Frequently Asked Questions about Internet Addiction

Yes, any behavior that has mood altering properties can become addictive. There are numerous neurochemical changes that occur during pleasurable behaviors. These chemical changes can elicit a “hit” whereby one experiences a sense of temporary pleasure. Any pleasurable events are likely to be repeated. Furthermore addictive behaviors often serve the purpose of blocking other negative emotions or problems in our lives, further reinforcing the addictive cycle.
The pattern of addiction is caused by a complex interaction of the removal of discomfort, relief of stress, and the increase of pleasure. The pleasurable experiences are repeated despite the negative consequences. Often there is the experience of guilt and shame after engaging in the addictive behavior (internet use); this shame and guilt can serve as a trigger for further abuse of the internet as a means to cope with the discomfort hence producing a repetitive internet abuse cycle.
You prevent it by becoming conscious of your patterns of behavior and taking steps to monitor your use patterns. Telling other people about your Internet use will aid you in managing your behavior better. Also monitoring your emotions and identifying when you tend to use or abuse the Internet, (e.g. spending excessive amounts of time on-line) will help you prevent abuse and addiction.
If your Internet use pattern interferes with your life in any way shape or form, (e.g. does it impact your work, family life, relationships, school, etc.) you may have a problem. In addition, if you find that you are using the Internet as a means to regularly alter your mood you may be developing a problem. It is important to note that it is not the actual time spent on-line that determines if you have a problem, but rather how that time you spend impacts your life.
First, start by admitting it to yourself, than begin to tell other people in your life that you trust. Admitting it to yourself and those you care about is a first step in breaking the pattern of addiction. There are also support groups for IA although many of them are on-line which may defeat the purpose. It is also recommended that you consult an addictions professional or psychologist familiar with Internet addiction.
Yes, it can be. There are millions of people who are on-line and are not abusing the net, nor are they addicted. My research suggests that approximately 4-8% of regular Internet users meet the criteria for Internet addiction. It is not an epidemic, but it is a real problem. Again, spending a lot of time on-line is not the problem (although it can be), rather it is how that time spent impacts your life that determines the seriousness of the problem.


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