Trapped on the Web: Internet Addiction Disorder
by Amy Scholten, MPH
The Internet has changed our lives. We use it to find information and connect with friends. Some of us shop online. Others spend hours reading blogs, playing games, or even looking for love. And some get addicted to it.
Life Spent in Front of Screens
Priscilla met her boyfriend through a chat room. "I am not sure how I got attracted to him over the computer. But that is how our relationship started," she says.
John is a computer technician. He spends hours playing computer games at work. He connects with many people through instant messaging. "In my role as tech support, there is a lot of downtime. We just wait for someone to call for help. The computer really helps with those slow moments."
Neither Priscilla nor John has a problem. The Internet does not interfere with their work or relationhips. However, there are others who use the Internet to avoid human contact and responsibilities.
When the Web Takes Control
Internet addiction comes in different forms. Some people overuse web-based games. Others spend a lot of time on pornography sites. A large number of people simply stay online too long. These behaviors can cause problems with relationships and work.
Signs of Internet Addiction
Internet addiction has mental and physical signs.
Mental signs are:
Physical signs may include:
Treating the Addiction
It may be hard to change, but you can overcome Internet addiction. Here are some tips to get started:
Moderation, Control and Time Management
It is not realistic to completely stop using the Internet. Instead, try to set times and schedules for Internet use. Pay attention to when and how you use it. Cut back on the time. Schedule more face-to-face events.
Internet addiction can be treated. Cognitive behavior therapy often works well for this problem. This therapy helps a person change unwanted thinking and behaviors.
If you feel you have a problem, talk to your doctor or a therapist. Help is available.
American Psychological Association
Mental Health America
Canadian Mental Health Association
Brief interventions and motivational interviewing. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/evaluation/brief-interventions-and-motivational-interviewing. Accessed June 11, 2021.
Internet and computer addiction. Helpguide website. Available at:
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Accessed June 11, 2021.
Internet gaming. American Psychiatric Association webiste. Available at: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/internet-gaming. Accessed June 11, 2021.
Self-help: computer addiction. Counseling and Psychological Services—University of California at Santa Cruz website. Available at: https://caps.ucsc.edu/pdf/computer-addiction.pdf. Accessed June 11, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/11/2021
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