Internet addiction is becoming very commonplace across the globe. It’s almost impossible to escape technology. It’s everywhere: your job requires that you use a laptop, your phone is connected to the internet and even your television includes a Facebook app.
The internet is ubiquitous. And while for some it’s a tool used in work and play alike, others have become dependent upon it. A study published in the World Journal of Psychiatry cited a 1000% increase in internet users over the course of 15 years. And as far back as 2013, the American Psychiatric Association listed internet addiction as a diagnosable disorder.
Because of the prevalence of internet addiction in everyday life, it can be difficult to diagnose. If you feel that you or someone you know may suffer from internet addiction, please continue reading. We aim to assist you in getting the help you need to overcome your internet addiction.
What is Internet Addiction?
Before we begin, let’s answer a very basic question: What is internet addiction? According to the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, internet addiction is:
described as an impulse control disorder, which does not involve use of an intoxicating drug and is very similar to pathological gambling. Some Internet users may develop an emotional attachment to on-line friends and activities they create on their computer screens.
So what does that mean? Does it mean that because you have friends online you are addicted to the internet? Or that because you like to play games on the internet that you have an internet addiction?
Not necessarily. A common characteristic of those who suffer from internet addiction is the tendency to withdraw from daily activities. This is in favor of playing games, socializing or engaging in other online activities. The activities are detrimental to the health of the person addicted. They’re also harmful to relationships, employment status, financial soundness and academic performance.
It may be tempting to make light of internet addiction, or to dismiss it as recreational internet use. But the addiction is real and it affects 1 in every 8 Americans. The effect on the Asian population is even more widespread, with up to 30% of the population experiencing problematic internet use.
Is the Internet Addictive?
In short, yes. The internet is very addictive. It became readily accessible around 1990, when the World Wide Web was invented. The internet was originally designed to be a vehicle for a global exchange of information.
At its best, the internet delivers on this design. According to The Atlantic, in 1994 there were under 3,000 websites. Today that number has grown to over a billion and continues to expand.
While some internet users are able to use the internet for its intended purpose and subsequently disengage from it, others find it difficult to do so. Many of these people become internet addicts.
Internet addiction can be caused by many underlying factors. One such factor is a psychological disorder. Many users turn to the internet to calm anxiety or distract from depression.
Discomfort in social settings can also be a cause of internet addiction. People who have trouble making friends offline can usually find them online.
Finally, people with a history of addiction to drugs, gambling or alcohol may use the internet to fulfill needs which they feel aren’t being met.
The internet is very addictive, and internet addiction should not be taken lightly. Do you feel as if you may be suffering from internet addiction? Let’s take a look at the symptoms of an internet addict.
How Do I Know If I have Internet Addiction?
If you’re reading this article, you or someone you know is probably showing signs of internet addiction. Do you feel like you spend too much time on the internet? Do you feel as if your relationships are suffering because of your internet use? Are your friends and family suggesting that you might have a problem?
If so, consult an addiction specialist who can screen you for possible addiction to the internet. And while it may sound counterintuitive, look to the internet if you’re hesitant. There are universities and government websites which will allow you to conduct an assessment of yourself.
As with any addiction, it’s important that you be honest with yourself when attempting to determine if you’re addicted to the internet. Admitting that your personal life is suffering is a big step toward getting the help you need.
Signs of Internet Addiction
To assist you in identifying an addiction, these are a few questions we recommend you ask yourself. The list is in no way comprehensive, and we do encourage you to seek the help of an addiction specialist.
- Are feel anxious at the thought of not being able to access the internet?
- Do you hide your internet activity from friends and family?
- Are you turning down opportunities for social engagement in order to go online?
- Do you avoid fulfilling work or school requirements because you’re engaging in online activities?
- Are you achieving a sense of euphoria when you use the internet?
- Do you “black out” or “lose time” when engaging in online activities?
- Do you avoid or procrastinate food or sleep in order to continue internet usage?
- Has your internet usage caused arguments with friends or family?
Again, this is by no means a full list of symptoms, but if you experience any of them, we advise you to seek professional help.
How to Break Internet Addiction
You’ve been diagnosed; are you ready to learn how to break internet addiction?
As we mentioned, the internet is everywhere. Your job may require that you spend time on the computer or the internet, and so it may be impossible to quit “cold turkey.” But we interviewed several addicts, and most reported that their supervisors were understanding of the addiction.
It’s also best to speak with friends and family, and to ask for their support. There’s a good chance that those closest to you have been very much affected by your internet addiction. And there’s an even bigger chance that they want you back in their lives. Your social or familial circle should be a support network for you; let them help you break your internet addiction.
We understand that a large part of internet addiction is your reliance on your online relationships. These relationships are the hardest to let go of. Consider exchanging phone numbers with your internet friends. An occasional brief phone call will serve to maintain those relationships while you seek help.
Learning how to break your internet addiction is going to require a great deal of willpower on your part. But most of our sources say that, at home, they were able to literally throw the internet router in the trash can and just quit. If you’re unable to do that, here are a few tips to cut down on your internet use:
- Ask your family to create a password for your access point, and set time restrictions on yourself.
- Find a diversion. If you find yourself hopping online to check game progress each morning, instead start with a cup of coffee and a short walk. It’s going to take willpower, but you can do it.
- If all else fails, seek counseling for your addiction.
Internet Addiction Treatment
If you decide that internet addiction treatment is right for you, your counselor may help you in one of a number of ways. First, she may advise that you have supervised internet time. This is similar to the method in which your family creates an internet password.
Secondly, she may recommend that you participate in group therapy. Just as there exists Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous, there is Internet and Technology Addiction Anonymous. This group can be useful to you in that you’ll find a support system, and may also develop meaningful relationships offline.
Finally, your counselor will likely suggest that you divert your attention to productive activities such as art, writing, exercise or other meaningful work.
Internet Addiction Statistics
It is thought that one in every eight Americans suffers internet addiction. As stated previously, China, Korea and Taiwan have higher instances of addiction.
Studies show that men are more prone to suffer internet addiction, and that internet use can take a decade to develop into a true addiction.
Addiction to the internet is a real disorder, affecting millions of individuals. If you feel as if you participate in problematic internet use, please seek help.