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Is Internet Addiction a Real Thing?

You may have heard someone flippantly claim that they are addicted to the internet when they spend a lot of time online. While many people are using the phrase as an exaggeration, some people do find themselves engaging in problematic and uncontrollable behaviors related to the internet. For this issue, many treatment centers use the term internet addiction.

Understanding the Controversy of Internet Addiction

There’s a lot of controversy around the concept of internet addiction. Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition—Text Revision (DSM-5-RV) does not classify it as a diagnosable disorder. Internet gaming addiction is included as a possible future diagnosis that warrants consideration. However, internet addiction itself is only listed as something that needs more research before it can be considered. While gaming disorder is included in the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11), internet addiction still isn’t considered a classifiable disorder.

Additionally, there’s a huge division among clinicians as to how we should classify disordered internet use. Many mental health professionals think it should be classified as an impulse control disorder (ICD). Others advocate for it being part of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Even more, professionals think it is simply a symptom of anxiety and depression. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how it’s classified. The symptoms are still the same and worth treating.

Symptoms of Internet Addiction

When you discuss internet addiction as a disordered behavior, it’s important to understand the symptoms. With internet addiction, you may experience the following:

  • Avoiding activities you previously enjoyed
  • Lying about and hiding internet usage
  • Anger and frustration when pausing internet usage
  • Spending most of your time on the internet
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor memory
  • Irritability
  • Cutting off relationships to maintain internet usage
  • Academic or work difficulties related to internet usage
  • Difficulty distinguishing between online life and in-person life
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Unplanned weight changes
  • Lack of self-care, like eating or showering
  • Stiffness and pain from sitting in one position for too long
  • Eye strain
  • Fatigue
  • Increasing need for the internet to receive the same benefits

Now that you understand the symptomology of internet addiction, let’s go into the treatment goals.

Setting Treatment Goals

Unlike with other forms of addiction, the goal of treatment isn’t complete abstinence. That’s simply unrealistic. The internet offers access to open information, and many careers and education programs require some amount of internet usage. Rather than complete avoidance, the goal of internet addiction treatment is to find a reasonable balance of time on and off the internet. It also involves finding a way to emotionally regulate and detach from the internet through the use of therapy. With your mental health professional, you may decide on certain time constraints. You also may allow or disallow yourself from visiting select websites.

Do you feel an uncontrollable urge to go online? Does the internet occupy your thoughts? Do you sacrifice your work and relationships in order to maintain your internet usage? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may need treatment for internet addiction. At The Guest House, we understand that process addictions can cause just as many problems as substance addictions. Our team can help you learn to limit or manage your relationship with the internet. We’ll offer you support in finding a healthy balance. When you’re ready to start your healing journey, call (855) 483-7800.