hearted?

This is a debate that mental health charity Mind put to the Twittersphere today. It asked: is #twittergood or #twitterbad for your mental health?, which understandably prompted a lot of responses from tweeters. Here’s my interpretation of the two sides of the debate:

Social media is ‘good’ when:

  • Connecting with someone who totally understands what you’re going through is a relief and a saviour. You feel you’re not the only one. It’s great to have that support network.
  • Finding information and resources you never knew about but could be helpful to you.
  • The anonymity of online ‘friends’ can help you become more open. Being honest about feelings can help you deal with and come to terms with them. 
  • The ‘social’ aspect of social media can make you feel less isolated. Interacting with someone online can give you a purpose, a joy, a sense of belonging.

Social media is ‘bad’ when:

  • The online world becomes a substitute for face-to-face interaction. Do you prefer the company of your virtual friends and feel you therefore don’t need to reach out to your ‘real-world’ friends?
  • It becomes an exposed forum for nasty comments. This mostly happens to people in the public eye, but the cloak of anonymity can make some people ‘braver’ in their criticisms. It can be tricky knowing how to deal with comments from people who don’t agree with you.
  • You feel the need to put on a ‘brave face’ when you least feel able to. The pressure to post photos and upbeat comments can be disheartening and exhausting and leave you out of touch with the authentic you.
  • It becomes an obsession. Constantly checking how many ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ you’ve How many people have responded. Relationships and friendships have broken down because someone needs to monitor their phone during meetings and social gatherings. Even during the night. The newly coined term for this is ‘social media anxiety disorder’. Check out: do you have the signs?

The counselling profession is working towards helping people with issues related to social media anxiety and online bullying, and is providing therapy online. Many people, used to interacting virtually, prefer the anonymity of e-counselling. The UKCP is setting up New Media in Psychotherapy Interest Group to explore how psychotherapists can best help people in the social media sphere. And for more of an insight, check out this overview of social media and online therapy in the BACP’s article on E-therapy, equality and access.