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Types of Internet Addiction

Internet addictions have devastating consequences, ranging from mental to physical and interpersonal issues. Internet addictions are also proven to affect specific neurotransmitters and receptors, triggering structural changes in the brain’s reward system.

This article explains what internet addiction is and how it affects mental health. It also reviews different types of internet addiction, from online pornography to gambling, showcasing specific symptoms and consequences.

What is internet addiction?

Internet addiction represents a behavioral type of addiction. Individuals with internet addiction engage in different online activities compulsively. They cannot stop even when this behavior causes significant distress, from financial problems to severe relationship strain.

Internet addiction is, therefore, different than mere excessive internet use or just want a new ISP because it involves:

  • A persistent and recurrent online activity that becomes the individual’s primary focus
  • Unsuccessful efforts to control use to the detriment of real-life obligations and relationships

How does internet use affect mental health

Excessive internet use affects mental health by:

  • Increasing anxiety: Social comparison and the fear of missing out on specific trends may increase anxiety in vulnerable young populations. Excessive news consumption may also increase anxiety by exacerbating the perceived level of danger people feel.
  • Increasing depression: Excessive internet use may lead people to replace real-life interactions with online communication. The resulting isolation may lead to depression. Cyber-bullied individuals may also suffer from depression. Additionally, internet addiction causes disrupted sleep patterns and blockages in dopamine receptors, which also cause lower mood.
  • Attention deficit issues and stress: The rapid-fire nature of online content decreases attention spans and promotes distractibility. Attention problems may reinforce compulsive behaviors because excessive internet users seek instant gratification. In turn, the inability to obtain instant gratification in daily life may increase stress levels.
  • Physical health problems: People with Internet addiction are typically sedentary. This lifestyle, along with the increased stress and lower sleep quality, may contribute to endocrine disorders, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues.

Most common internet addictions

After reviewing what internet addictions are and how excessive internet use can potentially affect mental health, let’s delve into the most common such compulsions.


Cybersex addiction involves excessive engagement in online sexual activities. This umbrella term includes:

  • Viewing pornography
  • Sexual chatting
  • Engaging in virtual sex through adult websites
  • Sexting

This preoccupation with virtual sexual experiences may become a primary coping mechanism against stress.

Symptoms include:

  • Spending a large amount of time in online sexual activities
  • Intense cravings that become disruptive to their daily tasks
  • Needing an ever-increasing amount of pornography or more explicit material to achieve the same level of satisfaction or arousal
  • Moving from soft-core to more hardcore or extreme forms of pornography to satisfy the need for novelty and heightened arousal

The anonymity and easy access to sexual content online fuel cybersex addiction.

Consequences of cybersex addiction involve:

  • Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, fueled by feelings of shame and guilt
  • Sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, or reduced sexual desire for real-life partners due to desensitization or unrealistic expectations set by pornography
  • Interpersonal issues, specifically in romantic relationships
  • Legal and financial risks if people start viewing illegal content or spend large sums of money on paid pornography websites

Online relationship addiction

People with online relationship addiction feel a compulsive need to create and maintain romantic or intimate relationships over the internet.

The symptoms include:

  • Excessive time on dating apps, chat rooms, or messaging platforms at the expense of sleep, work, or other hobbies
  • Quick emotional dependence on online acquaintances
  • Relying on these interactions for emotional fulfillment
  • Ignoring or devaluing face-to-face relationships in favor of online ones
  • Intense disappointment or dissatisfaction when online interactions don’t translate into meaningful real-life connections

The consequences of online relationship addiction can be quite profound:

  • Social isolation
  • Persistent feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and a lack of fulfillment
  • Increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues
  • Financial consequences for the individuals making financial commitments to online acquaintances

Online shopping

Online shopping addiction represents a compulsive, uncontrollable urge to make internet purchases. People with this disorder are obsessively concerned with the act of buying rather than the purchased items.

The symptoms include:

  • A rush of adrenaline from online purchases, followed by shame and regret
  • Irritability when unable to shop online
  • Excessive browsing of online stores, auction websites, and marketplaces
  • Compulsive purchases of irrelevant or unnecessary items
  • Hiding transactions and shopping habits from family

Online shopping addiction can lead to:

  • Increased credit card debt
  • Strained relationships
  • Increased psychological distress
  • Hoarding behaviors

Social media addiction

Using social media platforms compulsively and for increasingly prolonged periods of time are the first symptoms of social media addiction.

