three young women with Internet addiction using their smartphones in a cafe

Healthcare and Internet Addiction: Is the Internet Affecting Your Health?

three young women with Internet addiction using their smartphones in a cafe

Most of us associate addiction with excessive drug or alcohol use. These forms of addiction are often referred to as chemical dependency. When a person is addicted to substances, key changes have occurred within the functioning of the central nervous system (CNS), the brain’s chemistry, and even the brain’s size. As a result of these alterations, stopping “cold turkey” often leads to widespread physiological distress. So how can addiction possibly apply to the Internet? In a world in which people constantly carry Internet-connected devices with them and use these devices all of the time, Internet addiction is fast becoming a reality. Worse still, it affects people at every age and stage of life. Internet addicts can be eight years old or 80. What’s common among them is that they cannot stop or limit their Internet use without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Understanding the Brain’s Reward Pathway and Its Role in Addiction

People use addictive substances or engage in addictive behaviors simply because doing so feels good. With drugs and alcohol, using these substances instantly triggers the release of “feel good” chemicals or neurotransmitters. These chemicals are normally and naturally produced and released as a means for rewarding positive and ultimately beneficial behaviors. For instance, you might get a dopamine rush following a rigorous workout. Other neurotransmitters might be released in response to healthy social engagement, choosing to eat a salad for lunch rather than an ice cream cone, or doing something good for others. When the brain’s reward system is working effectively, people are being motivated to repeat beneficial behaviors via the release of “feel good” chemicals.

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Reconditioning the Reward Pathway Creates the Conditions for Addiction

The path to addiction is found when the production and release of neurotransmitters are being manipulated by an outside agent. Rather than using hard liquor, opiates, tobacco, or other chemical substances to trigger neurotransmitters, some people are using the Internet.

The Internet promises instant gratification, immersive distractions, and even alternate realities that remove people entirely from the stressors of real life. Using the Internet makes some people feel relaxed and euphoric, and it does so by manipulating the brain’s reward pathway.

Much like substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder, Internet addiction can actually wear the reward pathway out, alter the functioning of the brain’s reward pathway, and associate unhealthy overuse with beneficial behaviors. When the Internet is taken away, much like any other addict, an addicted person will feel depressed, angry, frustrated, unmotivated, and unsure. These are just a few of the many common signs of Internet addiction and withdrawal.

Comorbidities and Internet Addiction

There’s also the surprising addition of comorbidities that can make Internet addiction diagnosis and treatment all the more challenging. Given the relatively recent advent of the Internet, much is still not understood about Internet addiction. This is an addictive mechanism that’s constantly changing, and one that’s becoming increasingly more pervasive with each new web-connected innovation and service. Are people with general anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, or other secondary mental health issues at greater risk?

And what of sexual addiction? Does the repeated viewing of online pornographic materials qualify as Internet addiction or sexual addiction? When a person suffers from both, can the same treatment modalities and recommendations be used?

Strategies for Treating Internet Addiction

Ignoring the symptoms of an addict in withdrawal is hardly a beneficial or ethical form of treatment. Much like people detoxing from drugs or alcohol, Internet addicts can experience significant discomfort when their “drug of choice” is taken away. Moreover, given the changes that have occurred across the brain’s reward pathway, this isn’t merely perceived discomfort; it’s genuine, legitimate, and difficult to navigate without intervention. For healthcare professionals, finding the right interventions for individual needs is key to preventing total relapse.

One of the biggest challenges of treating addiction to the Internet is the fact that total cessation is rarely an option. The Internet is both pervasive and essential. People have to use it from time to time. When treating alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, you certainly wouldn’t tell a patient to moderate their alcohol or drug use. Addiction treatment for these things requires total, lifelong abstinence, and ongoing strategies for preventing relapse.¬†With Internet addiction, successful intervention often entails encouraging people to find new and more beneficial ways of triggering their reward pathway, whether by engaging in physical exercise or taking advantage of naturally relaxing stimuli such as the scented candles and soothing soaps offered by Avidity Medical Scentations. Sign up now for product notifications to learn when the candles and soaps will be available. Follow our blog to learn more about common health issues and to stay up to date on the latest news in healthcare.

sexual health concept; african-american couple ignoring each other in bed

The Role of Sex in Healthcare: 10 Medical Conditions That Can Affect Your Intimacy

sexual health concept; african-american couple ignoring each other in bed

It’s easy to overlook your sexual health when dealing with a chronic illness, especially if you deal with acute symptoms that are more pressing. However,  intimacy is important to many people.  Discovering that you struggle to connect with your partner or get as much enjoyment out of sex as you once did can take a toll on your mental health. That’s why it’s important to be aware of chronic conditions that can impact your sex life and speak frankly to your doctor and partner about it.

