Internet Addiction Definition and Meaning

Internet addiction or Internet dependency is a modern phenomenon that has only been known for a few years: The person affected cannot refrain from obtaining information from the Internet or from being in contact with other people in virtual space. The disease is always curable and with a few exceptions, internet addiction is not associated with any complications.

What is internet addiction?

The boundaries between normal use of the Internet and addiction are fluid and not always easy to define. An Internet addiction must be assumed if the person concerned constantly feels the compulsion to go online and spends more and more time on it. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Internet Addiction.

Internet addiction is essentially a mental illness. As the name suggests, Internet addiction is a disordered behavior – namely that of using the Internet.

As with all other addictions and compulsions, those affected by Internet addiction also feel that they cannot exist without a connection to the online world. As if externally controlled, he opens the virtual space in the morning and only leaves it in the evening – sometimes even after a few days.

Internet addiction therefore usually prevents the sufferer from regular professional activity and a normal social life. However, in a few cases, internet addiction can cause health problems.


Internet addiction usually begins where it is part of daily work or leisure time to look around online for information or to play games. A certain habit often develops from this, without which the person affected by Internet addiction does not feel comfortable.

This, however, imperceptibly overcomes the onset of the disease. Internet addiction is therefore a mental illness that affects people who are usually mentally unstable anyway or who cannot channel the excess information in any other way.

Internet addiction is therefore not based on previous illnesses or similar cases in the family environment. Nor is it seasonal. Internet addiction can only be positively or negatively influenced by traffic on the Internet.

Furthermore, online role-playing games, so-called MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, such as World of Warcraft or Guildwars, develop an extremely high risk of addiction for their players. In these games, the player always has the feeling of having to move up the ranks in order to be better than the others. Most of these games do not have a classic game ending, but offer almost endless possibilities to further develop your game character. A dependency can also develop here, since friends of those affected often play along and do not want to break off a certain social bond.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The boundaries between normal use of the Internet and addiction are fluid and not always easy to define. An Internet addiction must be assumed if the person concerned constantly feels the compulsion to go online and spends more and more time on it. Other areas of life are increasingly neglected, which has an impact on school and professional performance, but also on private life.

Internet addicts isolate themselves from friends and family and focus entirely on virtual friendships, which are given an unrealistically high value. Excessive internet use impairs cognitive abilities, which can manifest itself in poor concentration, memory problems and attention deficits. If those affected have no opportunity to pursue their addiction, they suffer from withdrawal symptoms that can range from listlessness and irritability to restlessness and aggression.

Physical complaints in connection with the time-consuming use of the Internet also point to addictive behaviour: Neck and headaches as well as joint pains are common, and visual disturbances are also possible. If food intake is neglected, body weight can drop sharply, on the other hand, excessive consumption of fast food or sweets in combination with lack of exercise often leads to obesity. Difficulty concentrating or poor circulation often indicate dehydration due to insufficient fluid intake or lack of sleep as a result of internet addiction.

Diagnosis & History

Internet addiction is often insidious. The usual benefit of online activities turns into compulsive behavior. Internet addiction is increasingly turning the once-important information into a pointless pastime.

Social contacts break away sooner or later. The content of life of those affected by Internet addiction takes place on virtual platforms. Friends – who usually do not exist in real life – are contacted here. It is not uncommon for users who have fallen prey to internet addiction.

The more pronounced the disease is, the more it is influenced by accompanying addictions such as alcohol or drug consumption. Internet addiction, which takes place mainly in the proverbial quiet room, is usually noticed very late by family members or acquaintances.


Internet addicts often withdraw. Friends and family take a back seat – the time gained is sacrificed to addiction. Internet addiction can also lead to complications in the workplace. If the person concerned also surfs privately during working hours, there are consequences. However, many addicts are unable to stop the behavior without help.

In addition to Internet addiction, there may be other non-substance-related or substance-related dependencies. Internet addiction often occurs, for example, in combination with gambling addiction (computer games, Playstation). Other mental disorders can develop as a complication. Internet addicts, for example, can be depressed at the same time.

Such complications encourage social withdrawal. Neglect of hygiene and diet is also more likely when other complications are already present. Internet addicts can also be suicidal. During therapy or when trying to do it yourself, there is a risk that the person concerned will not overcome the Internet addiction, but will only replace an addiction with another.

The alternative dependency can relate to a different medium (e.g. television) or to a completely different object (e.g. alcohol). The addict should be aware of this risk so that he can avoid it. A psychotherapist usually also makes sure that the client does not just shift his addiction problem.

When should you go to the doctor?

