Internet Addiction: Definition, Common Signs, and Options for Help


Are you struggling with internet addiction? You are not alone.

According to some studies, internet addiction affects between 1.5 and 8.2% of the population in the US and Europe, and these numbers may be multiplied exponentially among the youth.

With rising needs, imagining a world without the internet is hard. Consequently, internet addiction is not recognized as a disorder in the United States.

Luckily, treatment of internet addiction is easily done. Read on to learn more about internet addiction, including the common signs and even options for help.

What Is an Internet Addiction?

An internet addiction may be defined as the compulsive use of the internet or simply a behavioral addiction in various forms.

Because of the impact of the internet on modern life, it is increasingly difficult to provide a benchmark of internet use above which addiction falls.

Educational pursuits and work environments are increasing their virtual presence in their day-to-day activities (with online classes and working from home).

If you cannot limit your time on the internet and have repeatedly failed at improving your internet habits, you might suffer from internet addiction.

Like any other form of addiction, the continued use of the internet elicits pleasurable impulses in our brain that encourage us to continue indulging ourselves with the stimulus, which in this case is the internet.

Do Internet Addiction Urges Go Away?

For some people, the compulsive urge to use the internet fades away with time, while extensive intervention may be necessary for others.

Various factors unique to an individual would affect how they handle the addiction.

If the trigger for the addiction is social, for example, when we cannot make new friends or are trying to run away from a problem in our relationships, dealing with the social problem is the best way to make the urges go away.

Similarly, with other triggers such as financial situation, psychological health, or emotional state, you must address the underlying cause to limit your dependence on the internet.

You should, however, remember that you cannot completely cut out the use of the internet from daily life.

For this reason, going away from the internet addiction urges might not mean the absence of the need for the internet but the ability to control your internet use without the need.

With this in mind, you should develop a practical and realistic approach to internet addiction.

Forms of Internet Addiction

There are multiple forms of internet addiction, and it might be impossible to enumerate all of them exhaustively because of the vastness of the internet.

Many forms of internet addiction may manifest simultaneously in an individual. Just as the internet has multiple uses and sub-categories, many sub-categories of internet addiction include:

1. Social Media Addiction

We all love the connectivity of social media and may spend minutes to hours a day checking up on the people we love.

These numbers may be greatly exaggerated for those working in the social media space, like social media managers. However, social media addiction is present when we constantly develop a compulsive urge to use social media.

2. Cybersex Addiction

Numerous adult platforms on the internet are built around the framework of online sex and sexual content. From pornographic to adult chatting websites, cybersex addiction presents itself through the compulsive use of adult platforms to fuel a need.

3. Online Gaming Addiction

Online gaming is among the most revolutionary advancements in gaming, and the promise of connectivity between gaming enthusiasts has attracted a large fanbase.

However, online gaming might quickly turn into an addiction when you start sacrificing other important activities in the name of gaming.

4. Online Shopping Addiction

Online shopping has been on the rise, thanks to various external factors. Consequently, many people are attracted to the convenience of shopping from the comfort of their homes. Online shopping addiction, however, presents as the compulsive urge to overindulge in online sales, often buying unnecessary items.

5. Information Overload Addiction

Information overload addiction presents itself in the constant urge to gather new information on the internet regardless of its relevance to your life. In moderation, this behavior is considered normal.

6. Online Gambling Addiction

Gambling as an addiction is nothing new to us. However, online gambling addiction refers to the excessive use of the internet to fuel your gambling needs. Most online gambling addicts use excessive amounts of time and money on gambling.

Internet Addiction Statistics

  1. According to different studies and research, about 31% of adults in the United States have confessed to being online almost all the time.
  2. In a separate study, 59% of teens responded to being addicted to the internet, with 50% attributing their addiction to social media.
  3. Another study proves that about 6% of students meet the basic criteria for internet addiction disorder.
  4. About 10% of the US population is addicted to online video games.
  5. Finally, 5 to 8% of Americans cannot live without online shopping.

What Are the Signs of Internet Addiction?

If you are worried about your use of the internet, or that of someone you care about, you have to pay close attention to their routine over an extended period.

Simply using the internet daily may not warrant the title of addiction, as the internet is an integral part of our daily lives.

However, the repetitive, compulsive urge to use the internet is the golden marker for internet addiction.

For many people that confess to having an internet addiction, the following were the overall signs that cut across and marked the stages of change in addiction:

1. Being Preoccupied With the Internet

If you have intrusive thoughts about the internet when you are going through the tasks of the day, such as while you are at work, at school, or simply getting groceries, you might be developing internet addiction.

You might have the urge to check that new notification on your phone while you are working or planning on using the internet the second you get back from school.

2. Inability To Control Internet Use

Often, the continued use of the internet may come at the expense of eye comfort as we continue to spend time with different screens on internet devices.

When you cannot limit using the internet, even when it causes discomfort to your physical (in this case, damage to your eyes), social, or mental well-being, you might be addicted to the internet.

3. Withdrawal Symptoms

Whether it is because of work, school, or even a need to eat or drink, cutting off our internet access is inevitable, regardless of how brief this might be. If this is accompanied by anxiety, depression, or irritability, this might be a clear indication of internet addiction.

4. Social Isolation

Some may argue that the internet is a meaningful social space, but this is a half-truth.

Despite the opportunities the internet provides us to interact with friends and family and meet new people, it is no substitute for physical interaction. Therefore, social isolation in the name of internet use is a sign of internet addiction.

