Internet Addiction Signs and Symptoms
Are you concerned about addiction to the Internet? Here are the signs and symptoms of Internet addiction.
Behavioral Symptoms of Internet Addiction
No single behavior pattern defines Internet addiction. These behaviors or symptoms of Internet addiction, when they have taken control of addicts' lives and become unmanageable, include:
- compulsive use of the Internet
- a preoccupation with being online
- lying or hiding the extent or nature of your online behavior
- an inability to control or curb your online behavior
If your Internet use pattern interferes with your life in any way shape or form, (e.g. does it impact your work, family life, relationships, school, etc.) realize you may be experiencing the signs of Internet addiction and you may have a problem. (Take our Internet Addiction Test) In addition, if you find that you are using the Internet as a means to regularly alter your mood, you may be developing a problem. It is important to note that it is not the actual time spent online that determines if you have a problem, but rather how that time you spend impacts your life.
Key Signs and Symptoms of Internet Addiction
How do you know if you have an Addiction to the Internet?
Internet addiction specialist, Dr. Kimberly Young has identified 8 major symptoms of Internet addiction. She suggests that if five or more of these signs of Internet addiction apply to you that you consider seeing a mental health specialist about your internet use:
- Preoccupation -- You think constantly about previous online activity or keep looking forward to the next online session. Some people crave time on the Internet the way a smoker craves a cigarette.
- Increased use -- You need to spend increasing amounts of time online to achieve satisfaction. A parent who's spending 50 hours a week in a chat room might neglect basic responsibilities such as doing laundry or making dinner for the kids.
- Inability to stop -- You can't cut back on your Internet use, even after several attempts. Some people can't stop visiting chat rooms while at the office, even though they know their bosses are monitoring the sites they visit.
- Withdrawal symptoms -- You feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when you attempt to stop or cut down Internet use. Some people feel so grumpy in jobs where they can't go online that they make excuses to go home and use the computer.
- Lost sense of time -- Everyone lets time slip by occasionally while on the Internet. Consider it a problem if it happens to you consistently when you're online and you're also experiencing some of the other symptoms on this list.
- Risky behaviors -- You jeopardize a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of Internet use. One man decided to leave his wife of 22 years for someone he had corresponded with on the Internet for a couple of months.
- Lies -- You lie to family members, a therapist, or others to conceal the extent of your involvement with the Internet. Someone who's seeing a therapist for depression might not tell the therapist about her Internet use.
- Escape to the Internet -- You use the Internet as a way to avoid thinking about problems, or to allay depression or feelings of helplessness. One CEO constantly downloaded pornography for stress relief at work.
If you're concerned about your level of internet use, take our Internet addiction test and bring the results to your doctor or mental healthcare professional. Read this if you are a parent who is concerned that their child or teenager is addicted to the Internet.
Ed. Note: Internet addiction disorder is not listed in the mental health professional's handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV).
- Young, K. S. (1998b). Caught in the Net: How to recognize the signs of Internet addiction and a winning strategy for recovery. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Last Updated: 20 June 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD