Causes of Internet Addiction

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cause of internet addiction

Causes of Internet Addiction

You’ve probably heard it said that we’re spending too much time on our phones and computers, and with good reason. Over the last 15 years, the number of internet users has increased by 1,000%.1 This increase is understandable, considering amenities like shopping, gambling, online chatting, online relationships, gaming, information-seeking, and pornography that the internet provides. Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in more remote employees, making life online a necessity. However, too much of something is never a good thing. Many people are being drawn into the online world to the point where they can no longer control their internet use. But why does this happen? Our treatment center in Lake Worth is sharing insight into the causes of internet addiction.


What is Internet Addiction?


Internet addiction is yet to be listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Many professionals recognize it as a formal addiction, while those who don’t tend to classify it as an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or an impulse control disorder. Other names for internet addiction include cyber addiction, compulsive computer use, pathological internet use, and internet dependence. The term “internet addiction” is a broad one that covers a range of behaviors and impulse-control issues involving the internet, computer, or mobile phones.

While no specific criteria to diagnose a cyber addiction has officially been established, researchers have identified five different types of internet addictions:

  • Cybersex Addiction (online pornography, adult websites, sexual fantasy/adult chat rooms, XXX webcam services, etc.)
  • Net Compulsions (online gambling, trading stocks, online auctions [eBay], and compulsive online shopping)
  • Cyber/Online Relationship Addiction (finding and maintaining relationships online)
  • Compulsive Information Seeking (obsessive-compulsive tendencies regarding researching and finding information online)
  • Computer or Gaming Addiction (on- and offline activities that can be done on a computer)

Untreated internet addiction can lead to both physical and mental problems. Some physical side effects of internet addiction include body aches, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, insomnia, vision problems, and severe fluctuations in weight. Mental illness is also a common side effect of cyber addiction. Many studies have pointed out the link between excessive internet use and conditions like depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If you or someone you know has an internet dependency, our internet addiction treatment can help.


What Are The Causes of Internet Addiction Disorder?


The psychological causes of internet addiction are highly debated. There is no single cause of internet addiction, but rather it’s a result of an accumulation of physical and psychological factors.

Some common causes of cyber addiction include:

  • Underlying mental disorders: Including anxiety, depression, and OCD.
  • Quality of home life: People who live in divorced or destructive families may find solace on the
  • Dopamine rush: The release of dopamine that produces pleasure associated with internet use is similar to a high produced by drugs and alcohol.
  • Variable Ratio Reinforcement Schedule (VRRS) theory: This theory claims that cyber addiction is caused by multiple layers of rewards. An example would be receiving comments, likes, and shares on a photo on Instagram.
  • Brain structure: Internet addiction is believed to change areas of the brain like the prefrontal regions and gray and white matter, similar to drugs and alcohol, affecting the person’s ability to remember details, plan, prioritize, make decisions, and pay attention.
  • Genes: People who struggle with a mental disorder or other addiction that affects their dopamine and serotonin levels have a biological predisposition that can increase their risk of internet addiction.


Additional internet addiction risk factors include age, gender, financial status, relationship status, and employment status. Just because internet addiction doesn’t involve drug abuse doesn’t make it harmless. Individuals who struggle with cyber dependence are at risk of developing mental illness and suicidal ideation and behaviors. A recent study compared people with and without internet addictions and found that internet addicts had higher rates of mental illness (65%), higher rates of suicidal ideation in a week (47%), more lifetime suicide attempts (23.1%), and more suicide attempts in the past year (5.1%).2


As common as internet use is nowadays, internet addiction is no joke. Cyber addiction can also lead to problems like gambling addiction and substance abuse. If you or someone you know is battling a substance use disorder or mental illness, call BHOPB now at 888-280-4763 for more information about our addiction and mental health programs in Florida.


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