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Internet Addiction

What is internet addiction?

Internet addiction is an impulsive control disorder. Some internet users can develop an emotional attachment to their online friends, or an addiction to the activities they participate in, on their computer screens.

The addiction stimulates all the senses; the sounds from the computer, the visuals from the images, sounds and touch from the mouse and smells in the room. These are all part of the addiction stimulus. The dopamine (a chemical in our body) that is released acts as a drug that makes us feel good. This causes the person to keep repeating the behaviours over and over again.

Symptoms of  internet addiction

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dishonesty
  • Euphoric feelings when in front of a computer
  • Inability to keep to schedules
  • No sense of time
  • Isolation
  • Defensiveness
  • Avoiding work
  • Agitation when internet time cannot be accessed

Causes of internet addiction

As with other types of addiction, there isn’t a single cause, there are several factors that can play a role in the development of an addiction. These can vary from person to person and can include:

  • An underlying mental health condition
  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors

Therapy approach for internet addiction

The first step to accessing treatment is acknowledging the problem and wanting to change. We would then offer an initial assessment with a consultant psychiatrist who would make a diagnosis and discuss a care plan. This could include referral to a therapist for 1:1 out-patient appointments. You would attend regular appointments and discuss the addiction and the recovery process, the emotions and habits that are formed as a result and your goals and the progress you are making.  The consultant may recommend attending our day service where patients benefit from being part of a group. You can attend for a single day per week or up to three full days per week, and participate in the therapeutic programme that runs throughout the day. For those patients that require an intensive approach to treatment and to be away from the situations that are influencing behaviour, in-patient care may be recommended.


As part of your treatment you will learn and develop coping strategies to enable you to live in the digital world without returning to compulsive behaviour.

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Danny Allen on 02/01/2020

Get help for internet addiction today

Call Cardinal Clinic on 01753 869755 for more information, or submit an enquiry form.

GP’s looking to refer a patient may make a referral here.

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