Other signs include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as increased anxiety, restlessness, or irritability when unable to access social media
  • Loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities
  • Neglecting personal relationships
  • Academic or occupational difficulties
  • Engaging in dangerous activities to create social media content for clout

Left untreated, social media addiction may lead to:

  • Heightened levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and poor self-esteem
  • A distorted view of reality
  • Insomnia
  • Real-life social isolation and loneliness
  • Fragmented attention span

Net compulsion/ browsing addiction

Browsing addiction entails using the internet compulsively for non-essential and often aimless activities. This umbrella term includes excessive content browsing, such as blogs, news feeds, digital catalogs, and random websites. The concept also includes compulsively checking different online platforms without a clear purpose.

Browsing addiction has the following red flags:

  • Chronic and aimless internet surfing for large portions of the day, often without remembering the content or purpose
  • Increased usage to alleviate boredom or escape from problems
  • Failing to complete work, school, or household responsibilities
  • Mood swings when internet access is restricted

People with browsing addiction experience:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Emotional instability
  • Sleep disorders

Compulsive news/information-seeking addiction

This behavior is different than browsing addiction because it has a specific purpose and is fueled by a compulsive need to stay informed. People with compulsive information-seeking addiction constantly check for news updates, weather reports, the latest research findings, or other pieces of information.

This compulsion is fueled by a mix of a desire to be up-to-date, fear of missing out (FOMO), and the instant gratification of new knowledge acquisition.

People with this addiction:

  • Check the news excessively and frantically throughout the day, even if it means interrupting other activities
  • Feel anxious or uneasy about not being informed the moment news breaks
  • Have trouble focusing on tasks at hand
  • May ignore their family, friends, and social engagements to stay connected to news sources
  • Experience mood swings based on the news cycle or information flow
  • Feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information yet unable to stop seeking more

Information-seeking addiction may lead to:

  • Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Decision paralysis due to the overwhelming amount of information
  • Sleep disruption

Online gaming addiction

Online gaming addiction represents compulsively using internet-based games, regardless of the consequences.

Online gaming addiction has the following tell-tale signs:

  • Intense focus on gaming experiences
  • Excessive discontent when attempting to cut down on gaming
  • Need to spend increasingly more time playing games to feel the same level of satisfaction
  • Repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, reduce, or stop gaming activities
  • Declining interest in previous hobbies and entertainment
  • Lying to loved ones about the amount of time spent on gaming

This addiction may:

  • Lead to or exacerbate existing mental health issues
  • Decline physical health
  • Create issues with personal hygiene
  • Reduce sleep quantity and quality
  • Cause financial stress or debt

Online gambling addiction

Online gambling addiction entails engaging in online gambling compulsively. Symptoms include:

  • Using gambling as a coping mechanism
  • A vicious cycle of trying to recuperate losses with more gambling
  • Concealing the gambling problem from loved ones
  • Risky behavior, such as jeopardizing relationships, selling valuable items, or incurring more mortgages
  • Higher tolerance, betting increased sums to experience the same high
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as agitation and anger when gambling is reduced

Online gambling addiction may lead to:

  • Severe debt or bankruptcy
  • Higher incidence of mood disorders, stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Strained or broken relationships
  • Job loss or career setbacks stemming from gambling-related focus or attendance issues
  • Potential involvement in illegal activities to finance gambling or reimburse debts
  • Higher risk for alcohol and substance use as co-occurring disorders

What is the treatment for internet addiction?

Although internet addiction encompasses multiple behaviors, the typical treatment for all centers around cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT focuses on changing unhealthy behaviors and thoughts through productive coping skills. The recovery plan may also include digital detoxes, mindfulness practices, and support groups.

People in recovery learn to identify their triggers and avoid responding reactively. They also learn time management and strategies to repair their finances, restore broken relationships, and live fulfilling lifestyles.

IEMLabs is an ISO 27001:2013 and ISO 9001:2015 certified company, we are also a proud member of EC Council, NASSCOM, Data Security Council of India (DSCI), Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The company was established in 2016 with a vision in mind to provide Cyber Security to the digital world and make them Hack Proof. The question is why are we suddenly talking about Cyber Security and all this stuff? With the development of technology, more and more companies are shifting their business to Digital World which is resulting in the increase in Cyber Crimes.


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