Internet addiction is an under-researched medical area. Therefore, there are still no clear guidelines as to when a person affected needs medical help. If the Internet determines everyday life, however, there are problems that should be discussed with a doctor. If professional and school duties or personal hygiene are neglected, there is a need for action. If those affected forget to eat or consume an unusually large amount of food, a doctor should be consulted. If the organism is oversupplied or undersupplied, it is advisable to check the vital functions. If the affected person appears permanently absent, a lack of interest in all other areas of life or withdrawal symptoms,

If you feel restless, nervous, irritable or have trouble sleeping, you should see a doctor. If there is a strong change in personality and hysterical attacks as soon as the internet goes down or is slow, the person concerned needs help. In the event of withdrawal behavior or the complete loss of worldly leisure activities, a doctor should be consulted. Medical assistance is required in the event of pathological use of games of chance or cybersex offered on the Internet.

Treatment & Therapy

Since Internet addiction is a mental illness, the suffering can only be remedied in the long term by a therapist. This usually takes place in outpatient rounds of talks, during which the Internet addiction is examined more closely. It is not uncommon for other fears, desires or mental illnesses to be involved.

In more severe cases, treatment will address internet addiction with medication. This is often the case in situations in which the person affected can no longer influence their compulsive behavior in any way. If the internet addiction is so strong that the patient sees no way out and takes refuge in alcohol, drugs or suicidal fantasies, an inpatient stay can also be considered.

In all of this, it is important to literally bring the sufferer back into the real world and to explain the illusion of virtual space to them. He must accept the happy and sad emotions of his life. This is a treatable disease that often shows significant improvements after a few months. Internet addiction is curable.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis of Internet addiction is to be evaluated according to the individual circumstances. Basically, according to the current health regulations, there is no condition that can be diagnosed as internet addiction. Although Internet addiction seems to be common knowledge, no fixed criteria for this form of addiction have been defined so far. For this reason, it is difficult to make a prognosis.

In most cases there are other complaints that paint a complete picture of the state of health of the person concerned. This means that a different mental illness is identified in a large number of patients and given priority treatment. Internet addiction is an accompanying symptom and is classified accordingly.

If the person concerned is aware of the illness and cooperates, the constant use of the Internet can be treated well in behavioral therapy. In a fixed therapy plan, changes for an everyday structure are worked out and rules for a healthy use of the Internet are learned.

Given the importance of an online service today, it is only rarely possible to permanently forego the use of the Internet. For professional reasons, such a development often cannot take place. The practice is used temporarily so that the focus can be directed to other areas of life. Afterwards, a harmonious use of the Internet is trained, which is usually successful.


Internet addiction can only be prevented through controlled use. Parents in particular should pay attention to their children so that the initially small volume does not result in Internet addiction. For everyone else, only self-discipline can be a key to avoiding the disease. If you leave your computer switched off more often, you cannot be affected by internet addiction.


As with other addictions, optimal follow-up care is also important for internet addiction in order to minimize the risk of a relapse as much as possible. This is particularly important in the age of multimedia, since the worldwide web is present almost everywhere. Those affected are constantly confronted with the medium of the Internet, even during the follow-up care phase.

How to deal with this is discussed with the therapist on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, it is usually a matter of not completely ignoring the Internet, but of enduring the confrontation and gradually learning to use it consciously again.

Aftercare can, for example, take the form of only allowing Internet use for a very limited time per day and excluding certain sites such as casinos or gaming. Most of those affected must first relearn how to organize their leisure time meaningfully and can be meaningfully integrated into the individual aftercare.

Pursuing hobbies such as sports or music are examples of this, as is resuming old friendships that may have been neglected due to internet addiction. Self-help groups for Internet addiction often offer valuable help through the exchange of experiences with like-minded people and accompany the affected person with constructive tips on their way to aftercare.

You can do that yourself

Addiction comes from seeking. Something is missing in real life and is sought in the virtual world. Especially the internet seems to have a solution ready for everything. If staying online is longer than participating in daily life, it’s time to ask yourself some questions. As a rule, it is a need that supposedly cannot be satisfied in the real world.

Therefore, the first step is to go through habits. Which pages am I on? Where is my gaze stuck? Possibly also, what am I compensating for? This requires an acknowledgment that it is an addiction and a desire to control it.

The second step is thinking about the unmet needs. What am I longing for? Why do I prefer to surf the net and not do anything else? Who or what do I want to spend my time with? Why don’t I?

The third step is: apply discipline, reduce the time on the internet, even if it’s difficult. A therapist who gets to the bottom of addiction with the right questions helps to become aware of all of this. The self-help measures mentioned provide an overview of one’s own well-being if they are answered honestly.

Internet Addiction

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