How to Overcome Internet Addiction

Three Parts:Controlling Your Internet UsageGetting HelpIdentifying the Problem

Too much time spent online can cause a host of emotional and physical problems, damage personal relationships, and decrease performance at work or school. Nevertheless, Internet addiction is a growing issue. However, if you are struggling with the problem, you can overcome it by taking steps to limit your Internet usage, filling your time with alternative activities, and seeking support.

Part 1
Controlling Your Internet Usage

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    Develop a personal inventory of things Internet addiction is keeping you from. Make a list of activities you used to enjoy or need to take on but can’t because of all of the time you’ve been spending online. This isn’t meant to make you feel bad, but rather to provide motivation for cutting down on your Internet usage.[1]
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    Set goals for appropriate time. Unlike some addictions, total abstinence may not be the answer for Internet addiction, since the Internet is used for so many purposes in daily life. However, you can and should decide on an appropriate amount of time to set aside for personal Internet usage.[2]
    • Omit any time that you must use the Internet strictly for work, business, or school.
    • Make a list of all of the other obligations you have and desired uses of your time, such as sleeping, time spent with friends and/or family, exercise, commuting, working or studying, etc.
    • Determine how much time per week you would ideally devote to these needs.
    • Consider how much time you have left per week, how much time you want to set aside for relaxing or personal use. From the remaining time, set aside an appropriate number of hours for personal Internet use. You can then apply this information to other methods to cut back on the time you spend online.
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    Make a new schedule. If Internet usage is taking up too much of your time, you can block the problem by filling your schedule with alternative activities.[3] Disrupting your schedule with neutral activities can break the habit.[4] For example, if you find yourself compulsively browsing online at home every evening, change your schedule so that during that time you go to the grocery store, clean your house, or some other activity that will keep you away from your computer.
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    Use external stoppers. Having someone or something interrupt your Internet use can be very effective. Since the stopper is external, it will take some of the pressure off of you, and it can also lead you to fill your time with alternative activities.[5]
    • You can set an alarm clock to go off at a certain point when you think you should get offline.[6] It might be difficult at first, but stick to the goal.
    • Plan necessary activities or events so that they will prevent you from being online. For instance, if you know you tend to start browsing aimlessly in the afternoons, schedule important meetings and appointments for that time.
    • There are a variety of apps you can use to cut back on your Internet use.[7] For instance, some of them work by shutting down Internet capabilities for a predetermined period.
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    Set priorities. Internet addiction can be curtailed if online activities are put in perspective in comparison with the rest of your life. Make a list of all the offline things you want to or need to do, and rank them in importance relative to time spend online.[8]
    • For example, you may decide that you want to get around to that book you’ve been meaning to read rather than spend another hour shopping online for things you really don’t need or want.
    • Prioritize offline versions of activities over online ones. For instance, set a goal of spending more time with friends in person instead of interacting with them via social media.
    • You can also set priority tasks that you want to do prior to spending any personal time online. For instance, tell yourself that you will spend the weekend cleaning out the garage before getting online.
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    Abstain from any particular problem apps, sites, and habits. If you know that you spend a significant amount of time on a particular kind of Internet usage, you may want to cut it out entirely.[9] Internet games, social media, gambling, and shopping are common culprits, but any kind of Internet use can become problematic.
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    Use reminder cards. Creating visual reminders your Internet addiction and your determination to stop it can be a powerful way of cutting back time spent online.[10] Using an index card or sticky note, write down messages for yourself and leave them in obvious places (like on or near your computer, on your refrigerator, on your desk, etc.) or carry them around. Try messages like:
    • “Playing X game is taking away time I could spend with friends.”
    • “I’m not happy when I spend all night online.”
    • “I won’t take my laptop to bed tonight.”
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    Exercise. Getting enough exercise is has many benefits. Regular exercise can help keep you healthy, boost your mood, make you more self-confident, sleep better, and much more. If you are struggling with Internet addiction, exercise will also serve as a good alternative use of your time.[11]