10 Conditions That Can Impact Your Sexual Health 

1. Heart Disease

Heart disease, attacks, and failure can contribute to sexual health concerns because your heart doesn’t work optimally. You probably know that proper blood flow is necessary for a strong erection. However, blood is also the source of vaginal lubrication. The result? Low desire, performance problems, painful sex, and difficulty having an orgasm, all of which can lead to anxiety about sex.

2. High Blood Pressure

If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), you may suffer from sexual health issues in two ways. First, high blood pressure causes arteries to harden over time, decreasing blood flow. Diuretics and beta-blockers commonly prescribed to those with high blood pressure can also impede blood flow and sexual performance.

3. Diabetes

When it comes to diabetes, imbalanced blood sugar is just the tip of the iceberg. The condition can decrease desire and vaginal lubrication in women. Women with diabetes are also more susceptible to yeast and urinary tract infections which make sex painful.

Diabetes also poses potential ramifications for men because it lowers testosterone, a hormone that plays a role in sex drive. Furthermore, diabetes degrades blood vessels, making it more difficult to get hard. 

4. Arthritis

Because arthritis causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in at least one joint, it can make sex more painful and less pleasurable. This is especially true of positions and activities that are physically demanding. However, you may be able to adjust your activities to decrease pain so you can still enjoy sex. 

5. Depression

Not only does depression decrease interest in our favorite activities, including sex, but the medications used to treat it are notorious for impeding libido, erections, and orgasms. If you experience depression, treating it might alleviate your sexual health concerns However, if you find that your prescription impacts your sex life, discuss options with your doctor.

6. Allergies

You may not want to slip between the sheets when your eyes are itchy and your nose is running. But medications that provide relief may create sexual problems. This is particularly true of antihistamines because they dry out more than just your sinuses. The resulting painful sex can seriously dampen libido. Fortunately, you might still be able to have pleasurable sex by using a personal lubricant.

7. Cancer

Both cancer and chemotherapy can wreak havoc on your body. You may feel tired and weak, not to mention less than attractive, because of their harsh effects.  Low desire, erection problems, and vaginal dryness are all common with chemotherapy. Surgical interventions can also cause pain and scarring that can interfere with your love life.

8. Asthma

Unsurprisingly, sex can sometimes trigger an asthma attack that requires you to use an inhaler.  Of course, it’s not a big deal if you let your partner know that this might happen. Suggest positions that allow for easy breathing, and keep your inhaler within reach. People who manage their asthma well are less likely to have sexual health problems. 

9. HIV/AIDS

The human immunodeficiency virus, which can sometimes develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is inextricable from sex, which transmits it and suffers because of it. Some people may become abstinent because they don’t want to infect others or wish to avoid the stigma of HIV.  Rates of depression and anxiety, both of which impact sex drive and satisfaction, are higher for those with HIV than those without. Fortunately, there are ways to effectively treat HIV to prevent AIDS, improve patients’ quality of life, and prevent transmission to restore sexual satisfaction.

10.  COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is one respiratory illness that can cause muscle weakness, fatigue, and decreased stamina, making sex undesirable, difficult, or painful. Sexual activity can also can shortness of breath that potentially leads to low blood oxygen levels (hypoxia). Some people have experienced relief by using their inhalers before become intimate with their partners.

Talk About Sexual Health

If you have one of the conditions listed above, don’t be ashamed to talk about your sexual health with your doctor. They can recommend treatments or medications that can improve not just your time in bed but also your overall quality of life. 

For more healthcare information, check out the Avidity Medical Design Blog or sign up for a course by the Avidity Medical Design Academy. For soaps and candles that support relaxation, peace of mind, and intimacy, visit Avidity Medical Scentations and sign up for product notifications to learn when the soaps and candles will be available.