Common Signs Of Internet Addiction [What To Watch For]

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We all enjoy the benefits of surfing the internet, but have you ever wondered if you spend too much time online?

Internet addiction is a real thing, and it could be affecting you or someone you love.

In this article, we’ll delve into what exactly internet addiction is and how it can manifest in a myriad of ways.

This includes physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, and more. After reading this article, you’ll become much more aware of the potential signs that the internet may be playing an unhealthy role in your life.  

The main points we’ll cover in this article are:

  • What can be considered an internet addiction
  • The symptoms and signs of internet addiction
  • How to seek professional help for internet addiction.

If you’re ready to learn more about internet addiction and whether it may be affecting you or someone you love, then keep reading.

What Can Be Considered an Internet Addiction?

Before we examine some of the specific signs and symptoms of internet addiction, it’s important that we first understand what exactly internet addiction is.

We can define internet addiction as spending a large amount of time on the internet while feeling out of control of the behavior or experiencing negative emotions in response to the behavior.

Therefore, an essential part of the definition of internet addiction requires that the individual experiences distress or negative emotions as a result of the internet use.

For example, if an individual spends a large amount of time on the internet for work purposes without a sense of being out of control of their behavior, then this would not be considered an internet addiction.

The Symptoms and Signs of Internet Addiction

Now that we know what we mean when we talk about internet addiction, let’s take a closer look at the various signs and symptoms of internet addiction.

In this section, we will cover behavioral signs, physical signs, psychological signs, and the impact they may have on relationships.

Behavioral Signs of Internet Addiction

Firstly, let’s examine the behavioral signs of internet addiction.  

1. Excessive time online

The most obvious sign of internet addiction in an individual is that they are spending abnormally large amounts of time on the internet.

In addition, the individual may show signs of being unable to control the amount of time they spend online despite attempts to do so.

2. Neglect of responsibilities

Another behavioral sign of internet addiction is when an individual stops fulfilling their usual responsibilities.

This may manifest as a decline in performance at work, at college, or at school. They may also neglect responsibilities in daily life such as keeping a clean home, running usual errands, and managing life affairs.

3. Social isolation

Next, individuals who are struggling to remove themselves from time online may become more socially isolated.

This may look like spending less time with family and friends, and instead predominantly interacting with people online.

4. Escalation of Internet use to cope with negative emotions

People with internet addiction may also spend time online in response to feeling negative emotions.

If you notice that you or a loved one turns to the internet to cope with negative emotions or difficult situations, this could be a red flag.

5. Failed attempts to cut down or control Internet use

Lastly, individuals with internet addiction will show signs of attempting to cut down or stop internet use, but struggle to adhere to these efforts. Instead, they will appear to be out of control of their behavior.

Physical Signs of Internet Addiction

This may be surprising, but internet addiction may also manifest in physical signs in the individual. Let’s go over some common physical symptoms of internet addiction.  

1. Sleep disturbances

People struggling with too much time online will commonly show problems with their sleep.

This may manifest as insomnia and difficulty getting to sleep, or as unusual sleeping patterns such as sleeping during the day after late-night internet binges.

Individuals with internet addiction may also show signs of fatigue and sleepiness from this lack of sleep.  

2. Physical health issues

An individual spending long stretches of time online will also start to experience some detrimental effects on their physical wellbeing.

One of these effects is eye strain and impaired eye health. In addition, sitting for long periods at a computer will also quickly result in a sore neck and back and increase the likelihood of headaches.

3. Neglect of personal hygiene and self-care

Due to the internet becoming the focal point of their life, people experiencing the more severe side of internet addiction may even end up neglecting their personal hygiene.

They may neglect to shower due to being preoccupied online, as well as fail to engage in other basic hygiene practices such as oral care and combing hair.

Psychological Signs of Internet Addiction

Aside from the effect on physical health, and the behavioral signs of internet addiction, this disorder can also show itself through psychological signs.

1. Preoccupation with online activities

People with internet addiction will begin to prioritize spending time on the internet over other activities. The internet will become their main preoccupation in daily life.  

2. Mood swings

If someone is struggling with internet addiction, it’s not uncommon for them to experience sudden changes in mood and to become more irritable than usual. In addition, they may start to experience anxiety and depression.

3. Feelings of guilt or shame related to Internet use

The person may also experience shame about their internet use and the lack of control they are experiencing. It may also be hard for them to talk about the issue due to these feelings.

4. Decreased concentration and attention span

Internet addiction can even affect an individual’s ability to focus and concentrate. You may also notice they have a lower attention span than usual.

Impact on Relationships

Internet addiction also shows itself in the impact it has on relationships.  

  • Strained relationships with friends and family: Due to the person’s change in behavior and mood, this may create problems in how they relate to their family and friends.  
  • Difficulty maintaining real-life connections: Due to the preoccupation with the internet, the person may have little time or interest in maintaining real-life relationships or connections.  
  • Online relationships taking precedence over face-to-face relationships: Lastly, the person may prefer to only have relationships with others online, and this may result in the neglect of face-to-face relationships.  

How To Seek Professional Help for Internet Addiction

If you’ve made it to this point and realized that you or a loved one has a problem with internet addiction, you’ll likely be wondering what you should do next. The good news is that there are professionals out there that can help.  

Most help for internet addiction will take the form of talking therapy, as well as possibly behavioral interventions and medication.

To find help for your internet addiction, reach out to a mental health counselor, addiction counselor, or therapist in your area who can help with behavioral addictions. You can also talk to your usual physician for advice on treatment planning.

Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen, internet addiction can have a significant impact on the wellbeing and functioning of those it affects.

It can lead a person to neglect their health and personal hygiene, cause damage to their relationships, and harm their psychological well-being.

There are a large number of signs that may indicate a person is struggling, as we have outlined here in this article.  

If you think you or a loved one shows these signs and is struggling with internet addiction, reach out to a qualified professional such as an addiction counselor that can help to control this addiction.

Sources

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18399706/#:~:text=Internet%20addiction%20is%20characterized%20by,lead%20to%20impairment%20or%20distress.
  2. https://militaryfamilies.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Internet_Addiction.pdf
  3. https://www.priorygroup.com/addiction-treatment/internet-addiction-treatment/symptoms-of-internet-addiction
  4. https://www.lifeworkscommunity.com/addiction-treatment/internet-addiction-rehabilitation/internet-addiction-symptoms
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6198588/
  6. https://medcraveonline.com/MOJAMT/internet-addiction-and-relationships-the-psychology-behind-it.html
  7. https://screening.mhanational.org/content/treating-internet-addiction/

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