This is a guest post by Anna DiNoto, an intern at reSTART, a company which provides special workshops to help people break their internet addictions.
What are some early warning signs that could potentially lead to an internet addiction? Below is a list of characteristics that are believed to be associated with some early warning signs of internet addiction. If an individual responds “yes” to 3 or 4 of the following, this suggests abuse; if an individual responds “yes” to 5 or more of the following, this suggests an internet addiction:
1. Increased Tolerance to the Addiction
An example of this might be that at the beginning a person used to surf the web for only one hour. Then, they needed those extra few minutes to finish that email. Now, they need 12 hours straight (or more) to check their email, write their friends on Facebook, research information, play games, and/or performing other various tasks that can be completed by using the Internet.
2. Failed Attempts to Control Their Behavior
As an example, a person knows that their internet use is creating problems, and makes a promise to spouse to not use the favorite application for a week; the next day they are at it, again.
3. Obsession Over the Internet
Obsessions involve thinking about the addiction. For example, continually thinking about what they will tweet about next, or thinking that they must check their email to see if that person emailed them back yet.
4. Compulsive Use of the Internet
Compulsions involve acting on the obsessive thoughts to relieve the tension and/or stress that is generally caused by them. For example, checking their email over and over again, refreshing the page to see if that person they just sent an email to about 2 minutes replied back yet, or, updating their Facebook/Twitter/MySpace account continually, throughout the day, over and over and over again. Another example includes texting on their phone all day long, to the point where they are multitasking and paying a lot more attention to their phone than to the task at hand (such as school or work or even more dangerously, driving).
5. Excessive Psychological Dependence to the Internet
Here, they may feel that they need to use the Internet, everyday. For example, they may feel the allure to use the Internet the second they walk in the door to their house. Also, this could include them feeling that they need their cell phone at their side, at all times, just in case someone texts them or someone updates his or her Facebook/Twitter status. Essentially, they feel that they need the Internet to survive. They will crave it and will most likely feel a sense of euphoria when they are using it.
6. Inability to Function in Daily Life
An individual that is addicted may be unable to function socially, physically or psychologically, and consequently may be severely hindered in their ability to relate on an interpersonal level with others. They may be unable to keep up on their personal hygiene. The individual who is addicted may have lost, or never learned, the ability to accomplish, maintain and complete daily life-skills (e.g., writing a check, paying the bills, budgeting their money, accomplishing assignments in school, attending class regularly, arriving to work on time, completing assigned tasks at work, eating a healthy and balance diet, etc.).
7. Experiencing Withdrawal When the Internet is Not Available
For example, this may mean that when the individual loses Internet connection, they may exhibit some of the following symptoms: throwing a temper tantrum, having a change in their sleep patterns, may start to feeling restless, may begin showing signs of aggression, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, and/or anxiety, being dishonest with others, or experiencing depression. Some people report feeling shaky.
8. Negative Repercussions as a Result of Their Excessive Internet Use
This means that perhaps the individuals is beginning to exhibit maladaptive behaviors such as, but not limited to, arguing more, lying to get out of trouble or avoiding the completion of necessary tasks, low achievement in tasks such as school or work, becoming socially isolated from family and friends they may have had, withdrawing from pleasurable activities, losing or gaining weight, having headaches frequently, suffering from backaches, developing carpal tunnel syndrome, showing a decrease in personal hygiene, and experiencing fatigue due to overuse and constant misuse of their Internet use.
[Editor’s Note: If you think you do have an internet addiction, watch for our upcoming post which will explain how to break your addiction.]