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by Scholten A

Trapped on the Web: Internet Addiction Disorder

IMAGE 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.
Internet addiction is also linked to other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder.

Signs of Internet Addiction

Internet addiction has mental and physical signs.
Mental signs are:
  • Feeling sad or empty when not at the screen
  • Craving more and more time at the computer or smartphone
  • Problems with job or school due to time spent on the Internet
  • Not being honest about how much time is spent on the computer or smartphone
  • Ignoring family and friends
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.

Behavior Modification

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.

RESOURCES

American Psychological Association
http://www.apa.org
Mental Health America
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Mental Health Association
http://www.cmha.ca
Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

References

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: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/internet-and-computer-addiction.htm. 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.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board
  • Review Date: 06/2021
  • Update Date: 06/11/2021