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What are the signs and symptoms of internet addiction?

Like any other compulsive behaviour such as gambling, spending long hours on the internet to shop, browse or game, can produce a rush of dopamine, the brain chemical associated with pleasure. This creates an experience that is similar to that of a drug-induced high, which can be the catalyst for developing symptoms of internet addiction.

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. Excessive use of social media, gaming, or even online shopping usually indicates that a problem with internet misuse exists, and it can be difficult to break a negative cycle of excessive internet use, which ultimately impacts on other aspects of your life.

Priory’s treatment for internet addiction aims to reduce the impact of compulsive internet use through a combination of self-help groups and counselling focused on abstinence and gradual reduction of internet use over time. We are also able to offer a 12-Step rehabilitation programme which can be effective for the more severe cases of internet addiction, providing sufficient tools for life as a recovering addict, with support from others who share the same experiences.

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

Behavioural symptoms of internet addiction:

Common symptoms of an internet addiction can include:

  • 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
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Physical symptoms of internet addiction:

  • 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 of internet addiction:

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

Social symptoms of internet addiction:

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

This page was reviewed by Stephanie Chick (FDAP) in July 2020.

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