Are You Addicted to the Internet?

The Internet is so ingrained into our everyday lives that It’s hard to imagine what life was like before it. It helps foster connectivity, communication and sharing, and makes tasks like bill paying, navigating to your destination and shopping more convenient than ever before. Despite its benefits, frequent overuse of the internet can lead to addiction with detrimental effects, not unlike those associated with substance abuse or other behavioral addictions.

What is Internet Addiction Disorder?

Internet Addiction Disorder is not officially recognized as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V), however, it is commonly described as an impulse control disorder.

An estimated 88.5% of Americans are Internet users, but some develop an emotional attachment that interferes with daily life including relationships with family and friends, work and school. People who are addicted to the Internet often have trouble fulfilling personal and professional obligations because of their excessive online use.

Internet Addiction Disorder affects an estimated 8.2% of the general population, but some reports suggest it may affect up to 38%. This variation in prevalence rates is likely due to the lack of standardized criteria for defining it.

Internet Addiction Disorder may also be referred to as Compulsive Internet Use (CIU), Problematic Internet Use (PIU) or iDisorder.

There are five sub-categories of Internet Addiction:

  • Cybersexual: Cybersex and Internet porn

  • Net compulsions: Online shopping, gambling or stock trading

  • Cyber-relationships: Social media, online dating, or other virtual communication

  • Gaming: Online game playing

  • Information seeking: Web surfing or database searches

What are the causes?

Like most disorders, it is difficult to pinpoint a singular cause for Internet Addiction Disorder. Instead, it is likely the result of multiple contributing factors such as biological predisposition, neurobiological vulnerabilities, and mental health vulnerabilities.

Those who struggle with Internet addiction often have other mental health challenges like alcohol and substance abuse, depression, anxiety, compulsive behaviors, sleep disorders, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and/or aggression.

What are the warning signs of Internet Addiction?

Some of the common warning signs of Internet Addiction include:

  • Preoccupation with the Internet that includes frequent thoughts about previous online activity or anticipation of next online session

  • Use of the Internet in increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction

  • Repeated, unsuccessful attempts to manage, reduce or cease Internet use

  • Feelings of restlessness, moodiness, depression or irritability resulting from attempting to reduce Internet usage

  • Spending more time online than originally intended

  • Prioritizing Internet use above significant relationships, job, education or career opportunities

  • Lying to family members, friends, therapists or others to hide or downplay the extent of dependency on the Internet

  • Use of the Internet as a means to escape from real-world problems or to relieve a dysphoric mood

  • Use of the Internet as an alternative to real-life human connection

Internet Addiction may also result in physical symptoms such as back and neck pain, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, headaches, insomnia, poor nutrition, poor personal hygiene, and significant weight loss or gain.

When to Seek Help

Scrolling through social media daily, online shopping or getting enjoyment from watching YouTube videos doesn’t necessarily constitute an addiction. However, if your Internet usage is negatively impacting or interfering with your everyday life, it is strongly recommended that you seek professional help.

The care team at Mind Body Seven takes a holistic, evidence-based approach to deliver individualized treatment with the goal of creating boundaries and balance around Internet use. Contact us at (212) 621-7770 and our intake coordinator will work with you to match you with the right clinician for your needs.