5. Hiding Internet Use

It has become easier to track the time spent on the internet through the screen time tracking built into our devices and through tracking options on social media platforms.

When you find yourself understating the time you spend on the internet or coming up with excuses for this time, you might be suffering from internet addiction.

Other signs of internet addiction include:

  • Developing financial problems such as excessive online spending
  • Developing physical symptoms such as exhaustion from internet use
  • Changing your sleep patterns to accommodate internet use
  • Neglecting your responsibilities such as school or work to use the internet
  • Experiencing shame or guilt because of the time you spend on the internet

Types of Unhealthy Internet Behavior

In addition to the signs of internet addiction mentioned above, an addict may involve themselves in unhealthy internet habits that might exacerbate their addiction.

  • Compulsive internet use
  • Cyberbullying
  • Online gambling
  • Sexting
  • Cyberchondria
  • Online piracy
  • Online shopping addiction

What Is the Main Cause of Internet Addiction?

It is near impossible to pinpoint a single cause as the trigger of internet addiction. This is because of the differences between individuals, how they use the internet, and their prevailing circumstances.

Therefore, the main cause of internet addiction is a blend of physical, emotional, social, and environmental factors.

Consequently, people suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, and struggling with their relationships are more likely to develop internet addiction.

Coupled with co-occurring mental conditions such as ADHD, the risk of internet addiction is even more accentuated.

How Internet Addiction Affects the Brain

Like many other types of addictions, internet addiction can alter the circulating levels of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in pleasure and reward pathways in our brain, thereby giving a false sense of satisfaction or happiness.

In the long run, this may also reduce your sensitivity to dopamine, causing the classic effects of addiction.

What Is the Personality of an Internet Addict?

Internet addiction affects individuals from multiple personality types. Still, eventually, they tend to develop similar characteristics partly due to the time they spend in isolation on the internet and the guilt it transfers to them.

Internet addicts, therefore, tend to have low self-esteem, social anxiety, impulsivity, and sensation-seeking behaviors.

Is Internet Addiction a Mental Health Issue?

Because of the debilitating effects of internet addiction, it is safe to say that this disorder is a mental health issue plaguing a large percentage of a susceptible population.

What Mental Illnesses Go Hand in Hand With Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction can occur with several other mental disorders, such as OCD, ADHD, and bipolar disorder, but anxiety and depression are never far away from internet addiction.

How Do I Stop My Internet Addiction?

Depending on the depth of your internet addiction, stopping it may be as simple as simply creating a limit or seeking extensive help.

To effectively manage your internet addiction, you must first identify the triggers that cause you to overindulge on the internet. This may be a psychological condition or social or physical deficit.

1. Setting Goals and Limits

After identifying and managing the triggers, you should set goals and limits related to internet use. An example of a goal is to read a book or interact with a person physically to limit your time on the internet. Allocating yourself with appropriate time limits will also help stop addiction.

2. Find Support Where Necessary

Sometimes surrounding yourself with people that understand or relate to your condition can go a long way in helping you on your addiction journey. Such people may be friends, family, or members of s support group geared toward helping internet addicts.

3. Seek Professional Help

Seeking the insight and advice of a mental health professional might help you get on the right track to managing internet addiction. Try checking out counseling for professional help.

4. Can Internet Addiction Ever Be Cured?

Internet addiction is manageable with the right support, mindset, and attitude. Once you identify yourself or someone you love as being an internet addict, you can set clear boundaries and goals to help them get better.

What Is the Most Common Treatment for Internet Addiction?

The most common approach to treating internet addiction is through psychotherapy. In this case, a mental professional uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help you identify the triggers and formulate alternative coping strategies.

Your therapist tries to help you limit your time on the internet and the physical symptoms of prolonged internet use by setting clear goals and limits about internet use.

What Can I Replace Internet With?

There are several options to choose from to replace the internet. However, you must take care not to substitute one evil for another. Healthier alternatives to prolonged internet use include:

  • Exercising
  • Reading
  • Engaging in physical activities
  • Interacting with friends and family when possible
  • Engaging your creativity through hobbies
  • Learning a new skill
  • Volunteering
  • Practicing mindfulness techniques such as yoga or meditation.

Additional Addictions To Be Aware Of

Internet addiction is not the only evil to be aware of. Other forms of addiction pose a real and serious threat to your mental health and physical well-being. These include:

  • Social media addictionThe excessive compulsive use of social media in measures that can be damaging outside of work or research purposes. Excessive use of social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, WhatsApp, TikTok, and others might negatively impact your overall well-being and social interactions.
  • Video game addictionAnother damaging addiction that affects a large percentage of the population. Video games can be fun and even educational when used in moderation, but excessive use of video games might lead to video game addiction.
  • Cell phone addiction: Goes hand in hand with internet addiction and might even involve video game addiction (for mobile gamers). In the recent past (in the early and mid-20th century), a phone was stuck to a wall or sat on a desk. However, with the invention of the mobile phone came the marvels of technology and the risk of developing an overdependence on these devices.

Wrapping Up

As we march into the future, one thing remains abundantly clear. The internet is going to be an essential part of our daily lives. This might bring the potential for solving uncountable problems and eventually lead to improving the quality of life for humanity at large.

Still, it also risks increasing the incidences of internet addiction. You should, therefore, understand the ins and outs of internet addiction to protect yourself from the negative impacts of excessive internet use.


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