Internet Addiction

Researchers who study internet addiction in college students find that many students are faced with severe academic problems because they spend a significant amount of study time surfing irrelevant web sites, using social media, and playing interactive games on the Internet. These students had problems completing homework assignments, studying for exams or getting enough sleep to be alert for class the next morning due to late night Internet use. In one study, 50% of students interviewed after dismissal for academic failure listed excessive Internet usage as a reason for their problems.

Signs and Symptoms

Do you find yourself missing classes? … Having an erratic sleep schedule? … Noticing symptoms of depression or anxiety? … Having problems with your personal relationships? … Have your grades dropped? … Is your Internet use interfering in your life?

To find out if you might be addicted to the Internet, answer the following questions. Only nonessential computer/Internet usage (i.e., non-business or non-academic related use) should be evaluated:

  1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate your next online session)?
  2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time to achieve satisfaction?
  3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
  4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
  5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
  6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
  7. Have you lied to family members, therapists, or others to conceal the extent of your involvement with the Internet?
  8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (i.e., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, and depression)?

Addiction may be present when people answer yes to 5 or more questions during a 6-month period (Young, 2004).

If you think you have an Internet addiction

There is treatment for Internet addiction. Here are some strategies for regaining control:

See a counselor or consider joining a support group for counseling, tips, and support.

Consult a health care provider for information and treatment.

Monitor and limit your Internet habits. Keep a log of your Internet use. Set time limits for  usage.  Try to shorten your Internet sessions. Use external shut down devices on your computer and phone. Completely stop using certain applications, or use applications that can limit your time online.

Develop other interests. Get involved in campus clubs and organizations. Exercise, attend an event, make new friends. Participating in these activities can help increase the dopamine levels in your brain.

Take care of yourself.  Eat regular meals and sleep at night.  Be mindful of your moods and behaviors that lead you to use the Internet. Identify your rituals and what triggers you to go online.

Additional Resources

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Internet Addiction: A Brief Summary of Research and Practice – (2012). Current Psychiatry Reviews.