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Internet Addiction Treatment Information

Internet addiction is one of the most widespread problems in society today. Unlike drug and alcohol addiction, which are often called out for the troubles they impose on communities, few people talk about internet addiction because computers and smartphones are part of everyday life.

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What Is Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction is a behavioral addiction characterized by an unhealthy obsession with internet activity. A person with internet addiction spends endless hours each day engaged in an online activity at the expense of work, friends, family, health, hygiene, housekeeping and other areas of life. The main traits of internet addiction include:

  • Endless hours online – Internet addiction causes people to spend most of their waking hours online. People do all sorts of random things during this time, such as constantly scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Some users get caught up in internet debates and flame wars. Others watch endless videos on YouTube.
  • Checking apps at inappropriate times – Internet addiction makes it difficult for people to pull themselves away from their favorite apps, even when they’re supposed to be doing other things. Since the advent of smartphones, many people (especially millennials and zoomers) check TikTok and Instagram every 2-3 minutes during class, work, church services and family get-togethers.
  • Constantly thinking about online activity – Internet addiction causes people to crave the internet when it’s unavailable. A person might be in the middle of an important discussion with a colleague or relative yet wandering off mentally to the recent feeds on Facebook or Instagram. When commuting or grocery shopping, he/she might spend the whole time thinking about what to post next.
  • Disinterest in non-online activity – Internet addiction makes people lose interest in everything else. Those consumed wholeheartedly with the internet rarely get up from their computers or put away their smartphones unless they really have to. Even when they do attend to their children, house chores and work obligations, they think about the internet nonstop. 

Internet addiction has grown since personal computers and online access first spread in the mid-1990s. Early users got hooked on web surfing and Usenet newsgroups. In the early 2000s when the general public went online, most millennials got addicted to Myspace. 

Since the spread of smartphones in the early 2010s, millions of people globally have gotten hooked on social media apps.

What Causes Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction is caused by the multiple layers of satisfaction provided by social media and infotainment sites. The internet is a nonstop source of titillation, exciting news, available products, armchair adventures, rallying cries, personal validation and other dopamine triggers. The main reasons for internet addiction include:

  • Addictive apps – Sites like Instagram and TikTok took off because they are structured for endless scroll-through and offer momentary thrills. It’s hard for people to pull away from these apps because the user is always cautious about what’s next. One moment it’s a funny reel; the next it’s a hot model; the next it’s a meme that sparks heated internet debates. 
  • Infinite access – The internet is available everywhere and provides instant access to information and visuals on every topic under the sun. At any hour, a user can look up the most obscure topics and spend hours consuming such content. Before the internet, people had to search through libraries hoping to find rare, esoteric knowledge.
  • Endless choices – The internet gives people a multitude of things to do at any given time. A user could go on Instagram and flip through pics of models he fancies, then go over to PornHub to finish off. From there, he could go on Twitter and engage in political flame wars or look up a topic on Wikipedia that leads to endless rabbit holes. 
  • Infotainment overload – The amount of information and entertainment (often combined) is bottomless on the internet. People spend hours on Facebook because user feeds are typically full of articles, pictures, personal updates and videos. A person might go on some unexpected binge on a trending topic or something (or someone) that they hadn’t thought about in a long time.
  • Titillation – The internet offers unrestrained feed for the libido. Before the internet, men had to go out and socialize (or buy naughty magazines) to see attractive women. Now, they can scroll through Instagram or Tumblr and see more hot women in an hour than most pre-internet Casanovas got to see in their lifetime. For highly sexed men, it’s both addictive and a huge disincentive to leave home and socialize. 
  • Armchair thrills – The internet lets people go on daredevil adventures in the safety of their bedrooms. A person could go on youtube to watch death-defying drops and mountain descents, filmed by drones or (sometimes) by actual risk-takers. Video games put users in the driver’s seats of ground, aerial and deep-sea adventures.
  • Gossip – Sensationalism sells because nearly half the population is titillated by gossip. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can keep people glued for hours to the latest tea from their favorite celebrities and influencers. A girl could hear some new rumor about the Kardashians and spend hours rummaging through tweets, news sites and forums for all the details.
  • Flamewars – Two of the internet’s biggest dopamine triggers are endless entertainment and instant satisfaction. Though negative and often contentious, flame wars satisfy these needs because they give people (verbal aggressors in particular) the chance to feel morally and intellectually superior to others. Twitter is the place for endless armchair shouting matches.

