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Internet and Computer Addiction
Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

While time spent online can be hugely productive, compulsive Internet use can interfere with daily life, work, and relationships. When you feel more comfortable with your online friends than your real ones, or you can’t stop yourself from playing games, gambling, or compulsively surfing—even when it has negative consequences in your life—then you may be using the Internet too much. Learn about the signs and symptoms of Internet addiction and how to balance your life online and off. In This Article:

What is Internet addiction?
How do people become addicted?
Signs and symptoms
Cybersex addiction
Internet gambling addiction
Cyber-relationship addiction
Self-help tips
Treatment and support
Helping others

What is Internet addiction or computer addiction?

Internet Addiction, otherwise known as computer addiction, online addiction, or internet addiction disorder (IAD), covers a variety of impulse-control problems, including: Cybersex Addiction – compulsive use of Internet pornography, adult chat rooms, or adult fantasy role-play sites impacting negatively on real-life intimate relationships. Cyber-Relationship Addiction – addiction to social networking, chat rooms, and messaging to the point where virtual, online friends become more important than real-life relationships with family and friends. Net Compulsions – such as compulsive online gaming, gambling, stock trading, or compulsive use of online auction sites such as eBay, often resulting in financial and job-related problems. Information Overload – compulsive web surfing or database searching, leading to lower work productivity and less social interaction with family and friends. Computer Addiction – obsessive playing of off-line computer games, such as Solitaire or Minesweeper, or obsessive computer programming.

The most common of these Internet addictions are cybersex, online gambling, and cyber-relationship addiction.

Healthy vs. unhealthy Internet use

The Internet provides a constant, ever-changing source of information and entertainment, and can be accessed from most smart phones as well as tablets, laptops, and computers. Email, blogs, social networks, and message boards allow for both public and anonymous communication about any topic. But how much is too much Internet usage?

Each person’s Internet use is different. You might need to use the Internet extensively for your work, for example, or you might rely heavily on social networking sites to keep in touch with faraway family and friends. Spending a lot of time online only becomes a problem when it absorbs too much of your time, causing you to neglect your relationships, your work, school, or other important things in your life. If you keep repeating compulsive Internet behavior despite the negative consequences in your offline life, then it’s time to strike a new balance. How do people become addicted to the Internet?

To relieve unpleasant and overwhelming feelings

Many people turn to the Internet in order to manage unpleasant feelings such as stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. When you have a bad day and are looking for a way to escape your problems or to quickly relieve stress or self-soothe, the Internet can be an easily accessible outlet. Losing yourself online can temporarily make feelings such as loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and boredom evaporate into thin air. As much comfort as the Internet can provide, though, it’s important to remember that there are healthier (and more effective) ways to keep difficult feelings in check. These may include exercising, meditating, using sensory relaxation strategies, and practicing simple breathing exercises.

For many people, an important aspect of overcoming Internet and computer addiction is to find alternate ways to handle...
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