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The Signs and Dangers of Internet Addiction

Addiction to the internet can cause a great deal of suffering for people. Like other types of addiction, it leads the individual in a downward spiral, and things will continue to deteriorate until the person is able to stop the behaviour. It is vital that people are able to spot the symptoms of this behaviour so that they can get some help to escape the problem.

Symptoms of Internet Addiction

The symptoms of internet addiction can include:

  • The person has lost interest in other activities that they used to enjoy. The only thing that they seem to be interested in doing these days is going online.
  • They are spending increasing amounts of time online.
  • The person may tend to lose track of time when they go online. They log on and are so caught up in what they are doing that hours will pass without them even noticing.
  • The individual is failing to meet their work, family, or social commitments because of using the internet so much.
  • This person may not like to go anywhere unless they are going to have access to the internet. They may take a mobile device with them wherever they go and constantly spend their time surfing the web or engaging in social media.
  • Other people have expressed concern about the amount of time the individual spends online.
  • The individual sometimes wonders if their life might be better if they did not spend so much time online.
  • The person may become defensive if their level of internet use is brought into question. This is a sign that they are in denial about the problem.
  • They may attempt to hide the extent of their internet use.
  • The individual goes online every day and doesn’t like to miss a day.
  • The person may feel uncomfortable with the idea of not having access to the internet, and they may feel that they would be unable to cope without it.
  • The individual spends a great deal of their time talking about things that happen online.
  • The person spends so much time playing games online that they have started to lose touch with reality. They may develop problems distinguishing between the game world and the real world. The person may even feel like they are in a game when they are doing things like driving their car – this can be very dangerous.
  • Eating at the computer. The person cannot even bare to be away from the internet long enough to eat their meals.
  • The individual may decide to cut down on their internet use, but they only manage to do this for a short time. Like other addicts, they have no real control over their usage.
  • The person may suffer withdrawal symptoms when they are not able to use the internet or when they try to quit. This could include things like moodiness and anxiety, and they may feel unable to cope with things.

It is important to keep in mind that it is not necessary to have all, or even most, of these symptoms in order to have an internet addiction.

Types of Internet Addiction

There are actually a number of different types of internet addiction in which people can fall into, including:

  • Addiction to online sexual content
  • Addiction to social media
  • Addiction to gaming
  • Addiction to online forums
  • Addiction to browsing the web for information
  • Addiction to blogging
  • Addiction to online news media
  • Addiction to peer to peer sharing
  • Addiction to pirated material
  • Online gambling

Some individuals may be addicted to a number of different forms of online content.

Dangers of Internet Addiction

Internet addiction might not sound as dangerous as alcohol or drug addiction, but it can certainly have a tremendously negative impact on the person’s life, and it may even lead to their death. The dangers of internet addiction can include:

  • The individual may be using the internet as a way to hide from their problems in life. This means that these problems are never sorted, and they just keep mounting up. This means that the individual’s life will keep on deteriorating, and they are likely to respond to this by increasing their time online – this means that they are caught in a downward cycle.
  • The fact that the individual is spending so much time online means that they will not be paying enough attention to their other responsibilities. This will not only negatively affect their own life, but it is also likely to affect the life of their family and friends.
  • In order to have an enjoyable life it is vital that people have a balance of activities – some of these should be active activities such as sports. If the person is addicted to the internet, it means that their life is out of balance, and this will be moving them away from happiness and fulfilment.
  • Internet addiction can lead to symptoms of depression. The individual may become so dissatisfied with their life that it leads them to contemplate suicide.
  • The person will be missing many of the real great things of life such as family and friends.
  • Sitting at the computer can be physically damaging to the person as well. Staring at a screen all the time can fry their eyes and too much sitting down can take years off their life. In fact, it has even been suggested that excessive sitting is the most dangerous thing that people can do.
  • Their lack of exercise may mean that the individual becomes obese. This will mean that they have even less energy to do things in the real world, and they may suffer from body image problems.
  • The individual can lose the ability to socialise with people in a normal way. They may reach a stage where they only really have online friends.
  • The person can completely lose touch with reality. This may be particularly likely to happen if the person becomes addicted to online gaming.
  • The individual may fall into types of unethical behaviour that they would never otherwise engage in. This could include becoming involved in cybercrime or supporting sexually exploitive websites.
  • One of the most dangerous forms of internet addiction involves online gambling. Once the individual becomes caught up in this form of gambling, they can start to lose large sums of money. There are many examples of people who have lost all of their financial wealth, and ended up in debt, because of internet addiction.

Internet Addiction in Recovery

It is not uncommon for people to break away from addiction to alcohol or drugs only to fall into new addictions. One of the addiction substitutes that the person may turn to is the internet. This is very dangerous because not only will it prevent them from making progress in recovery, but it may also lead them right back to addiction.

How to End Internet Addiction

Some individuals may be able to bring their internet usage under control themselves, but in many cases the person will need help in order to do this. The most important thing will be figuring out why the person fell into this addiction in the first place. It will often be because they were struggling to deal with life, and they were turning to the internet as a way to escape their problems. The goal of treatment then will be give the individual the tools they need in order to cope with life, so that they no longer feel the need to hide from things. This is just the same as the process involved in recovering from any type of addiction.

Those individuals who are trying to bring their internet usage under control can attempt the following:

  • They can try putting strict limits on their internet usage. For example, the individual may commit to only going online for an hour every second day. If they are able to commit to this long-term, it should mean the end of their internet addiction.
  • The individual can try to develop new interests that do not involve going online. It can be particularly important to engage in physical activities such as walking or going to the gym – this has the effect of grounding the person.

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