In the early days of the internet, addictive online behavior was mostly limited to shy and socially awkward people because they tended to be more tech savvy and privy to the internet before most people knew of its existence. Today, internet addiction affects all types of people, from socially awkward men (and women) to established and aspiring social media influencers.

Behavioral Symptoms of Internet Addiction

The internet creates sedentary users with short attention spans. As people spend more time online, they often become overweight, impatient and accustomed to instant thrills, endless images and free digital products. The internet also drains people of their social skills. Why interact the old-fashioned way when you can look someone up online and lurk? 

  • Social withdrawal – Internet addiction typically causes people to withdraw from friends, family and social activities. The person loses sight of these things because he/she is too consumed with online activity to notice the passing time. Friends/family are things they’ll “get to.” With Facebook, many people leave family interaction at that and neglect real-life meetups. 
  • Insecurity – The internet, social media in particular, causes some people to feel insecure about themselves. A girl might compare herself to the latest celebs and influencers and wonder how she stacks up. A boy might look at the most popular figures in sports, comedy, music and business and wonder if he’ll ever have the same money, prestige and sex appeal.
  • Radicalization – Some people stumble upon extreme, toxic ideologies online and get crazed with newfound zeal. An isolated man might take to the black pill or incel ideologies because they give him a righteous set of explanations for all his failures with the opposite sex. With online anonymity, extremist cults can manifest in the dark, ungoverned corners of the internet.
  • Procrastination – Internet addiction causes people to put off important tasks with looming deadlines. The person doesn’t want to do anything else but surf, post, reply and download. Pressing tasks (work, house chores, important phone calls, taxes, paperwork) are all annoyances that lack the excitement, reward and adventure of online activity.
  • Guilt – As people neglect their responsibilities, internet addiction causes guilt. The user knows that he/she should really be doing something more productive or essential, but can’t pull away from the endless feeds of titillation, gossip, entertainment, free music and numerous other forms of instant gratification.
  • Depression – As time passes by, people get despondent about what they’ve become as internet addiction takes hold. At first, people think they’ll spend just minutes a day on Facebook or Twitter, but minutes turn into hours and before they realize it, the day has passed. Month after month, year after year, people get depressed over what they’ve amounted to in life.
  • Declining work performance – People with internet addiction tend to neglect their work responsibilities. If they work in an office, they’ll constantly check their social media accounts and spend 5-10 minutes at a time browsing, liking and commenting when they’re supposed to be working. If they work at home on their own schedule, they might blow away days online and fall behind financially. 
  • Irresponsible behavior – People glued to the internet are often neglectful of anything beyond their computers or smartphones. Moms glued to Facebook and TikTok often neglect their children. Kids with homework assignments often spend their afternoons and evenings on YouTube, TikTok and other social media apps. 
  • Loneliness – People who are shy and lazy get addicted to the internet because it allows them to interact with others anonymously and see and not be seen. However, most people — no matter how shy, withdrawn, disillusioned or misanthropic — desire real human contact and interaction. Years of internet addiction can make real socialization feel like a relic of a bygone era.
  • Boredom – Despite all the infotainment, titillation and free, instant thrills of the internet, it all gets boring from time to time. Humans are not meant to be glued to screens and limited to artificial contact. People need real-life social and physical activity. Each human needs to feel that he/she has achieved something in life beyond just existing.

If someone you know shows signs of internet addiction, bring the topic up and see how he/she responds. Unlike drug or alcohol addiction, which often puts people in denial, most people are aware when they spend too much time on the internet. Most over-consumed internet users know they should balance their lives with other activities.

