Internet Addiction Disorder – Types, Causes, Symptoms And More.

Do you play video games on the internet excessively? Are you compulsively shopping online? Can’t stop physically checking Facebook? Is your excessive computer use interfering with your daily life: relationships, work, school? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have an internet addiction disorder , also known as compulsive internet use.

What is internet addiction disorder?

It is the excessive use of the Internet that interferes with daily life, although it is not an official DSM diagnosis, it is seen as an impulse control problem similar to pathological gambling. While a gambling addict usually finds the thrill of winning more rewarding, internet addicts are drawn to social rewards.

For example, while a video game addict may enjoy the challenge, graphics, and sense of accomplishment of their favorite game, the most compelling reason for playing may be the connections they make and the responsibility they feel with the other players who are part of it. of your team online.

The addiction is a problem that is usually characterized by compulsive behavior and can occur in many different patterns, from abuse of drugs to the game and even shopping addiction. But recently, people who work in addiction treatment are beginning to see these problems develop more frequently on the Internet. The types of symptoms most frequently associated with drug abuse can occur with internet addiction.

People who show symptoms of internet addiction are more vulnerable because they also have depression and anxiety problems . As is often the case with substance abuse , they can use the Internet as a way to ease their emotional symptoms, they  can become consumed by their obsession, and they will not be able to physically stop checking their phone or using their computer.

Signs and Symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder

Like the symptoms of video game addiction, the signs of Internet addiction can be divided into four distinct categories: psychological, physical, behavioral, and relational.


  • Frequent feelings of guilt after spending too much time online.
  • Great difficulty avoiding recreational use of the Internet for more than a few days in a row.
  • Loss of track of time when online (for example, suddenly noticing that several hours have passed when it seems like only a few minutes)
  • Strong feelings of frustration or tension when unable to connect.
  • Unreasonable justifications for unhealthy usage levels.
  • Minimize the negative effects of excessive Internet use (“At least I’m not addicted to drugs or alcohol”)
  • Loss of interest and participation in hobbies or activities that were previously enjoyed.
  • Feeling calm, content, or happy only when online
  • Preoccupation with being online when participating in other activities (for example, school, work, or when going out with friends)
  • They experience a negative mood (depression or anxiety ) when they are not on the Internet.


  • Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Significant weight gain or loss due to poor eating habits and lack of physical activity.
  • Headaches, neck pain, back problems.
  • Tired, dry and / or red eyes.
  • Irregular and unhealthy eating habits.


  • Occasional Internet “marathon” sessions that last all day or all night.
  • Often eating meals in front of the computer or skipping them altogether.
  • I regularly use the internet until very late at night, despite having to get up early the next morning.
  • Multiple attempts to reduce Internet use with little or no success.
  • Be online at virtually any opportunity.
  • Spending more and more time online and less time interacting with others.
  • Often times, you go online and other important responsibilities (eg school, work, family, housework) are neglected.
  • Show anger or resentment towards those questions how much time is spent online.
  • If you are a student, your study time decreases and your academic performance is lower.


  • Decreased interest in sex.
  • Relationship issues and frequent arguments stemming from a partner spending too much time online.
  • Blaming your spouse or partner for the amount of time you spent on the Internet (“If you paid more attention to me, I wouldn’t be online as much”)
  • Losing friends from the real world, gaining friends only online.
  • Comments from others expressing concern about Internet use.
  • Decrease in time spent with family and friends.
  • Misleading others about the amount of time we spend on the Internet.

What Causes Internet Addiction Disorder?

When Internet addicts feel overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, lonely, or anxious, they use the Internet to seek comfort and escape. Studies from the University of Iowa show that Internet addiction is quite common.

Social factors

Among these we find the following risk factors:

Interpersonal difficulties

It is argued that interpersonal difficulties, such as introversion, social problems, and poor face-to-face communication skills, lead to Internet addiction. Internet-based relationships offer a safe alternative for people with the aforementioned difficulties to escape the possible rejections and anxieties of interpersonal contact in real life.

Lack of social support

People who lack sufficient social connection and social support are at higher risk of Internet addiction, turning to virtual relationships and support to alleviate their loneliness. In fact, the most frequent applications among Internet addicts are chat rooms, interactive games, instant messaging or social networks.

Psychological factors

Previous psychiatric or addictive history was found to influence the likelihood of being addicted to the Internet. Some people with previous psychiatric problems, such as depression and anxiety, resort to compulsive behaviors to avoid the unpleasant emotions and situations of their psychiatric problems and consider that being addicted to the Internet is a safer alternative to addictive tendencies to substances, but it is generally not clear from existing research what is the cause and what is the effect in part due to the fact that comorbidity is common among addicts.

Internet addicts with no prior significant psychiatric or addictive history are alleged to develop an addiction to some of the characteristics of Internet use: anonymity, easy access, and its interactive nature.

Other factors

Parental educational level, age of first Internet use, and frequency with which social media and gaming sites are used are positively associated with excessive Internet use among adolescents in some European countries, as well as in the United States.

What are the effects of Internet addiction disorder?

Internet addiction results in personal, family, academic, financial and occupational problems that are characteristic of other addictions, deficiencies in real life relationships are interrupted as a result of excessive use of the Internet.

People with this addiction spend more time in isolation, spend less time with real people, and are often seen as socially awkward. Arguments can result due to the volume of time spent online, those who suffer from Internet addiction may try to hide the amount of time they spend online, leading to mistrust and disruption of the quality of once stable relationships.

