It’s easy to get sucked into the online world. Whether we’re checking our email or the news, scrolling through our social media feeds, or watching a few videos on YouTube, spending hours browsing websites and apps isn’t hard to do. For many of us, it’s hard to imagine a day without logging on at some point.
With the ability to access the internet not just from our computers but on nearly every portable device, it’s become an inescapable part of modern existence. Over 4 billion people worldwide actively use the internet, with each person checking their phone around on average over 250 times a day.
And while there are benefits to staying connected online, some people are more connected to the internet itself. Some people don’t just have trouble imagining a day without the internet – they have a compulsive need to spend most of their time on it.
So at what point does surfing the web turn into internet addiction? In this article, we will explore the concept of internet addiction and discuss how to overcome it.
What is Internet Addiction?
The internet is a powerful tool. It can connect you to the world and expose you to information, ideas, and activities out of your reach in real life. But on the flip side, it’s easy for many internet users to get lost – or trapped – inside this virtual reality bubble.
While not classified by the DSM-5 as an official mental disorder, internet addiction is characterized by dependence on the internet. Compulsive internet use, like other addictions, can negatively impact all areas of a person’s life, including their personal and professional lives.
What are the Signs of Internet Addiction?
Finding the line between spending a lot of time online and having internet addiction can be tricky. Whether you’re concerned about your behaviors or those of a friend, here are signs of internet addiction to look for:
- Focused on the internet and other online devices, even when not using them
- Need to increase amounts of time spent online to feel satisfied
- Attempts to cut back on how much time spent online have been unsuccessful
- Cutting back on internet usage leads to feelings of depression, irritability, moodiness, and restlessness
- Often spending more time using the internet than planned
- Relationships, work, or schooling are affected by internet use
- Lying to hide the amount of time spent online
- Using the internet to avoid or find relief from difficult feelings, like anxiety, depression, guilt, or hopelessness
Excessive Internet Use vs. Internet Addiction
While the possible signs of internet addiction can help provide some clarity, you may be looking for a more clear-cut answer about what classifies internet addiction. That is, how much time does someone with internet addiction spend online?
Unfortunately, there is no official answer to that question yet. In either case, it’s important to focus on how much time you should or should not be spending online.
There is no official guideline for adults who are more likely to use computers all day long for work or study. However, you can start by paying attention to the time you spend online for “non-essential use.” Experts suggest that youths 18 and under should engage in no more than two hours of screen time daily.
You can also start by asking yourself some of the following questions and answering them honestly to assess whether internet addiction is a possible concern.
- When you’re online, how often do you say or think, “just a few more minutes”?
- Do you frequently remain online longer than you planned?
- Do you often hide how long you have been online from others?
- How often do you hear people in your life talk about how much time you spend on the computer?
- Have you tried but failed many times to reduce the time you spend online?
Your answers to some of these questions can help you determine whether your internet use is excessive. And if you’re concerned about whether your heavy use has reached a point of compulsion, a mental health professional can help you determine this.
Note that you do not have to diagnose yourself or go through this struggle alone. You also do not need an official diagnosis of internet addiction for it to impact your life negatively.
What Are Some Potential Causes of Internet Addiction?
Internet use today is so common, and internet access can be so easy that internet addiction may seem like a natural progression in some cases. However, some potential factors may increase the risk of developing internet addiction.
These can include:
- Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in social situations
- A mental health problem or disorder
- Poor family relationships or unhealthy family dynamics
- A history of addiction in the family
- Isolation from friends and activities that were once enjoyed outside of internet use (can also be a symptom)
Be honest with yourself about how internet use impacts your life and relationships. In some cases, internet addiction is a sign of underlying issues that need to be addressed – such as depression. In other cases, internet use can become problematic on its own. For example, you may start to look up one thing online and end up spending hours surfing the internet or playing games.
Is it Possible to Overcome Internet Addiction?
The internet is an invaluable tool, but it must be used in moderation. If internet use could not harm a person’s life, there would not be any problems with using it. But for those struggling with excessive use that becomes addictive, it’s important to seek help before areas of that person’s life suffer more.
If you’re struggling with internet addiction, there are some things you can do to address the issue.
– Be honest with yourself and track the amount of time you spend online each day.
– Make a conscious effort to reduce your internet use, especially for non-essential activities.
– Participate in activities outside of the internet that make you happy and fulfilled.
– Seek professional help if you think internet addiction negatively impacts your life or relationships.
It’s important to remember that overcoming internet addiction is a process, and you may need the help of others to do so. Be kind and patient with yourself, avoid judgment, and know that internet addiction is a real issue for many people today.
There are also three subtypes of internet addiction, including:
- Video Game Addiction
- Online Gambling Addiction
- Cybersex or Online Sex Addiction
If you have specific areas of concern regarding your excessive internet use behaviors, know that you can also find support for these. Furthermore, internet addiction can sometimes overlap with other behavioral addictions, including smartphone addiction, television addiction, and work addiction.
If You Think You Have Internet Addiction
If you believe you have an internet addiction, reach out to your doctor for help. They can refer you to a therapist, psychologist, or clinic if needed. If underlying mental health issues are present, such as depression or social anxiety disorder, your doctor may also prescribe medications to help you overcome your addiction.
Like any other type of addiction, overcoming internet addiction takes time and effort. While professional help for internet addiction is available, only a few services specialize in treating internet addiction. That said, a therapist or psychologist with expertise in addiction treatment is an ideal source of support.
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Internet Addiction
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may have an internet addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available to get on the road to recovery. Remember that internet addiction is treatable, and with time and effort, it is possible to overcome this compulsive behavior.