Is Internet Addiction a growing problem?

Addiction is most commonly thought of as the inability to stop using drugs and alcohol, but really, these are just two examples of addictions.

Addiction is a compulsive behaviour that continues despite negative consequences, and while drug addiction and alcohol addiction are examples of this, there are a whole host of other behaviours that can qualify.

Behavioural addictions, such as gaming addiction and internet addiction are becoming more widespread, with internet addiction especially becoming a growing problem.

In the last few decades, the internet has become increasingly fundamental to daily life. Nowadays, many people have high-speed internet access and technological advances have created devices that make it easier to access the internet wherever and whenever.

Coronavirus lockdowns, have led to a greater reliance on the internet to stay in touch with friends and family, for work, and also for entertainment. But even before this, internet addiction was declared as a national health problem in South Korea and was becoming more widespread across North America and Europe.


What to do if you’re addicted to the Internet?

Addictions to drugs and alcohol may be better understood with a set range of treatment [drug and alcohol treatment link] options.

This normally follows a set formula beginning with detoxification as the body rids itself of drugs or alcohol, and then specific rehabilitation treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. There are even treatment options for couples. Internet addiction is still a growing area of study, but there is help available.

If you’re addicted to the internet, the best thing you can do is to reach out for help. Addiction treatment is available, and internet addiction can accompany an underlying mental health condition, such as rehab for anxiety or depression.


Symptoms of an Internet Addiction

Internet addiction is a wide spectrum, with people becoming specifically addicted to social media, games, or gambling, but there are some common signs and symptoms that can be indicative of internet addiction.


Excessive use of the Internet

This might seem obvious, but addiction to the internet results in an excessive or unhealthy level of use. What is excessive or unhealthy is a matter of debate. As well as internet addiction itself, excessive use online such as social media apps can lead to drug or alcohol abuse.

There are no official guidelines, and an individual’s usage may be determined by their job. The line has been even more blurred during the recent huge increase in people working from home, where the entire working day is often spent behind a computer.

The truth is, most people will know if they have an issue with internet addiction, but there are some handy questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you may have a problem.

  • Are you hiding your internet use?
  • Have you tried and failed to limit your use?
  • Do you try and rationalise excessive use?
  • Have other people complained?
  • Do you find yourself staying online longer than you intended?


A characteristic of all addictions is continued use despite negative consequences.

Excessive use of the internet can quickly see other aspects of life being ignored or overlooked. Careers or school may suffer as a direct result of the time that should be spent studying or working instead of being devoted to using the internet, or from fatigue due to an inability to stop browsing at night.

Money can be a problem, particularly if the addiction is to internet gambling or through virtual transactions in online games.
Interpersonal relationships are often neglected because time is spent on the internet rather than with friends and family.

Interventions or disputes over usage may also lead to a breakdown in relationships.


The problem is likely to get worse if not treated.

As with drug addiction, frequent use of a substance means tolerance is developed and more needs to be taken to achieve the same effects. This is also true for internet addiction. More and more stimulation is needed, and this is likely to result in greater amounts of screen time.


Withdrawal symptoms

While the idea of withdrawal may seem more familiar to physical addiction, withdrawal symptoms are also present in behavioural addictions. These may be:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Joylessness
  • Irritability


Internet Addiction in Kids

With internet-enabled mobile phones now normalised for children to own and use, internet addiction in kids is a growing concern. Not only do they lack the awareness or desire to limit their own use, but it also opens up a host of other issues that may not be such a large concern for adults suffering from the same thing.

Extended use makes it more likely that they’ll access explicit or unsuitable content that can create its own set of issues. It can isolate them from the outside world during a period when social development is extremely important. They may be involved in cyberbullying, either as the victim or as the perpetrator.

If the crux of their addiction is gaming, they may be peer-pressured into playing for longer, and if this is where their social group develops, they’re likely to feel isolated if attempts are made to stop them.


Contact Us Today

Contact Step One recovery to find out more about our range of treatments and therapies and learn more about how we can help.

We are focused on providing the best treatment possible for you, supported by leading industry doctors, counsellors and therapists. We’re here to provide the help you need, so email or call 0330 107 2950 for more information.