Some may create people or online profiles where they can alter their identities and pretend to be someone other than themselves, those who are most at risk of creating a secret life are those who suffer from low self-esteem , feelings of inadequacy and fear of disapproval, such Negative self-concepts lead to clinical problems of depression and anxiety.

Many people who try to quit their Internet use experience withdrawal such as: anger, depression, relief, mood swings, anxiety, fear, irritability, sadness, loneliness, boredom, restlessness, procrastination, and an upset stomach.

Why do people get addicted to the internet?

A common explanation is that people turn to the world of the internet to reduce negative emotions, stress , depression, or anxiety.

It is also argued that those who are lonely or have low self-esteem can connect online with others in an environment that has a lower risk of rejection and a higher degree of anonymity. Many people (even those who are not addicted) use the Internet as a temporary escape from the “real world.”

In moderation, using the internet to control emotions or relax is unlikely to cause much harm, the problem is when it becomes the primary method of stress management, dealing with negative emotions or thoughts, or reacting to real-world challenges.

However… If we agree that Internet addiction is just a blanket term for many subcategories of obsessive or problematic behaviors, then it is very difficult to say why someone becomes addicted to the Internet. Rather, it is much more informative to ask why specific online activities appear to have a higher risk of overuse or unhealthy use.

For example, if you read the articles “Why are video games addictive?”, “Why is it addictive for Facebook?” You will see that the answers are very different, which suggests that we are really taking on different problems that are all voiced online.

Types of Internet addiction

Rather than a single “Internet addiction” disorder, it may make more sense to view these behaviors as separate problems, the main commonalities being that they are simply expressed online. With this in mind, what are some of the subtypes of Internet addiction?

Video game addiction

Excessive use of computer games and video games, often from the first person shooter, real-time strategy, or massively multiplayer online genres.

Porn addiction

Also known as cybersex addiction, which involves the compulsive viewing and collection of pornography online and / or the excessive use of adult video or chat services.

Social media addiction

An obsession with social networks such as Facebook or Twitter that may involve constantly checking the “wall”, posting updates, playing minigames, commenting on photos and posts, and reading updates from others. Online social interactions can become more common and more important than personal relationships.

Online gambling addiction

Similar to the traditional game in that the main thrill is the pursuit of monetary gain. However, online gambling websites can use very different methods to encourage continued gambling.

Online entertainment addiction

Defined by excessive time browsing the web, watching online videos, viewing favorite websites, etc., it can be seen as a simple waste of time or procrastination, arguably less of a problem than some of the other online addictions mentioned. previously.

Treatment for internet addiction disorder

Because Internet addiction is a very new psychological problem (at least compared to topics like depression and anxiety that have been studied extensively for more than a century), specialized treatment options are limited. Although some psychologists and counselors are interested in working with obsessions online, finding a specialist can be nearly impossible unless you are lucky enough to live in a city with one of these select few therapists.

Internet addiction therapy

Although it is obviously preferable to work with a specialist, a skilled therapist who is open to the problem of online obsessions (not all therapists believe that Internet addiction is a “real” problem) can still be very helpful.

Most Internet addiction therapies follow a cognitive-behavioral model . This form of treatment is used for a wide variety of problems and involves challenging beliefs that maintain unhealthy behaviors, develop coping skills, and then change actual behaviors gradually and step by step. The most effective treatments will not only target unhealthy behaviors, but also any possible underlying contributors to internet addiction.

If a therapist who specializes in treatment is not available (which is quite possible), potential clients may want to choose someone who works with other addictions, such as pathological gambling disorder.

Of course, depending on the nature of the obsession, it may also make sense to choose a therapist who has experience treating the problem offline (eg, porn addiction). If the excessive use of the Internet is partially fueled by another problem such as depression, anxiety or a lack of self-confidence, it would obviously be wise to select someone who specializes in these topics.

Inpatient treatment programs

Popular in parts of Asia and beginning to appear in North America and Europe, inpatient treatment programs for Internet addiction offer multi-week interventions on site.

They can rely on a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, general counselors and other support staff, although this option offers a very intense experience with absolutely no possibility of Internet use, questionable treatment methods in some places and fees prohibitively expensive (usually tens of thousands of dollars) means this is an option for very few people.

How to stop internet addiction?

The Internet is, without a doubt, an innovative tool for communication, socialization, education, business and entertainment.

When used responsibly and sparingly, it can provide us with an unimaginable amount of information and can certainly contribute to the quality of our lives. However, when you are used to excess and when the digital world becomes more important than the physical world, this can be a serious problem.

  • Facebook friends cannot take the place of real friends.
  • Chatting online cannot replace connecting with other people in person.
  • Video game achievements cannot be a substitute for achieving personal goals in the real world.

If you are concerned about being addicted to the Internet, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my Internet use taking away my quality of life?
  • What am I missing due to my internet habits?
  • Am I satisfied and even proud of the way I live my life right now?
  • Am I able to do more with my life?
  • What goals do I have for myself and if my use of the Internet brings me closer to achieving these goals?

Change is never easy, but it is an absolute requirement for personal growth and development. As difficult as it may be to change your internet habits, it is not as difficult as living with the regret of lost relationships, missed opportunities, and unrealized potential.

With the proper treatment approach, support from others, and most importantly, a genuine commitment to change, it is definitely possible to overcome internet addiction disorder and live a happier and more fulfilling life.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.