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Internet addiction: Symptoms and solutions

Internet addiction: Symptoms and solutions

When internet use turns from a daily routine into an addiction, identifying the problem is the first hurdle. This article explores the concept of internet addiction, examines its impact on life, and presents practical steps for recovery, providing the basic information needed to address this modern challenge.

Key conclusions 

  • Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is defined by excessive internet use that disrupts daily life, is not yet recognized in the DSM and is related to impulse control disorder.
  • Symptoms of compulsive internet use include physical signs, such as weight changes and headaches, as well as psychological symptoms, such as irritability and depression, indicating the need for treatment and intervention.
  • Recovery from internet addiction includes various treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and medication, with an additional emphasis on lifestyle changes and preventative measures to maintain a balanced life.

Understanding Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) 

Internet addiction

Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is characterised by excessive internet use that disrupts daily life and responsibilities, similar to other forms of addiction. From the incessant need to scroll through social media feeds to countless engagements with online games, the characteristics of IAD are varied. It often leads to an increased amount of time spent online, leading to a significant impact on an individual's life. The first country to recognise internet addiction as a mental disorder as well as a public health threat was China (2008)

However, the recognition of OCD as a mental disorder is a matter of ongoing debate. Currently, it is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a manual used by health professionals as the authoritative guide for diagnosing mental disorders. However, it is being considered for inclusion in future revisions, such as the DSM-V, as an impulse control disorder.

IAD is also referred to under various names, such as compulsive computer use, pathological internet use and internet addiction. These terms reflect the compulsive nature of the disorder, where individuals struggle to control their desire to stay online, often at the expense of daily life activities.

Understanding IAD lays the foundation for recognizing its existence and underscores the necessity of treating internet addiction. It also helps in recognizing the signs in oneself or others, emphasizing the importance of seeking help when necessary.

Recognition of the characteristics of compulsive Internet use

In our digitally connected world, identifying the characteristics of compulsive internet use is crucial. These signs are not only limited to the digital realm, but also manifest themselves physically. Physical signs that may indicate that an individual is experiencing compulsive internet use include:

  • Involuntary weight gain or loss
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Persistent back pain
  • Headaches

On the emotional side, increased irritability, increased levels of anxiety and depressed mood states are strong indicators of a possible problem with compulsive internet use. It is important to remember that these symptoms are not exhaustive and may vary between individuals.

Recognizing these symptoms is the first step towards understanding the severity of the condition. Recognition of these symptoms marks the initial step towards seeking help, highlighting the importance of raising awareness of the individuals affected, as well as their family and friends.

Recognition of these symptoms can lay the groundwork for immediate interventions and treatments, guiding those struggling with addiction on the journey to recovery.

The psychology behind excessive Internet use 

Internet addiction

The psychology behind excessive internet use is fascinating. An important element in this complex web of complexity is dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates reward systems in the brain. This leads to an increase in dopamine release and a state of euphoria, similar to what occurs in other disorders such as OCD.

The brain's reward system plays an essential role in internet addiction. The pleasure derived from internet activities, such as browsing social networking sites or playing online games, activates this system. However, excessive internet use can also lead to a weakening of the brain's reward system.

Interestingly, certain psychological factors may predispose individuals to internet addiction. For example, there is a positive correlation between internet addiction and social anxiety. Tools such as Young's Internet Addiction Test can be used to assess the severity of this addiction.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is another factor associated with an increased likelihood of developing internet addiction. Approximately 20% of young adults with ADHD experience internet addiction. Chat rooms and other online platforms can be particularly addictive for these individuals.

Understanding the psychology of internet addiction helps to identify the specifics of this disorder. This understanding also highlights the need for holistic treatment approaches that address both the addictive behaviours and the underlying psychological aspects.

The social web: networking sites and addiction to cyber relationships

As social networking sites have become a ubiquitous platform for communication and connection, we are seeing the emergence of cyber relationship addiction. This type of addiction is characterized by an intense focus on cultivating online relationships, often leading to the neglect of personal relationships and social skills.

Internet addiction can have a detrimental impact on the formation of offline relationships. It can lead individuals to prioritise forming relationships in the online world, potentially hindering their ability to cultivate relationships through traditional means. This prioritisation of online connections over real-world interactions may lead to a reduced ability to form real-world connections, further exacerbating social isolation.

While addiction to cyber relationships is an escalating concern, it also provides an opportunity to look introspectively at our digital behaviours. This necessitates a balanced approach to online and offline engagement, highlighting the importance of fostering healthy and meaningful connections in both domains.

The lure of the virtual world: Addiction to online games  

Internet addiction

Online gaming is a universe in itself, a realm where players can undertake heroic missions, forge alliances and compete against counterparts from all corners of the world. But when the virtual world becomes more compelling than real life, we are faced with online gaming addiction.

