Several of our Therapists that are seeing clients in person have now been vaccinated. In addition to offering in person appointments we are also seeing clients for online sessions via video call.
Thursday, 12 Nov 2020

Could You Be Suffering from Screen & Internet Addiction Disorder?

By Dr Becky Spelman
Do You Have Internet Addiction Disorder? | Private Therapy Clinic

As we move further into the age of information and have access to an expanding number of ways in which we can interact with technology, so too does the chance of our misuse of it increase as well. The dependency on our devices is nothing new. It’s become something of a cliché that many us like to laugh off or dismiss as insignificant. But the fact is we’re spending more time than ever fixated on our screens and tapped into the internet.

What is Internet Addiction Disorder?

As the name suggests, it implies an overuse of the internet. But more specifically, it involves the use of sites and apps that create a ‘reward system’ that keeps the user hooked into an artificial environment. In actuality, no one is addicted to the internet per se. But instead are addicted to the apps that use on the internet. These include all the popular social media platform, gaming in all its various genres and also gambling sites.

What is Screen Addiction Disorder?

Screen Dependency Disorder is closely linked with internet addiction, as the main use of our devices – specifically mobiles and tablets – approximately 90% of the time is to consume content on the internet. There are instances in which it is possible for screen addiction to present itself as a standalone condition. But given the way we predominantly use our devices, both the overuse of internet and screen time go hand in glove with one another.

Major Symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder

Although internet addiction is still in its infancy as a condition, there are some clear red flags that can indicate someone may be a potential case. As internet addiction disorder (IAD) is an addition-based mental health condition, a lot of parallels can be drawn with other addiction disorders that share the same pattern. It’s currently accepted that all forms of internet addiction contain the following for elements:

  1. Excessive Use of the Internet

This may seem like an arbitrary point to make and an almost unnecessary one. But it’s worth mentioning as although excessive internet use is most definitely a key symptom, there is actually no general consensus on what constitutes as being ‘excessive.’ While there are guidelines that state there should be no more than 2 hours of screen time per day for under 18-year olds, there are no official guidelines for adults. Added to that, 2 hours can be incredibly unrealistic for people who have heavy workloads and work predominantly online.

  1. Withdrawal

Traditionally, withdrawal symptoms are thought of to be more physical symptoms that we associate with hard drugs and alcohol. But withdrawal symptoms can equally involve behavioural changes, as well. Some of the most commonly observed symptoms when there is no access to the internet can include but are not limited to: anger, tension, irritability, apathy, listlessness, and moodiness.

  1. The Need for Greater Use (Development of Tolerance)

Again, this is a facet that is normally associated with physical dependency. But it’s something that is very applicable to internet addiction. However, in this case, instead of needing more of a given substance to seek a greater high, the individual in question will find themselves dissociating further from reality as a form of escapism. And in the case of gaming and social media-based addiction will find themselves becoming trapped in the rewards mechanics of notifications and in-game achievements, respectively.

  1. Negative Consequences in Personal Health and Social Life

The main issue at play with the internet is that it can limit your ability to spend time on other areas of your life. If there were no repercussions of spending all day on the internet, it wouldn’t cause anywhere near the same amount of concern as it does. Spending so much time in a solitary pursuit can be damaging for personal relationships, it can see grades in school suffer, and over time the mechanics that are so prevalent can drastically alter your perspective. If the only exposure you have is to fictional realities governed by a certain set of rules, there is a danger they will subconsciously become the reference point for future interactions and how you develop your problem-solving skills.

How is Internet Addiction Diagnosed?

Again, it’s important to note here, as the condition is still in its fledgeling state as far as being officially accepted, the following signs are only rough guidelines. But these markers should provide an accurate enough picture of what a typical internet addiction scenario might look like.

  • The individual is completely preoccupied with the internet
  • The individual needs to use to the internet with increasing regularity
  • There have been significant efforts made to cut back unsuccessfully
  • The person in question is moody, restless, depressed or irritable without the internet
  • The person always stays online longer than originally intended.
  • Has risked and/or lost their relationships, education, job because their internet usage
  • Has lied to friends and family about their internet usage
  • Use the internet as a form of escapism

What Treatment Options are Available?

As with all mental health issues, there first needs to be an admission that there is in fact, a problem that needs to be addressed. People who don’t believe they need help rarely if ever respond well to treatment. In addition, there is still dome debate over whether IAD is actually a condition that warrants any kind of treatment at all with it being dismissed in some circle as a “fad illness” that will work itself out in its own time.

On the other side of this debate, there are some psychologists who believe that medication may even be a viable option in some instances. The thinking here being that internet addiction isn’t the issue itself. But rather, it’s the result of a much deeper-seated issue that could be related to one of either anxiety or depression to name a few more commonly known issues. Medications have proven to be highly effective in reducing time spent online from 35+ hours per week to just 16 hours per week – quite a drastic improvement.

But medication isn’t for everyone. And no one should have to be on a lifetime prescription to control their habits when there are other less invasive ways of approaching the issue.

Some of the more common therapies for treating internet addiction include:

These are just some of the avenues that you could/might want to explore. As the condition is taken more seriously, further options will undoubtedly become available as possible treatment options.

About the author:

Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.

***If you’re struggling with addiction and think you might benefit from speaking to someone, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.


Psycom (22th May 2019) Internet Addiction Disorder. Retrieved on 25th September, 2020 from,

Very Well Mind (17th Sept 2020) How to Know If You Have an Internet Addiction and What to Do About It. Retrieved on 25th September, 2020 from

Psych Central (26th February 2020) Internet Addiction Guide. Retrieved on 25th September, 2020 from,

Check out other related articles

  • 09 Feb 2019

    Admitting and Resolving Our Addictions

    Although addictions can often be debilitating and prevent from leading a functional life, so many worm their way into our daily routine. We grant them permission, and build our lives around them, ignoring the detrimental effects they have on our health and social life. Rarely do we stop to question .....

  • 19 Sep 2019

    How Porn Addiction Is Negatively Affecting You

    Pornographic material has been with us for a very long time. It’s certainly not a modern concept. What has changed in recent generations is the way that’s it accessed. A mere twenty 25 years ago, if you wanted to ‘indulge’ in pornography, it meant taking a trip out of your way to buy it in e.....

  • 15 Jun 2019

    How and Why Does Social Media Contribute to Self-Harm?

    Self-harm has been present in society for several generations, now. But with the rise of graphic content being shared on platforms such as Instagram, just how much is it contributing to the problem? .....