Signs and symptoms of internet addiction

Like any other compulsive behaviour (e.g. gambling), spending long hours on the internet to shop, browse or game, can produce a rush of endorphins (brain chemicals associated with pleasure) that creates an experience similar to that of a drug-induced high. This scenario can lead you to build up a tolerance, meaning that you will need to spend more hours online in order to achieve the same effects. This usually indicates that a problem with internet misuse exists.

Some of the typical signs and symptoms that would indicate that you may be suffering from an internet addiction are described below:

Behavioural symptoms:

  • No longer engaging in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Spending most waking hours online
  • Anger or agitation if you are asked to step away from your device of choice
  • Lying about your internet use
  • Concealing your internet use

Physical symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Aches and pains from lack of movement
  • Digestive problems
  • Change in physical appearance/no longer paying attention to grooming or hygiene
  • Unintended weight loss or weight gain

Mental symptoms:

  • Poor concentration capabilities
  • Trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy
  • Memory impairment

Social symptoms:

  • Irritable mood
  • Social isolation
  • Employment problems
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Academic difficulty

Effects of internet addiction

As with any addictive behaviour, if you find yourself unable to control your internet use, all other aspects of your life will begin to suffer in some way. Left untreated, an internet addiction may result in the following negative effects:

  • Job loss
  • Academic failure
  • Loss of friendships
  • Health problems (e.g. dry eyes, headaches, stiffness, neck and back problems)
  • Financial hardship
  • Onset of other mental health conditions
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you cannot access the internet (e.g. panic, anger, irritability and fear)

However, when you choose to get professional help for an addiction to the internet, these effects can be remedied or avoided altogether.

Internet addiction statistics

At its most extreme, internet addiction can be deadly. Specifically, individuals who engage in online gaming for hours and days at a time put themselves at considerable risk. This dangerous trend is being felt harshly in places like China, where the government has begun placing restrictions on hours of operability for internet cafes and limiting the amount of time that young people are permitted to spend gaming in these places.

This wave of new legislation has come on the heels of several deaths due to prolonged gaming in China. Now being referred to as 'game fatigue', this deadly scenario usually results after a multi-day gaming binge during which the player experiences extreme exhaustion and subsequent cardiac arrest.

In our modern digital era, most of us are connected to the internet 24/7. Being online seems no longer optional, and in order to complete daily tasks at home, work or school, most of us reach for our smartphones or laptops constantly.

But in recent years, all this connectivity has garnered some criticism. Parents and teachers fear that young people are more engaged with their screens than with their peers and that social skills development is becoming stunted.

Of course adults are not immune to internet misuse, and when your internet habit begins to interfere with your ability to meet your responsibilities or to care for yourself or others, you may be suffering from an internet addiction. Sadly, what may begin as a harmless form of escapism can quickly turn into a compulsion. If you find yourself spending more and more time online and feeling as though you are unable to remove yourself from your screen even though you want to, professional help is likely needed.

Find out more about internet addiction treatment.

For further details on how Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding internet addiction treatment, please call  0800 840 3219 or click here to make an enquiry.