Internet Addiction and Mental Health

Identifying and Beating Your Internet Addiction

In 2014, a University of Hong Kong study estimated that up to 420 million people around the world experience some level of Internet addiction. That means approximately 8% of people who can access the Internet are legitimately addicted to its use.

More recent studies have shown that Internet addiction could be an indicator for other mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. We’ll explore some of these findings, ending with some actionable tips that you can practice to break free of your own Internet dependency.

What is Internet addiction?

Internet addiction, or internet addiction disorder, covers any “online-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one's work environment.”

It’s not necessarily about how much time is spent online, either, but how that time impacts a person’s life in general. Some examples that could point to Internet addiction include:

  • An obsession or preoccupation with being online.
  • Lying about and/or hiding the full extent of online behavior.
  • An impact on work/school, family life, and other relationships due to time spent online.
  • The use of the Internet as a tool to alter your mood (for example, if getting online is the only thing that makes you feel happy, or if you use the Internet to mask other emotions and feelings.)

Mental health impacts of Internet addiction

Earlier, I mentioned a recent study that shows the link between internet addiction and other mental health issues. The study was completed by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and it studied 254 freshman students.

13% of the students could be described as addicted to the Internet. Here are some of the symptoms and consequences that may stem from that addiction:

  • Significantly higher incidences of stress and anxiety.
  • Difficulties with attentiveness and time management.
  • Poor/difficult impulse control.

How to beat Internet addiction

There are a number of ways you can work to beat your addiction to the Internet.

  • Track your time online, including how you spend it, to see where the problems lie.
  • Block certain websites if they become problematic.
  • Put your phone and other screens away and out of reach regularly. If you feel uncomfortable, try to mindfully acknowledge those thoughts.
  • Share your struggles with your family and friends, and maybe even ask them to help hold you accountable.
  • If checking email during all hours of the day and night is a problem for you, for example, try setting a routine for yourself around certain online activities.
  • Keep a journal to track your progress — celebrate your victories and explore how your newfound awareness impacts your addiction.

Some of the tactics above might work well for you, but if you continue to struggle it could be worthwhile to seek counseling from a therapist who is familiar with internet addiction.

Remember, you don’t have to beat your addiction alone, contact us today.