With an increasing amount of our lives being spent online, countless individuals across the UK are developing an internet addiction. While internet addiction may seem less harmful than other addictions, it can have a severe impact on those affected. Internet addiction is so rife in Britain that even back in 2016, fifteen million people admitted to taking a “digital detox” – essentially a self-imposed ban on digital devices. Overcoming internet addiction may seem difficult as the web is so crucial for everything from shopping to education, but with the right treatment, it is very possible to break free from its grip.
What is internet addiction?
Internet addiction is a form of behavioural addiction that is defined by a compulsive need to use the internet even though it is harming your life. It is often identifiable by a complete lack of control over how much time you spend on the internet and neglecting important responsibilities and relationships in favour of being online.
How websites facilitate internet addiction
A key driving force of internet addiction is that websites are actually designed to keep you online. For instance, news sites use algorithms that show you content based on past likes in order to keep you engaged. This ensures you are inundated with content that the site knows will interest you, making it very difficult to stop scrolling or reading.
Another factor is clickbait titles and headlines which are designed to entice readers to click on a link, often by promising something outrageous or controversial. Once you click, however, you are typically taken to an advertiser’s website or a low-quality article that doesn’t deliver on the promise made in the title.
While this may seem like a harmless form of deception, for those who are prone to internet addiction, clickbait can be a dangerous trigger. The constant stream of sensationalised content can fuel an addictive spiral, leading you to spend more and more time online in search of the next hit.
The physical aspect of internet addiction
Like any other addiction, internet addiction can have a profound effect on the brain. When someone is addicted to the internet, they often physically crave the feeling of being online and may feel anxious or irritable when they are not. This is because internet use can cause the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate pleasure and motivation.
Over time, the brain becomes tolerant of the dopamine release and you need to go online more and more to get the same desired effect. A dependence can then develop where you feel like you need to be online all the time just to function. In combination with other factors this can then result in a multi-faceted internet addiction which requires professional help.
What are the risk factors for developing internet addiction?
While anyone can develop an addiction to the internet, there are certain risk factors that make some people more vulnerable:
- Age – Adolescents and young adults are particularly vulnerable to developing an internet addiction as they often use the internet for social media and other activities which are more targeted at younger people. However, the age gap for internet use has been closing since 2011 with more older adults using the internet year after year.
- Underlying mental health issues – Conditions such as anxiety and depression can also lead to internet addiction, as people may use the internet as a way of escaping from their negative emotions.
- Loneliness or social isolation – This can also increase the risk of developing an internet addiction, as lonely, isolated people may use the internet as a way of finding social interaction and connection.
Understanding these risk factors can both help to prevent internet addiction from developing and make treatment more effective as they can be targeted systematically.
The negative impact of internet addiction
A major issue with internet addiction is that going online provides a false sense of satisfaction that is only temporary and often leaves you feeling worse than before. This then results in you trying to make yourself feel better by continuing to spend more and more time online, creating an unending loop.
Constant internet abuse can cause problems in many parts of your life such as:
- Having difficulty concentrating at work or school due to being preoccupied with the internet or staying up late browsing
- Missing out on socialising with loved ones in favour of browsing the internet
- Developing money problems from spending too much money online through activities like online shopping or as a result of website subscription fees
Internet addiction can also have impacts on your health including:
- Various sleep disorders
- Neck and back pain due to constantly being hunched over the keyboard
- Carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of constant typing
- Weight loss or gain from not eating properly
- Increased symptoms of existing mental health conditions
Am I addicted to the internet?
It’s not easy to admit or even recognise that you have an internet addiction because using the internet is such a normal, everyday occurrence for most people. In fact, five billion people across the world are now internet users. Even if you think your internet use is excessive, how can you tell whether it has risen to the level of addiction? If you’re worried that there may be an issue, try taking our internet addiction quiz:
- Do I use the internet to escape from problems in my offline life?
- Do I spend more time online than I do with real-life people?
- Do I get irritable or anxious when I’m not online?
- Do I neglect my offline commitments in favour of being online?
- Do I lie to others about how much time I spend online?
- Do I find myself just scrolling the same sites compulsively?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s important to seek internet addiction help. Contact Liberty House today and get started on your road to internet addiction recovery.
How does internet addiction treatment work?
Internet addiction rehab
This stage involves a range of different types of internet addiction therapy. This is best done at a residential internet rehab clinic because it allows you to focus entirely on your recovery without any distractions. You will have no access to the internet while you’re in recovery, which is a vital part of the recovery process.
At Liberty House, our internet addiction therapy programmes include:
- Group and one-to-one therapy
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
- Gong therapy
- Music therapy
- Yoga therapy
All of these therapies and treatment approaches are intended to help you understand your internet addiction, develop healthy coping mechanisms and thought patterns, and start to rebuild your life.
Internet addiction aftercare
Once you have completed residential treatment, it’s important to have a solid plan in place for ongoing recovery once you return home. This is where aftercare comes in. Aftercare support can take many different forms but at Liberty House, it means weekly group therapy sessions for a year. These sessions provide you with ongoing support, accountability, and encouragement as you continue to live life without internet addiction.
How to prevent internet addiction relapse (a guide for loved ones)
Relapse is a common part of recovery and can even be beneficial if the person uses it to learn new lessons about their addiction and implement them the next time. However, if you have a friend or family member who is in internet addiction recovery, there are a number of ways you can help them to avoid relapse and stay on the right track. Here are our top three:
Encourage them to attend aftercare sessions and any other support groups for internet addiction. Where possible, you can also accompany them to support groups.
Help them to identify their triggers and warning signs for internet addiction. This could involve talking about times when they have struggled in the past to stay offline or brainstorming situations that might tempt them to relapse.
Assist them in finding new hobbies and activities to fill their time that doesn’t involve the internet. You could go for walks or hikes together, take up a new sport or join a club. Anything that fills the void and stops them from getting bored or thinking about the internet.
What to do next
If you or someone you know has an internet addiction, it is important to understand that there is tried and tested help available. At Liberty House, we have helped countless people to overcome their internet addiction and go on to live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. If you would like to find out more about our internet addiction treatment programmes or how we can help you, please contact us today.
Frequently asked questions
- Social media addiction
- Porn addiction
- Online gaming addiction
- Gambling addiction
- Shopping addiction
Some people may have one or more of these addictions alongside a more generalised internet addiction but either way, the compulsion to use the internet excessively will be present.