Recognizing the Dangers of Addiction to the Internet

Addictions Content Team Info icon
Calendar icon Last Updated: 09/25/2018

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Since its inception, the Internet has quickly become a part of every facet of daily life, from home to work to traveling from place to place. Computers, laptops, IPads and IPhones make it possible to take the Internet wherever we go.

As convenient as all this may be, there comes a point where convenience and habit can turn into an addiction to the Internet. Recognizing the dangers of internet addiction can help you stop the habit in its tracks or take the necessary steps to break free from an addiction lifestyle.

The Addictive Nature of the Internet

Addiction to the Internet

Internet addiction can lead to social isolation and depression.

85 percent of American adults use the Internet. While some people can just “use” the Internet, others must “have” the Internet. Interestingly enough, the path from internet use to internet addiction follows pretty much the same path as any form of addiction; and like substance abuse addictions, certain types of people are more susceptible than others.

All addictions consist of certain key behaviors that make a particular habit stand out:

  • An intense need to have or do
  • Inability to control an addictive act
  • Feelings of withdrawal when the need goes unfulfilled

An addiction to the Internet has all of these characteristics.

The random, intermittent rewards derived from receiving Emails, Tweets and Facebook updates is comparable to B.F. Skinner’s findings on how addictions develop. Skinner noted the more random the reward process the more addictive a behavior can become.

Withdrawal Symptoms

While many may question whether addiction to the Internet is even possible or real, the appearance of withdrawal symptoms should send up red flags regardless. Of all the “supposed” symptoms of Internet addiction, any behavior (or substance) that brings on physical changes in the body when it’s withheld has some kind of hold on a person’s sense of well-being.

Feelings of euphoria, the “rush,” the eager anticipation are all key aspects of an alcohol and drug addiction. An addition to the Internet works in much the same way. These feelings bring on chemical changes in the brain that directly affect the brain’s reward system. If a person experiences relief and/or joy after a long period away from the Internet, that’s the brain’s reward system in action.

As far as the brain and body are concerned, addiction to the Internet is real.

Effects on Daily Life

More than anything else, the effects of an addiction to the internet on a person’s daily life can wreak havoc on personal relationships, work life, and overall health. As spending time with friends and family is what keeps these relationships intact, neglecting personal relationships to spend time online inevitably damages ties with friends and family.

For people who have internet access at work, an addiction to the internet poses a genuine threat to work productivity, and ultimately to a person’s overall job status. In terms of physical and emotional health, an addiction to the internet leaves a person at risk of isolation, depression and the resulting health problems these conditions bring.