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What is Internet Addiction Disorder?

Internet Addiction Disorder, which may also often be called Compulsive Internet Use (CIU) or Problematic Internet Use (PIU), is an addiction involving excessive Internet use that negatively affects one’s quality of life. Internet Addiction Disorder impacts a large portion of the population in both the United States and Europe; studies have shown approximately 8.2% of the general population suffers from this condition.

Internet Addiction Disorder has become a more widely accepted condition among medical professionals in recent years. With remarkable advancements in technology have come greater and more widespread fixation on the Internet. The Internet is practically omnipresent in many cultures around the world, making it more difficult to escape from the virtual world than it used to be. As a result, some people feel unable to control the amount of time that they spend on the Internet. Eventually, this may impact other areas of their lives and keep them from living a healthy, balanced life.

Signs of Internet Addiction

Internet use crosses the line from a healthy interest to an addiction with a few troubling signs:

  • The individual has a preoccupation with the Internet and thinks about the Internet while engaged in other activities.
  • The individual becomes moody, irritable, or angry when forced to stop using the Internet for a period of time.
  • The individual needs to use the Internet for increasingly long periods of time to feel the same level of contentment from it.
  • The individual has tried and failed to limit, reduce, and/or stop Internet use.

Other signs that are prevalent in people with Internet addiction include:

  • A disinterest or neglect of personal relationships, school or work-related obligations, and/or career-related goals
  • The use of the Internet as an escape from stress and anxiety
  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms (like trouble sleeping, mood swings, loss of appetite, etc.) if you’re forced to stop using the Internet
  • Dishonesty about the amount of time spent on the Internet to friends, family members, or a therapist

How is Internet Addiction Disorder Treated?

Internet Addiction treatment must start with a recognition of the trouble. People with Internet Addiction Disorder may struggle to identify that they have a problem. So, the intervention of a close friend or family member may be helpful.

In minor cases of Internet Addiction, self-monitoring and self-correcting can be successful. There are online tools to help with this including apps or software to monitor time spent online and restrict websites that can be visited.

Therapy is a common and often effective treatment option for different types of addiction, including Internet Addiction Disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may be successful for people with Internet Addiction because it focuses on replacing destructive habits with healthy ones. Over time, this treatment method may help people with Internet Addiction spend less time on the Internet and stop poor Internet habits, such as online gambling.

Group therapy for Internet Addiction may help struggling individuals feel supported and motivated on the path to recovery. Group therapy can be especially helpful in people with Internet Addiction who feel isolated and/or struggle with in-person interactions.

Internet Addiction Disorder may commonly be accompanied by conditions including depression, anxiety, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD, among others. When Internet Addiction is combined with another condition, medications may be a helpful treatment option.


Mental health issues are real, common, and treatable. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 20% of those are considered serious. 17% of 6-17 year olds experience a mental health disorder. So the first thing to remember is this: You are not alone.

If you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, and particularly if those issues are preventing you from living life to the full or feeling yourself, you may want to consider professional help which can make an enormous difference.

And to be clear, you don't need to be going through a crisis in order to justify getting help. In fact, it can be advantageous from a treatment perspective to identify and deal with issues early and before they have a major impact on your life. Either way you should feel encouraged and able to seek help however you are feeling.

Mental health professionals such as licensed therapist can help in a range of ways including:

  • Help you identify where, when, and how issues arise
  • Develop coping strategies for specific symptoms and issues
  • Encourage resilience and self-management
  • Identify and change negative behaviors
  • Identify and encourage positive behaviors
  • Heal pain from past trauma
  • Figure out goals and waypoints
  • Build self-confidence

Treatment for mental health issues, and psychotherapy (sometimes known as 'talk therapy') in particular, frequently helps people to feel better, manage, and even get rid of their symptoms. For example, did you know that over 80% of people treated for depression materially improve? Or that treatment for panic disorder has a 90% success rate?

Other treatment options include medication which, in some cases, can be highly effective when administered in combination with psychotherapy.

So what is psychotherapy? It involves talking about your problems and concerns with a mental health professional. It can take lots of forms, including individual, group, couples and family sessions. Often, people see their therapists once a week for 50 minutes to start with and then reducing frequency as time goes on and issues subside. Treatment can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few years depending on your particular situation and response.

Never think that getting help is a sign of weakness. It isn't. In fact, it can be a sign of strength and maturity to take the steps necessary to becoming you again and getting your life back on track.


Are you in distress? If so, or if you think that you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:

  • Call your mental health specialist.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.

If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:

  • Make sure someone stays with that person.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.

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