Online gaming addiction, a form of computer addiction, involves activities that can be played on a computer, leading users to become overly engaged in gaming experiences, both online and offline. Online game addiction can have a significant negative impact on a person's productivity, often resulting in excessive time being spent in gaming environments instead of working or other productive activities. Adolescents commonly neglect their personal health, eat unhealthy meals, give up their favorite interests, drop out of school, have heated conflicts at home with their parents, have high tension and anger that even leads to violence (Chakraborty, 2010)

Interestingly enough, addiction to online games is not a recent phenomenon. Classic computer games such as solitaire, Tetris and Minesweeper, which were built into their software, have historically played a role in the development of computer game addiction.

Today, factors contributing to the addictive nature of some popular online games include:

  • Highly engaging gameplay
  • Competitive or cooperative environments
  • Constant challenges
  • Reward systems that can lead to compulsive gaming behaviours

Identifying the addictive tendencies of these games can guide us to approach them with caution.

The aftermath of overuse: physical symptoms and withdrawal

The concept of addiction often brings to mind thoughts of physical symptoms and withdrawal. Internet addiction is no different. Excessive internet use can lead to a number of physical symptoms, including

  • Physical pains
  • Vision problems
  • Changes in weight
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

The health implications of these physical symptoms can be significant. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive strain injury, can be caused by excessive use of devices such as smartphones. Prolonged exposure to blue light from screens can lead to vision problems due to photochemical damage to the eyes.

Internet addiction also has a significant impact on sleep patterns. It can lead to sleep disturbances, poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation. In addition, the increased risk of depression associated with internet addiction further exacerbates the impact on sleep.

Mirroring substance addiction, individuals may experience drug-like withdrawal symptoms when trying to reduce their internet use. The reverberations of overuse resonate in both the physical and psychological spheres, underscoring the need for early detection and intervention.

Digital addiction: Impact on mental health

The impact of internet addiction cuts across the mental health sector. In particular, there is a correlation between internet addiction and depression. Excessive internet use can potentially cause depressive symptoms and negative emotions, with greater susceptibility in women.

In addition, internet addiction has been linked to a number of psychological disorders, including:

This association highlights the potential impact of excessive internet use on mental health. This highlights the far-reaching impact of digital addiction on mental health.

People with internet addiction often have co-occurring anxiety disorders such as social anxiety and social phobia. This co-occurrence is observed quite frequently. This adds another layer of complexity to their mental health situation, further complicating the path to recovery.

The impact on mental health due to internet addiction highlights the need for holistic treatment methods. These methods should focus not only on mitigating addictive behaviours but also on addressing co-existing mental health conditions.

Treatment of Internet addiction 

Internet addiction

 Although the path to overcoming internet addiction may seem overwhelming, it is important to remember that help is available. There are several treatment options, ranging from therapy to medication. One such method is the multimodal treatment approach, which involves applying several types of treatments simultaneously or sequentially, which usually include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Psychotropic medication
  • Family therapy
  • Case management (case managers)

Psychoeducational methods involve the integration of psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioural theoretical perspectives. Psychological interventions, such as CBT, have demonstrated effectiveness in addressing problematic Internet-using sexual behavior (IESB), enhancing emotional regulation, self-management of behavior, and achieving significant improvements in adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder (IDD).

Pharmacological treatments for Internet addiction may include the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), bupropion and methylphenidate. These medications can help manage the associated symptoms and pave the way for a smoother recovery.

Community-based programs and inpatient treatments, such as the reSTART Internet addiction recovery program, offer a range of therapeutic and supportive approaches, including:

  • Technological detoxification
  • Drug and alcohol treatment
  • Aftercare

These programs provide a supportive environment where individuals can work toward recovery with others who are experiencing similar difficulties.

The path to recovery from internet addiction may be different for each individual. However, the common thread that links these different treatment methods together is the goal of restoring balance in life and breaking free from the shackles of digital addiction.

Lifestyle adjustments to overcome internet addiction

Beyond professional treatment of internet addiction, lifestyle modifications also play a key role in overcoming internet addiction. One such adjustment is incorporating exercise into your routine. Exercise-based intervention is an important method for reducing internet use and has proven to reduce the incidence and signs of internet addiction. It replaces the internet experience and enhances both physical and mental well-being.

Physical exercise compensates for the reduction in dopamine levels caused by reduced internet use. To establish a physical exercise routine that will help manage internet addiction, it is advisable to set specific goals and schedule regular exercise sessions. Choose enjoyable activities such as walking, jogging, cycling or dancing.

Another lifestyle adjustment that can help in recovering from internet addiction is exposure to nature. Exposure to nature plays a key role in aiding recovery from internet addiction by providing:

  • Physical activity
  • Exposure to natural light
  • Improving mood
  • Reduction of anxiety and depression
  • Helping to cope with cravings

From screen to green, these lifestyle adjustments serve as proof that recovery from internet addiction extends beyond professional treatment. It includes a commitment to a healthier lifestyle and making conscious decisions that contribute to overall well-being.

