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Internet Addiction Explained: An Emerging New Addiction

Internet Addiction Explained

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Does being online gives a sense of well-being? Does staying glued to a smartphone takes one numerous hours in a day? Notably, the urges to be online causes stress but some people cannot stop it. These are the watning signs, that one could be having a new form of addiction. It is called Internet addiction (IA). Here, is a closer look at this emerging disorder.

Table of Contents

Internet Addiction: An Overview

Internet addiction is an excessive or out-of-control use of the internet. In fact, the compulsive use continues to the degree that leads to marked distress in the users. Intense urges and an abnormal fetish for the online activities are its hallmarks. It has no apparent cause. Medications and psychological interventions may provide the relief.
It is similar to an addiction to alcohol or a drug. But not all agree with this concept. There is an ongoing debate in the scientific community regarding its status as a separate disorder. Nonetheless, there is a well-defined disorder that is similar. They call it Problematic Computer Use.

Currently, the term Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) has also started to appear many scientific studies. Notably, the DSM fifth edition has placed it under the category “condition for further study.” It means future studies will decide if it is a proper disease.

Related Terms

  • Problematic Internet Use (PIU)
  • Computer Addiction
  • Internet Dependence
  • Compulsive Internet Use
  • Pathological Internet Use
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Know The Difference Between Internet Addiction Signs And Symptoms

There is a significant difference between internet addiction signs and symptoms. Actually, signs are the features you may notice in the affected person. However, symptoms are subjective experience of the difficulties during the course of an illness. Thus, to simplify the process of identification, some doctors may prefer to separate signs from the symptoms.

Internet Addiction (IA) Signs

Watch for the following signs in your loved ones.

  • Spending too much time online: More than 40 hours per week is likely problematic. Notably, the time spent online will probably have little to do with anything productive.
  • Restlessness and aggressiveness especially when they cannot browse the web
  • Attempts at finding excuses for the overuse
  • Sliding academic or office performance
  • Impaired ability to complete daily activities
  • Complaints of a constant pain in the hands or fingers, back, and eyes. Vision problems may also develop over the course of time
  • Weight and appetite changes
  • Missing social gatherings or limiting communication

Internet Addiction Symptoms

Look at yourself and see if you have any of the following symptoms.

  • Inability to control the urges to stay online even when you realize such practice is harmful.
  • Failed attempts at curbing excessive use.
  • Prioritizing online activity over many other tasks
  • Being unable to track the loss of “online” time.
  • The virtual world can connect you to happiness and euphoria. In fact, an anticipation of the use could lift your mood.
  • Extreme restlessness and low moods when the connection is interrupted.
  • Sleep problems like difficulty falling asleep.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Internet Addiction?

The warning signs of Internet addiction may include:

  • Excessive use. Often, it can go as long as 80 hours per week. Regrettably, you will not be able to find out why they are using it to that extent.
  • Continuous use. That is at least 20 hours without a break.
  • Hostile behavior.
  • Suicidal tendency or attempt.

Seek an immediate medical help if you notice any of the signs mentioned above.

Do Not Miss These Signs Of An Underlying Mental Illness

IA, in almost every case, is associated with some other well-known mental illnesses. For example, depression and anxiety. On rare occasions, it may also share some links with ADHD.
Thus, it is of paramount importance that you pay attention to the symptoms of these disorders too. In essence, take a note of their behavior and mood in addition to the duration of online activity.

How Doctors Diagnose Internet Addiction

There is no clear guideline for the diagnosis of internet addiction. But, doctors may diagnose by the following signs and symptoms.

  • A preoccupation with the internet. Meaning, the patient memorizes an early online activity or fantasizes about the next.
  • A compulsive need to use the internet. Moreover, the time of use increases gradually.
  • Failed attempts at breaking the addiction.
  • Psychological symptoms like restlessness, mood swings, and irritability. They may occur when you try to control or stop the use.
  • A long duration of continuous online activity despite the absence of any particular reason.
  • Moreover, they ask if you have one or more of the following signs/effects of an excessive web use.
  • How has the overuse affected your academic or job performance, and relationships?
  • Have you ever defended your online activity by lying to your loved ones or the therapist?
  • Do you find a solace in the virtual world?
  • Is the internet a means for you to run away from bad moods and stress?