Physical Signs of Internet Addiction

Over time, internet addiction takes its toll on a user’s physical health. A sedentary life is unhealthy, regardless of a person’s diet and pre-existing physical condition. Some of the key physical symptoms of internet addiction include:

  • Insomnia – Internet addiction causes people to ignore their proper hours and stay up way late into the night reading tweets, watching videos, browsing pics, consuming porn and lurking on people. It’s hard to wind down in front of so much technology. The lack of sleep can also feed into depression.
  • Lethargy – As internet insomnia takes hold, users get lazy during hours when they’re supposed to be alert and productive. People need to sleep at certain hours so they can be awake at certain hours. To properly unwind, people who must commute to work in the morning should turn their PCs off two hours before bedtime.
  • Declining appearance – When people are glued to their screens all day, they often neglect their hygiene and grooming. Unless the user is a beauty, fitness or fashion influencer, internet addiction makes people complacent about their appearance because they’re not going out and being seen.
  • Declining eyesight – Internet screens can take their toll on a user’s eyesight. This is especially true for avid smartphone users who spend hours on end scrolling the small-text feeds on their Twitter and Facebook apps.
  • Back pain – Obsessive internet use can also cause a person back pain. This is especially true for PC desktop users who spend hours each day seated at their computer desks. Some people slouch in their chairs and sit with bad posture, which can take its toll on the spine.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – Internet addiction can cause pinched nerves in the wrists, which cause hand and arm pain. This is especially true for smartphone users who constantly type with one hand (awkwardly) onto their keypads while doing other things, such as shopping.
  • Sore neck – Internet addiction can put users’ necks ajar. It’s the same as back pain; users hurt their necks by sitting at their computers with bad posture. The user might not notice the physical bad habit until it hurts because he/she is too consumed with stuff on the screen.
  • Weight gain – The sedentary life often leads to weight gain. When people stay seated at their computers for hours on end, they’ll often keep sugary snacks and carbs nearby. To bide time on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, the user might consume a bag of donuts or a box of Hershey’s Kisses.

Internet addiction is unhealthy on the mental, physical and psychological levels. Before the mid-1990s when the word “internet” first spread among the general public, there was no such thing as people glued to interactive screens all day. TV addiction had long been a problem but that never offered the infinite choice and instant gratification of the internet, the most addictive non-drug today.

Internet Addiction Treatment Programs

People do not get addicted to the internet in the physical sense. Unlike heroin and fentanyl, which spread euphoric and numbing feelings throughout the body that make users physically addicted, there is nothing about the internet that leaves users with physical withdrawal symptoms once they lose access. Internet addiction is a habit that can be overcome with:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – For most people, negative and unhealthy behavioral habits stem from deep-seated beliefs and internal dialogue that the conscious mind doesn’t control. CBT helps subjects identify these thoughts and reverse them so the person can more easily change his behavior. 
  • Experiential therapy – This involves experiencing activities like art, music, animal care and outdoor adventures: all things that get people away from their PCs and laptops. Behavioral therapy centers often get people to take up painting, drawing, writing, hiking, equine therapy (interaction with horses) and other creative and engaging activities.
  • Life skills training – This helps people develop better interpersonal skills on the outside. A lot of people get hooked on the internet because it requires no social responsibility or direct interaction. Other people lose their social skills through constant internet use. In life skills training, people learn how to talk, socialize and engage in real-life activities without the internet.

It takes 30-40 days to develop a new habit. When a subject improves by 1% each day, it all adds up within months. Anyone can overcome internet addiction if they commit to other activities and develop self-discipline and new interests. 

Get Help for Internet Addiction

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

If someone you know is addicted to the internet, get that person the help he/she needs. Across the US, centers for behavioral addiction offer therapeutic programs that focus on life-skills training. This teaches people how to regulate their time and develop self-discipline and proactive habits.

Call the behavioral therapy centers in your area and ask about their programs and financing options. Your call could help turn someone’s life around.

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