Last updated: 09/25/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 5 minutes
As inconsequential as surfing the net may seem, some people can get drawn into a cycle of excess that eventually leads to addiction when left unattended. In spite of the its having only been invented 20 years ago, enough people have fallen prey to a diagnosable condition known as internet addiction disorder.
People who struggle with internet addiction symptoms well know how the draw of the Internet can cause considerable disruption within their everyday lives. Internet addiction symptoms work in much the same way as any addiction-based behaviors, interfering with and eventually taking over important areas in a person’s life. If you recognize the symptoms it is important that you make necessary changes and seek help.
Internet addiction symptoms can take various forms, including:
- Gambling online
- Cybersex relationships
- Web surfing
- Online gaming
- Social networking
Not surprisingly, combating internet addiction symptoms requires the same focus and determination as overcoming any other type of addiction-based behavior.
Internet Addiction Symptoms
According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, internet addiction is a process-based addiction as opposed to the substance-based addictions involving drugs and alcohol. Process-based addictions center around compulsive behaviors that, over time, turn into obsessive behaviors.
Like substance-based disorders, an overall disregard for negative consequences most characterizes internet addiction. Other defining characteristics include:
- Planning or organizing one’s day around spending time online
- Neglecting important relationships to spend more time online
- Being preoccupied with online activities even when away from the computer
- Spending large amounts of time online
- Denial of the problem
Like other types of addiction, the emotional “rush” experienced while on the Internet plays a pivotal role in driving the addiction problem. If you or someone you know struggles with controlling your time spent online, here are 10 ways to combat your internet addiction symptoms –
10 Ways to Combat Internet Addiction Symptoms
1. Acknowledge the Problem
Seeing an addiction problem for what it is can one of the most difficult internet addiction symptoms to overcome. The emotional surges that come with being online trigger the release of neurotransmitter chemicals in the same way drugs and alcohol do.
With frequent, ongoing Internet use, a state of chemical imbalance takes root in the brain. Before long, this imbalance starts to affect the brain’s reward system, which regulates thought patterns, motivations and drive.
This system works closely with the limbic system, the area that regulates emotion. These developments account for why it’s so difficult to acknowledge an internet addiction problem.
2. Tapering Your Time
Gradually reducing the amount of time spent online can help in combating internet addiction symptoms. Even though there’s no actual substance involved, stopping Internet use altogether will likely bring on withdrawal effects, some of which include:
- Feelings of sadness
- Problems sleeping
A gradual tapering allows the brain to wean off the Internet’s effects and restore its natural chemical balance.
3. Identify and Work On Underlying Issues
As with any form of addiction, underlying emotional issues often drive the need to escape from everyday life. Underlying issues may take the form of:
- High levels of stress
- Past traumas involving grief or loss
- Past or present abuse issues
- Poor interpersonal skills
Working through the underlying issues that drive internet addiction symptom enables you to address the problem at its core and gradually eliminate the emotional need that drives compulsive online activity.
4. Set Boundaries
Over time, an internet addiction takes up increasing amounts of time as the brain grows more dependent on the chemical effects that come with being online. When left unchecked, a person loses control over his or her ability to limit time spent online.
Setting boundaries on internet use can help in combating this internet addiction symptom. This may entail scheduling a certain time of day to be online or limiting the types of activities you engage in online.
5. Change Your Routine
Addiction, in general, breeds its own habits, behaviors and routines that gradually turn into a lifestyle. Combating internet addiction symptoms means replacing the routines that support the addiction with other activities or pursuits. For example, instead of going online as soon as you get home, go for a walk or invite a friend over.
In essence, once you get on the Internet your ability to control the compulsion drops dramatically. Postponing time spent online or doing something else altogether makes it easier to control the amount of time you spend on the Internet.
Asking friends and family to hold you accountable for setting limits on internet activity can make it easier to combat internet addiction symptoms throughout the day
7. Avoid Recreational Online Activities
While certain activities such as paying bills and work-related tasks may require the use of the Internet, internet addiction symptoms can easily crop up when spending too much time engaged in online recreational activities.
8. Schedule Your Free Time
The temptation to hop online during your free time can be overwhelming. Leaving these time slots empty only opens the door for internet addiction symptoms to fill the space. Scheduling your free with other activities, such as an exercise regimen or doing yard work can greatly reduce the temptation to go on the Internet.
9. Develop Other Interests
Someone who’s developed an internet addiction expends a considerable amount of emotional energy while online. Developing other types of enjoyable interests provides new healthy ways to fill the emotional void left behind by Internet addiction.
10. Consider Counseling
In the case of chronic, long-term internet addiction, it’s not uncommon for a person to develop other psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression-based disorders. When this is the case, it’s best to get professional help in the form of counseling or psychotherapy. Under these conditions, internet addiction symptoms will only get worse without some form of professional treatment help.
According to the Pew Research Center, a 2013 survey showed 85 percent of American adults use the Internet on a regular basis. Considering the prominent role the Internet has in today’s technology-driven age, it’s not practical to stop using the Internet altogether.
For these reasons, it’s important to remain cognizant of any tendency or urge to spend excess amounts of time online. Much like food addicts have to deal with temptation on a regular basis, the internet addict must remain vigilant or else internet addiction symptoms will likely resurface.