Internet Addiction

With the Internet’s prevalence today, we are spending more time online than before. While the Internet certainly is a useful tool, there exists the risk of addiction among its users. How, then, can we recognise the signs of Internet addiction? Are there consequences that we should be aware of?

While Internet Addiction is not formally recognised in mental health manuals like the DSM-V and among organisations like the WHO, it certainly is a phenomenon that can affect us and our loved ones, particularly in a country with high Internet penetration like Singapore. Minimally, the American Psychological Association characterises Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) by the disproportionate and obsessional use of computers, resulting in a significant loss of day-to-day functioning. IAD can be further divided into subcategories representing addiction to gaming, sexual content, and online messaging.


What are the Symptoms of IAD?

Due to the lack of consensus on its categorisation as a disorder, there is no standardised set of symptoms for IAD. However, tell-tale indicators include:

  • The inability to function in daily life
  • A subsequent decrease in life quality

For example, if a child spends most of his day gaming and suffers from poor grades and familial relations as a result, he could be suffering from IAD.

Some physical symptoms of this disorder are listed below:

  • Poor Sleep Quality
  • Psychological Symptoms (e.g. Inattentiveness)
  • Social Symptoms (e.g. Social Seclusion)


Who is Vulnerable to IAD?

Predictably, those that access the Internet regularly for work and/or leisure are at greater risk of addiction. Locally, the 15 – 24-year-old age group possesses the highest Internet usage percentage, making it particularly susceptible to IAD. This is possibly due to youngsters being “digital natives”, marked by their consistent and close interaction with the Internet throughout their lives. Moreover, today’s cascade of new media, such as social media and online games, has captured the attentions of these digitally literate youths, increasing their vulnerability.


How Can Therapy Help?

Psychosocial therapies are commonly used to treat IAD. Distinctly, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with Internet Addicts (CBT-IA) was developed specifically for those suffering from Internet addiction. This therapy form helps clients alter their behaviours to make their Internet use less maladaptive and reorder their cognitive processes to challenge existing mental justifications for their excessive Internet use. Therapists may also seek to improve clients’ time management and communication skills, among other methods, to reduce their time on the net and facilitate reintegration into their social lives to combat against addiction.

As IAD is suggested to occur in concert with or as a result of other mental health concerns, therapy can be useful in identifying and treating these root causes along with IAD itself. For example, a person suffering from depression could be turning to the Internet to alleviate its symptoms. Therapy thus resolves these depressive and addictive symptoms altogether for a better result.


To find out more about IAD, check out the video attached!