What are the signs and symptoms of internet addiction?
Shopping, gambling, gaming, using social media, or engaging in other online behaviours, can result in the release of dopamine, the brain’s ‘feel-good chemical’, which is linked to our pleasure and reward centres. This ‘rush’ is similar to that experienced during a drug-induced ‘high’ and can cause people to want to spend more and more time online and find it increasingly difficult to log off.
In addition, individuals may also build a psychological tolerance to their compulsive internet use, resulting in withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and irritability when access to the internet is blocked or you are unable to spend as much time online as you want to.
At Manor Clinic, we deliver evidence-based treatment for your internet addiction when this co-occurs alongside a drug or alcohol addiction. Our team are dedicated to empowering you to identify the reasons why your compulsive behaviours developed in the first place, before taking steps to gradually reduce your internet use and achieve a full and sustainable recovery.
As well as spending an excessive amount of time online for reasons that are not related to work, the following are all signs that you, or someone that you know, may be struggling with a destructive addiction.
Behavioural/social symptoms of internet addiction:
- Spending the majority of your waking hours online
- Spending longer online that you had originally planned, and often finding that hours and hours have gone by without you noticing
- Feeling as though you have lost control over how much time you spend on the internet
- Continuing to spend time online, despite the negative consequences that you have experienced as a result of your compulsive internet use
- Finding that you’re unable to bring yourself to log out of your devices or apps, even though you might want to
- Poor performance and/or attendance at work, as being online has become more important to you
- Losing interest in activities, hobbies or responsibilities that were once important to you
- Experiencing relationship problems as a result of your constant need to be online
- Withdrawing from family and friends, leading to loneliness and social isolation
- Concealing the amount of time you spend online from family members and loved ones
- Denying that you have a problem, both to yourself and others
Psychological symptoms of internet addiction:
- Building a psychological tolerance to your internet use due to the ‘feel good’ chemicals that are released when you’re online
- Experiencing psychological withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, restlessness and anxiety when you are unable to gain access to the internet or spend time online for as long as you want to
- Becoming angry and agitated if you are asked to reduce your internet use
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Memory problems
- Using the internet in an attempt to deal with difficult emotions such as stress, anxiety or depression
- Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems
Physical symptoms of internet addiction:
- Sleep deprivation and insomnia due to spending time online well into the night
- Becoming uninterested in personal hygiene, grooming or appearance
- Aches and pains from a lack of movement and hunching over your device
- Dry eyes from constantly staring at a screen
- Poor nutrition
- Weight loss or gain
What are the long-term effects of internet addiction?
Internet addiction can also result in a whole host of long-term negative effects such as:
- Strained or ruined relationships
- Family breakdowns
- Financial problems if you are engaging in paid activities online e.g. shopping or gambling
- Job loss and unemployment
- Chronic health problems e.g. neck and back problems
- Onset of additional mental health and addiction problems
This page was reviewed by Sarina Wheatman (FDAP) in November 2019 and is scheduled to be reviewed again in November 2021.