Part 2
Getting Help

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    Find a support group. Awareness of Internet addiction is growing, and there are now sources for help in many locations. Support groups for Internet addicts can provide an understanding community, strategies for successfully overcoming your problem, and information about additional sources of help.[12] Check with a local community center or ask a trusted person, such as a family member or doctor, to help you find a support group in your area.
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    See a counselor. Professional assistance from a specialist trained in treating Internet addiction is helpful in many cases.[13] A counselor can help you develop a plan of action for reducing the time you spend online, increasing your involvement in other activities, and understanding the habits or motivations that caused you to become addicted to the Internet. Support groups or a doctor may be able to refer you to a counselor.
    • Motivational interviewing and reality therapy are techniques sometimes used by counselors to treat Internet addiction.[14][15] These methods involve a therapist providing open-ended questions, reflective listening, and other techniques to help you understand your problem better.
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    Engage in family therapy. Internet addiction can have detrimental effects on both you and your family, depending on your situation. If this is the case, family therapy can help both sides understand and deal with the problem. Family members can also provide emotional and practical support to help you overcome your addiction.[16] Counselors can help you develop a strategy for family therapy, or refer you to a specialist in the field.
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    Go to a treatment center. As recognition of Internet addiction grows, addiction treatment centers have begun to develop programs to help those afflicted with the problem. In addition, there “digital detox” camps are available in some areas. These provide an Internet-free space to reflect and learn to overcome addiction to the Internet.[17]
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    Try drug treatments. Specialists are still studying the causes of and treatment methods for Internet addiction. There is still no universally accepted drug treatment for the problem. However, medications such as escitalopram, bupropion SR, methylphenidate, and naltrexone have been used to treat Internet addiction in some trials.[18][19] Talk with your doctor if you are interested in trying medications to treat your addiction.

Part 3
Identifying the Problem

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    Track the time you spend online. Some amount of time spent online is common in much of the world. Internet addiction, however, implies spending more time online than is needed for work, school, or a healthy personal life. You can start to think about whether you are addicted to the Internet by recording the number of hours you spend online each week as well as the impact that time has on other activities in your life. Too much time online might cause you to:[20][21][22]
    • Be online longer than you intended. Checking your email, for instance, turns into hours of browsing.
    • Think about being online even when you are doing other activities.
    • Need to use the internet more and more just to have the same level of satisfaction or enjoyment
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    Look for evidence that time spent online is negatively impacting your mood or mental health. Using the Internet too much can cause a variety of emotional problems. If you notice any of the following, you may have Internet addiction:[23][24][25]
    • Feeling restless, angry, irritable, etc. when you don’t have as much time online or try to cut back.
    • Using time online to escape or to relieve an emotional problem.
    • Getting online instead of other activities you need to do or used to enjoy.
    • Feelings of guilt, shame, or disgust due to time spent online.
    • Inability to cut back after repeated attempts.
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    Watch for signs that Internet use is harming your health. Internet addiction can cause a variety of physical problems. However, these symptoms might not appear suddenly, or be obviously connected to being online. Significant problems caused by the addiction might include:[26]
    • Weight gain
    • Weight loss
    • Headaches
    • Backaches
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome
    • Neglecting sleep to get online
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    Recognize when Internet use is harming relationships. In addition to harming you emotionally and/or physically, Internet addiction can have detrimental effects on your personal and professional relationships. Signs that you might have a problem include include:[27][28][29]
    • Loss of a job or poor work performance due to time spent on the Internet
    • Decreasing performance at school
    • Trouble in a personal relationship (fighting because of time spent online, for instance)
    • A relationship has ended because of your Internet usage
    • Lying to others (significant others, family, coworkers, etc.) about your Internet usage
    • Neglecting time with family or friends in order to be online
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    Learn the signs of internet addiction in children. Because the Internet is so readily available in many areas and at many ages, all kinds of people can become addicted, including children. Parents or guardians have the ability to help control a child’s Internet use, however, so treatment is possible, especially when a specialist is consulted. Signs a child may have Internet addiction include:[30]
    • Sneaking around to get online
    • Lying about time spent online
    • Anger or irritability when electronic devices or Internet privileges are taken away
    • A strong desire to get back online as soon as possible
    • Staying up all night to be online
    • Refusing or forgetting to do chores, homework, or other tasks
    • Forming new bonds with people online (especially when offline relationships deteriorate)
    • Loss of interest in activities the child previously enjoyed

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Categories: Addictions