Internet addiction

We are all guilty of spending too much time on the internet. We get lost in the endless cycle of checking our emails, scrolling through apps and watching videos on YouTube. But for some people, this reliance on the internet can become an addiction which can cause serious problems in life and often requires professional help to overcome.

Person using their laptop

What is internet addiction?

Internet addiction is a behavioural addiction which results in a compulsive need to be online despite it negatively affecting your life. It is often characterised by an inability to control how much time you spend online and neglecting important aspects of your life such as work, school or relationships in favour of using the internet.

One major factor behind internet addiction is that websites and other online content are intentionally designed to be addictive. New websites, for example, use algorithms to keep users engaged by showing them content that is similar to what they have liked in the past. This can create a feedback loop that encourages people to spend more and more time on the site. Clickbait headlines and titles (“You Won’t Believe What This Celeb Did!”) are another way that internet addiction is fostered. These headlines are designed to get people to click on the link so that they can see the content, which keeps them engaged with the site.

When you have an internet addiction, attempting to quit can be difficult. You may experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and depression which can force you to start browsing again. When you are at this point, the best way to overcome internet addiction is with professional internet addiction treatment.

How does internet addiction develop?

Person chained to their laptop

At a physical level, internet addiction is caused by a dopamine imbalance in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the pleasure and reward centres of the brain. When you do something that makes you feel good, such as eating your favourite food, watching an exciting film or browsing your favourite website, dopamine is released and you experience feelings of pleasure. After a while, your brain becomes used to the dopamine release and needs more and more internet activity to get the same feeling. This is called tolerance and it eventually leads to a point where you need to go online just to feel “normal”. At this stage, internet addiction has developed.

People who develop internet addiction often do so because they are seeking out this feeling of pleasure. They may be going through a difficult time in their life and turn to the internet as a way to escape from their problems. This can be due to issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression.

Who is most at risk of internet addiction?

Internet addiction can affect anyone, but there are certain groups of people who are more at risk than others. These include:

Young people: Research has shown that internet addiction is more common in young people, particularly those aged 18-24. This may be because young people are more likely to use the internet for leisure activities such as social media and gaming.

Men: Internet addiction is more common in men than women. This may be because men are more likely to use the internet for activities such as online gambling and pornography, which can be more addictive than other types of internet use.

People with mental health problems: If you have a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression, you are more at risk of developing an internet addiction. This is because you may be using the internet as a way to escape from your problems.

People who are socially isolated: If you don’t have many real-life social interactions, you may be more likely to turn to the internet for companionship. This can lead to excessive internet use and eventually internet addiction.

What are the negative effects of internet addiction?

The problem is that the internet cannot provide the same level of long-term satisfaction as real-life activities and relationships. This leads to people feeling worse after they have been online, which in turn causes them to spend even more time on the internet in an attempt to feel better. This creates a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break free from.

Internet addiction can have a negative impact on all aspects of your life. It can affect your studies or work, as you may struggle to concentrate on tasks that don’t involve the internet. Your social life can also suffer, as you may spend more time online than with real-life friends and family. In extreme cases, internet addiction can lead to financial problems, as you may spend excessive amounts of money on online activities such as gambling and shopping.

Internet addiction can also have a negative effect on your physical and mental health. Physically, internet addiction can cause sleep problems, as you stay up late at night browsing the internet and this can affect you at work or school. You may also suffer from back and neck pain due to sitting in the same position for long periods of time. In extreme cases, internet addiction can lead to weight gain or loss as you neglect healthy eating and stop looking after yourself. Mentally, internet addiction can cause anxiety and depression and also exacerbate existing mental health problems.

Do I have an internet addiction?

People glued to their phones

Recognising that you have an internet addiction can be difficult as internet use is a normal part of everyday life and it can be hard to know when your use of the internet becomes excessive. If you are concerned that you may have an internet addiction, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I spend more time online than I originally intended to?
  • Am I constantly thinking about going online when I’m not using the internet?
  • Do I feel anxious or irritable when I’m not using the internet?
  • Do I use the internet as a way to escape from my problems?
  • Is my internet use affecting my studies or work?
  • Has my social life suffered because of my internet use?
  • Do I continue to use the internet despite it affecting my life?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you likely need internet addiction treatment. Get in touch with Sanctuary Lodge today to get started on your recovery journey.

What does internet addiction treatment involve?

The most effective treatment for internet addiction involves two main stages: inpatient rehab and aftercare.

Internet rehab

Inpatient internet rehab is where you stay at a residential treatment centre so that you can focus on recovering from internet addiction without distractions. During your stay, you will receive a number of different therapies that will help you overcome your internet addiction. These include:

Aftercare post-internet rehab

After you have completed your internet addiction therapy, it is important to participate in aftercare when you return home. This will help you stay on track with your internet addiction recovery and prevent you from relapsing. At Sanctuary Lodge, we provide all clients with a year’s free aftercare during which you will receive weekly group therapy sessions. These will help you stay motivated and provide vital support during moments when your internet cravings flare up.

Tips for successful internet addiction treatment

To give yourself the best chance of recovery, there are some things you can do to prepare for treatment:

Set realistic goals

Focus on what you want to achieve during treatment and aftercare rather than thinking about the time online that you’re giving up. This will help you stay motivated during difficult moments and will give you something to aim for.

Talk to your loved ones

Discussing your decision to undergo internet addiction treatment with your loved ones will help them to better understand what you’re going through. Sanctuary Lodge offers family support therapy to help you repair any damage that has been caused by your addiction and give your family the tools they need to support you in recovery.

Find the right internet addiction treatment centre

This is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Make sure to do your research and choose a treatment centre that offers the therapies and aftercare that you need. Sanctuary Lodge is a state-of-the-art rehab centre that specialises in treating internet addiction. Our team of experienced therapists will work with you to deliver a treatment plan that meets your needs.

Acknowledge and celebrate your progress

It is crucial that you celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem. This will help to keep you motivated and remind you of how far you have come. For example, every time you go a month without obsessively using the internet, go out for a meal with your family or treat yourself to something nice.

Prepare for triggers and cravings

When you go home after treatment, there will inevitably be things that trigger your urge to start using the internet again. As well as participating in aftercare and using the stress management techniques you learn in rehab, it is also important to take up new hobbies or activities that can help to distract from your cravings.

If you or a loved one are struggling with internet addiction, we urge you to seek help as soon as possible. At Sanctuary Lodge, we offer a range of effective treatment programmes that can help you to overcome your addiction and get your life back on track. Get in touch with us today and our admissions team can answer any questions you have.

Frequently asked questions

Is internet addiction a mental disorder?
While internet addiction is yet to be formally recognised as a mental disorder in the DSM-V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it is widely recognised by addiction experts as a real and serious condition. This includes the APA (American Psychiatric Association) which has released a draft of the DSM-V that includes internet addiction as a condition for further study.
How can I help a loved one who is addicted to the internet?
If you have a loved one who is addicted to the internet, it is important to talk to them about your concerns. They may be in denial about their addiction and will need your support to seek help. If they are open to the idea of treatment, you can assist them in finding a reputable internet addiction treatment centre like Sanctuary Lodge.
What does it mean to enable someone with an internet addiction?
Enabling refers to any behaviour that allows someone with an internet addiction to continue using the internet. This can include things like giving them money to pay for their internet use, making excuses for their behaviour or refusing to believe that there is a problem. Enabling behaviours often stem from a place of love and concern but they just make the situation worse as they allow the person to avoid facing reality.
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UK Addiction Treatment Group.

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