After a thorough analysis of the internet addiction signs and symptoms, they categorize AI into one of the following types.

  • Excessive gaming.
  • Sexual preoccupations.
  • Email or text messaging.

Causes Of Internet Addiction

Addiction, irrespective of the type or nature, is a disorder of complex origin. Pinpointing the cause of abuse may not be possible in each case. Regrettably, the things get even more complicated when the addicts do not abuse a substance but an activity.
Nevertheless, scientific studies suggest a combination of factors may play a central role. These include:

  • Hereditary factors. Some patients are naturally more inclined to develop an addiction. In fact, it depends on their genes.
  • Social and cultural factors. These include the availability of the connection at home and in schools or colleges. Moreover, how well the social norms allow such practice may also play an influential role.
  • Abnormal level of brain chemicals. In fact, this is also the risk factor of a host of other mental illnesses.
  • Personality traits such as poor self-control or self-image.

Who Are At Risk?

Anyone who has a web connection may become addicted to it. But certain individuals are more prone to the addiction, due to their genetics and internal chemical processes inside the brain. Regrettably, you cannot change your genes. Nonetheless, you may modify other socio-cultural risk factors.
Knowing the risks prepares you to take extra care. That way, you may prevent the problem or take an immediate remedial action.
Note if anyone you love falls under the high-risk category.

  • Male gender. Few studies suggest your son may be a greater risk. Nonetheless, your daughter also deserves the same concern.
  • Current or past diagnosis of a mental illness. For example, anxiety and depression. Also, the kids with ADHD may be more prone.
  • Poor emotional support system in the family.
  • Personality traits. There is probably a link between internet addiction and neuroticism. Neurotic persons have poor self-control, impaired ability to handle stress and are self-conscious.

Internet Addiction Among Teens And Youth: What Do Statistics Say?

internet addiction
Unfortunately, you may not get much data showing the occurrence of Internet addiction among teens and youth. One possible reason could be that it is not as old as other forms of addiction.
Moreover, the DSM does categorize it as a separate disorder. Nonetheless, the fifth edition of DSM has given it a status of “condition for further study.” Meaning, more studies in future will determine its existence as a medical condition.
Here are some interesting internet addiction statistics to watch.

  • IA frequency rate in thirty-one countries averaged at six percent. Notably, the rate in the US was higher at eight percent. In fact, the spread of IA topped the spreading rate of gambling addiction by a huge margin. This study appeared in CYBERPSYCHOLOGY, BEHAVIOR, AND SOCIAL NETWORKING in 2014. Note that this figure holds true for the general population rather than a particular subgroup like the teens.
  • The rate of Internet addiction among teens and youth prevalence in Italy was 0.8%. The Nordic Journal of Psychiatry published this particular finding in 2012.
  • Among the UK students, a study found in Cyberpsychology and Behavior in 2005 noted the rate was shockingly high. Internet addiction for teens and youth in the UK stands at a whopping eighteen percent.
  • The IA prevalence rate is even higher among the high-school students in Hong Kong. A study appearing in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology published in 2013 found internet addiction among teens and youth to be slightly greater than twenty-six percent.
  • In China, the IA prevalence stood at 12 percent for students, 5 percent of them females.

What Internet Addiction Statistics Mean To You And Your Kid

The rising prevalence of internet addiction worldwide is not a good sign. In fact, it shows you should act now if you want to cut down rate. IA occurs invariably in association with other severe mental disorders. For example, ADHD and depression. So, it may mean the teens and youth may be having other mental health issues too.
Studies also suggest that teens and young people with IA may be more aggressive. Conversely, excessive aggression may be a risk factor of IA. In any case, you should go for a psychiatric consultation.
Not to forget that the risk is always there even if you do not fall under this age group.

Internet Addiction Treatment

The shared goals of internet addiction (AI) treatment options are to:

  • Reduce cravings.
  • Decrease the time spent online.
  • Cut down the risk of further complications. For example, suicidal tendencies and degrading mental health.
  • Improve other aspects of life such as academic performance, relationships, and social communication.
  • Address underlying mental disorders like anxiety, depression, and impulsiveness.

How Long Will Internet Addiction Treatment Last?

Internet addiction mainly causes psychological problems. So, it is not easy to outline a timeline of the treatment. In fact, your response determines the length of treatment. A 2017 study suggests treatments lasting at least eight weeks may be best.

