Are You An Internet Addict?

Around 40 percent of the world's population now has access to the Internet. In the United States, nearly 87 percent of the population now goes online, and many people rely on the Internet every day. Unfortunately, while the Internet has many benefits, Internet addiction is now also increasingly common, but some sufferers are unaware that they have this problem. If you're concerned about the amount of time you spend online, find out what causes this disorder, and learn more about the signs you should look out for.

What is Internet addiction?

If you spend a lot of time online, there's no reason to believe you have Internet addiction. It's entirely possible to spend several hours on the Internet daily without suffering any form of addiction. Internet addiction occurs when you have a compulsive need to go online, to the extent that other parts of normal life are likely to suffer.

Addiction experts say that Internet addiction is rather like pathological gambling. In fact, the term applies to a range of impulse-control problems that relate to Internet usage. Types of Internet addiction include the following:

  • Cybersex addiction, where compulsive online porn use interferes with real-life relationships
  • Net compulsion, where you may continually go online to complete other addictive activities like gambling, shopping or stock trading
  • Information overload, where you find it almost impossible to stop researching and reading about certain topics online

Another common type of Internet addiction (cyber-relationship addiction) occurs when people cannot stop using chat rooms, texts or online messaging to form virtual friendships and relationships. Again, this type of addiction is likely to harm real-life relationships.

How common is Internet addiction?

The prevalence of Internet addiction varies between genders and age groups. For example, one Chinese study found that around 6 percent of adolescent Internet users suffer with Internet addiction. Other studies show that boys are more likely to suffer with Internet addiction because they spend more time online.

A telephone survey of the general US population found that 0.3 to 0.7 percent of respondents identified themselves with the disorder. The survey also found that people with other psychological problems are at higher risk. In fact, some experts are unsure if Internet addiction is a genuine mental disorder. In many cases, psychologists believe that the problem occurs as a symptom or side effect of other issues.

What causes the disorder?

People often turn to the Internet to manage unpleasant problems that they face in real life. Stress, anxiety, loneliness and anxiety can all drive people to seek comfort online. Students are at high risk of Internet addiction because of the pressures they face at school and college. You're also more likely to suffer Internet addiction if you don't have social support in real life or if you are not socially mobile

Internet addiction often becomes a problem because sufferers have no other outlet for their stress. For example, many people enjoy sport, meditation and other relaxation techniques to deal with stress. Internet addicts become dependent on their online time to help them feel better and generally ignore other offline activities. What's more, it often takes longer for addicts to get the same feeling of satisfaction.

What signs should you look for?

It's not easy to self-diagnose a problem like Internet addiction, and you should always seek professional help if the condition concerns you. That aside, certain behavioral signs can suggest that you or someone you love has a problem.

Things to look out for include the following:

  • No track of time online. Do you spend hours online without realising what you are doing?
  • Other tasks suffer. Do you find no time to do housework, laundry or cook meals?
  • Isolation. Do you see friends or family regularly, or do you spend all your social time online?
  • Guilt. Does your online time cause feelings of guilt or shame?

Internet addiction can even cause physical symptoms. For example, some people suffer with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (a painful disorder of the hands and wrists) because they spend so much time using a keyboard. Internet addiction also commonly causes sleep problems.

Internet addiction is an increasingly common problem in the United States, but there are plenty of treatment options available to you. Talk to your doctor about ways to tackle your addiction. For more information or advice on addiction, contact a center such as Willow Tree Recovery.