Navigating the internet safely: prevention measures and control tools 

Internet addiction

While we have delved into the consequences and treatment of internet addiction, preventive measures are just as, if not more, important. Preventative measures and screening tools can help individuals navigate the internet safely and responsibly. Content control software options, such as Qustodio and Bark, can maintain online safety by setting restrictions and monitoring online activities.

Time restriction applications can:

  • Impose restrictions on usage at specific times
  • Provide incentives for users to abstain from using their devices
  • Block access to specific websites or activities
  • Allow users to monitor and set restrictions on their screen time.

The effectiveness of content control software and time limitation applications in preventing internet addiction is remarkable. Strategies such as the use of grey-scale mode, application restriction modes and mixed interventions have been shown to effectively reduce mobile phone use and addictive digital use.

While these tools can help to navigate the digital world safely, it is also important to practice self-discipline and careful use of the internet. Together, these strategies can help us cultivate a healthier relationship with our screens.

The science of internet addiction: Research insights

Research insights delve into the science of internet addiction, offering valuable insights for understanding this multifaceted disorder. Internet Addiction Disorder is associated with a reduction in gray matter volume in brain regions necessary for cognitive and executive control, as well as structural and functional abnormalities in the amygdala, which is responsible for emotional processing.

Specific brain regions affected by excessive internet use include the dorsal prefrontal cortex, the cortical gyrus and the medial prefrontal cortex. These changes lead to weakened cognitive executive control and increased craving response.

The long-term effects of Internet Addiction Disorder include decreased social functioning, academic and occupational distress, and various mental health issues. These effects are similar to other addictions in terms of changes in brain activity and impairments in real life.

These research findings underscore the importance of addressing internet addiction as a serious concern. They provide a scientific basis for understanding the neurological changes caused by excessive internet use and highlight the need for comprehensive treatment approaches.

The wider impact: family members and society

The impact of internet addiction extends beyond the individual, affecting family members and wider society. Internet addiction can lead to neglect, emotional and psychological distress for family members, as well as contributing to conflict and disruption of communication within the family.

Internet addiction contributes to social issues through:

  • The deterioration of relationships with friends and family
  • Decreased interest in everyday life
  • Neglect of household and academic responsibilities
  • The emergence of neurological and psychological complications.

On an economic scale, problematic internet use, often referred to as internet addiction, can lead to reduced productivity, reduced future quality of life and impulsive decision making, which can have significant economic consequences.

In addition, internet addiction can have detrimental effects on academic or work performance. As a result:

  • inadequate time management
  • disinterest in critical tasks
  • procrastination
  • prioritising internet use over other commitments.

The wider impact of internet addiction highlights the importance of addressing this issue, not only for the individuals affected, but also for the wellbeing of families and society as a whole. It highlights the need for collective efforts to raise awareness, provide support and implement effective interventions.


In this digitally connected age, internet addiction has emerged as a major concern. As we have explored in this blog article, Internet Addiction Disorder (IDD) is a complex disorder characterized by excessive internet use that disrupts daily life and responsibilities. From the psychological factors that contribute to internet addiction, the impact on physical and mental health, to the broader effects on family and society, the implications of internet addiction are far-reaching.

However, there is hope. There are treatment options available ranging from therapy and medication to lifestyle adjustments and preventative measures. Real-life success stories further highlight the possibility of recovery, illuminating the path to overcoming this disorder.

In conclusion, while the lure of the digital world can be exciting, it is important to navigate this space responsibly. The internet is a tool, and like any tool, its benefits or harms depend on how we use it. Let's try to cultivate a healthier relationship with our screens, for ourselves, our loved ones, and society at large.

Frequently asked questions

What is internet addiction?

Internet addiction is the compulsive need to spend excessive time online, often to the detriment of relationships, work and health. Medical opinions are divided on whether it is a separate mental disorder.

What causes screen addiction?

Screen addiction is caused by the release of dopamine in the brain due to prolonged use of digital devices, affecting impulse control.

Why am I so obsessed with the internet?

It is possible that your excessive internet use stems from your need to cope with negative emotions or social isolation, leading to addictive behaviour. In addition, searching for information online could be a manifestation of pre-existing obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

What are the main characteristics of Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)?

Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is characterised by excessive internet use that disrupts daily life and responsibilities, with key features being preoccupation with the internet, increased time spent online and symptoms commonly associated with behavioural addictions. It is similar to other forms of addiction.

What are the mental health implications of internet addiction?

Internet addiction has significant mental health implications, leading to conditions such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and bipolar disorder, as well as co-occurring anxiety disorders such as social anxiety and social phobia. These can have a profound impact on a person's well-being.

Original content from the Upbility writing team. Reproduction of this article, in whole or in part, without credit to the publisher is prohibited.


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