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For years on end, excessive alcohol use was considered acceptable behavior, particularly for males. Once it became impossible to ignore the repercussions from excessive drinking, alcohol addiction came to the forefront. Likewise, the Internet has become a part of everyday life making it a completely acceptable behavior. As a result, it can be difficult to spot the signs of internet addiction, and maybe even more so difficult since the Internet has become a part of daily life.
According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, the behaviors that make up internet addiction match the behaviors that define compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorders. In other words, internet addiction functions as a process-based disorder as opposed to substance-based disorders like alcoholism and drug addiction.
If you suspect you or someone you know may be addicted to the Internet, here are the top 10 signs of internet addiction to watch out for:
- Planning – inventing reasons to use the Internet, such as fact-checking. Sectioning out time-intervals to go online without any real purpose to be online. “Sneaking” online when you’re not supposed to be.
- Relationship Problems – neglecting friend and family relationships to spend more time on the Internet. This sign of internet addiction also includes replacing actual face-to-face relationship time with online interactions. In face-to-face encounters, such as dinner at a restaurant, a person is participating in online exchanges using a mobile device.
- Preoccupation – wondering what’s going on in your favorite chatroom. Looking forward to a favorite site or online game. Worrying about unattended emails. A feeling of longing to be online.
- Loss of Time – losing track of time while online. This sign of internet addiction especially relates to certain internet-based addictions, such as cyberporn, online gambling and online games. This also includes getting “lost in the computer” in general (computer code programming, mobile and desktop games)
- Inability to Stop or Cut Back – This is an across-the-board addiction symptom. As a sign of internet addiction, this one directly ties into the urges and drives an addiction brings.
- Withdrawal Symptoms – someone who gets irritable, restless, depressed and/or moody when spending time away from the Internet. Like the inability to stop or cut back, this sign of internet addiction applies for all types of addictions.
- Accessibility – making sure the Internet is accessible everywhere you go. This includes keeping a laptop open at all times and compulsively checking your mobile device for updates from sites like Twitter and Facebook.
- Escaping – using the Internet as a way to relieve feelings of depression, anxiety, helplessness and/or guilt. This also includes using the Internet to escape from relationship conflicts and/or responsibilities.
- Emotional Response – feelings of euphoria while engaged in Internet activities. Feelings of anticipation and excitement when looking forward to being online.
- Jeopardizing Major Life Areas – Of all the signs of internet addiction, this one is most telling. Losing a job or losing someone important in your life because of time spent online is the telltale symptom of an addiction problem.