Where Can You Get Internet Addiction Treatment?

You can get the best internet addiction treatment at addiction centers. Their team consists of experienced physicians, and psychiatrists. Counselors, psychologists, and auxiliary health care professionals are generally employed as well. They all work together to design addiction treatment plans that suit your individual needs. In fact, the treatment facilities provide both medical and psychological support. Thus, you can expect a quicker recovery.
A study published in Clinical Psychology Review 2017 suggest CBT is the most effective. Yet, the result of the treatment depends on your individual response. So, what works for another person may not work for you.

What Are The Approaches Of Internet Addiction Treatment?

A combination of medications and psychological measures are common. Also, adopting healthy choices promotes general health. Thus, aiding the other treatments.
Most often, they recommend the following approaches to treating internet addiction:

Internet Addiction Treatment: The Role Of Medications

Internet Addiction
The US FDA has not approved any drug specifically to treat internet addiction. Clinicians may use a medication or combination of medications. Then, they watch the response. Next, they decide whether to continue prescribing it. If it does not produce the desired effect, they may switch to another medication.
They may consider using any one or combination of these medications.

  • Antidepressant. A class of depression-treating medications known as SSRIs may be useful in improving the symptoms. They treat both anxiety and depression. Thus, they can be a good option for IA.
  • New antidepressant. Bupropion is an antidepressant that increases the brain’s level of dopamine. So, it may help to cope with the cravings.
  • Methylphenidate. This psychostimulant is useful when the patients have IA and ADHD. In particular, this approach may work better for kids.
  • Antipsychotic medication. Quetiapine. A few studies show this may improve the symptoms.
  • Mood stabilizing medications may help to control the mood fluctuations. Considering mood disorders are a risk factor of IA, they may prescribe a mood stabilizer to improve the symptoms.
  • Addiction medication. Naltrexone. Internet addiction, like other types of addiction, influences the brain’s reward system. As a result, being online gives you the euphoric feelings.[/su_list]

Non-medical Approach Of Internet Addiction Treatment

Also called psychotherapy, these procedures do not use pills. Rather they work to correct the behaviors that contribute to addiction.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, the therapist teaches you ways to identify the pattern of thoughts and behaviors. Then, you can learn to change thoseproblematic behaviors. It improves behavior, self-control and reduces emotional roller coasters. Besides, it makes you more likely to stick to the healthy lifestyle measures.
  • Reality Therapy (RT). In RT, patients take part in sessions learning to accept that addiction is an option. Once they realize it, they can better manage their time. That way, they can invest their time in productive activities. Mostly, groups conduct RT.

Multimodel Internet Addiction Treatment Approach

This approach involves different treatment programs. For example, medications, psychotherapy, and counseling therapy for the family members. All of these may be carried out at the same time or in a sequence.

Lifestyle Measures

Physical exercise boosts the levels of dopamine in the brain. For this reason, it may be an easy and straightforward option. Talk to your doctor if they can issue a sports exercise prescription.

Internet Addiction Treatment Strategies That May Work

The effectiveness of these strategies remains doubtful. Nonetheless, you may apply them and see if they work. Also, you do not need a prescription to use any of the following measures.

  • Follow a new daily routine that allocates little time for online activity.
  • Set goals to limit the time of internet use.
  • Join a support group. There you can learn to communicate with other members. Thus, it improves your social skills.
  • Be a part of the family therapy. That way, you may repair the damaged family relations.

Talk to the experts to get trustworthy information about internet addiction. Also, learn more about the treatment options and Treatment Centers near you. Click here for more.

  1. Matthias Brand, Christian Laier, Kimberly S. Young. Internet addiction: coping styles, expectancies, and treatment implications. Front Psychol. 2014.
  2. Daria J Kuss, Olatz Lopez-Fernandez. Internet addiction and problematic Internet use: A systematic review of clinical research. World J Psychiatry. 2016. 143–176.
  3. Silvana Karacic, Stjepan Oreskovic. Internet Addiction Through the Phase of Adolescence: A Questionnaire Study. JMIR Ment Health. 2017.


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  • Boghos L. Artinian MD
    There will yet come a time When all people on earth Must always stay on-line – Be at or in command – Involuntarily, And with little pleasure, That the globe may function According to measure! Boghos Artinian