Internet addiction


Whether by smartphone or PC: The Internet addiction is a behavioral addiction that is becoming increasingly common. Young people in particular are quickly attracted to the virtual world. Friends, family and school are losing importance. The isolation from reality has far-reaching consequences for social and professional life as well as for health. Read all important information about internet addiction here.

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid medical diagnosis codes. They are found e.g. in medical reports or on incapacity certificates. F63

The internet can connect people. But when it becomes an addiction, it leads to loneliness in real life. Those affected should not hesitate to seek professional help.

Marian Grosser, Doctor Article SurveyInternet Search
  • description
  • symptoms
  • Causes and risk factors
  • Examinations and diagnosis
  • treatment
  • Disease course and prognosis

Internet addiction: description

The internet has become an integral part of today's world. Working, shopping, sharing with friends - almost every area of ‚Äč‚Äčlife is connected to the Internet. Especially children and adolescents are at risk of losing themselves in the virtual world. By smartphone, it accompanies you around the clock. As the real world takes a back seat, the Internet threatens both mental and physical health.

The phenomenon of morbid (pathological) computer, mobile phone and Internet use is still relatively young and has therefore only been researched for several years. The Internet addiction, also called cell phone addiction or online addiction, is one of the behavioral addictions. Unlike alcohol or drug addiction does not make the consumption of a substance dependent, but the behavior itself becomes an obsession. In an Internet addiction, the affected people use the Internet so excessively that they neglect other areas of life. Hobbies, friends and family, school and work do not pay much attention to Internet addicts anymore. Despite the huge impact of addictive behavior on life, those affected can no longer stop it. The addiction becomes independent, and the behavior becomes a compulsion.

An addiction with many faces

Online addiction, cell phone addiction, computer gambling addiction, computer-mediated communication addiction - there are many names for internet addiction and many forms of addictive behavior on the net. Above all, men are fascinated by online and computer games. In "World of Warcraft" players can fight monsters in a virtual parallel world and explore new worlds. The addictive means are rewards in terms of experience points or virtual items that make them stronger in the game.

Girls spend their time on the Internet, preferably on social networks such as Facebook. They spend hours exchanging information with friends, but also unknown people in the network. The Internet offers them the opportunity to present themselves the way they would like to be. For many it is tempting to change the personality and the look. And you're never alone on the internet. Strangers become seemingly good friends, even if you have never met them in real life.

Other forms of Internet addiction are the morbid use of gambling and betting that occur on the Internet. The compulsive use of erotic chats is called cybersex addiction.

Who is affected by internet addiction?

Internet addiction has not been researched enough yet. Due to the inconsistent diagnostic criteria, one can only estimate the number of Internet addicts. The Federal Ministry of Health assumes that about one percent of 14- to 64-year-old indulge in a morbid Internet and computer game use. Internet addiction is most common among adolescents and young adults. Women are affected as often as men. Men, however, prefer computer games, while women spend most of their time on social networks.

Internet addiction seldom comes alone

Studies in recent years show that about 86 percent of Internet addicts have another mental disorder. Very often, depression, ADHD and also alcohol and tobacco addiction occur simultaneously with online addiction (comorbidity). Whether the mental disorders increase the risk for Internet addiction or are the result of Internet addiction, is not yet clear. Presumably, both are possible and different from person to person.

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Internet addiction: symptoms

Internet addicts have a constant desire to be on the internet. This has a lot of negative consequences. The neglect of everyday tasks, friends and hobbies, but also physical and psychological difficulties, can be evidence of an Internet addiction.

performance degradation

Researchers have found that Internet addicted teens perform worse at school. Excessive use of the Internet creates cognitive problems. This mainly affects the ability to concentrate and the attention. Another reason is, of course, that most of the time is spent on the addictive behavior and there is little time left for homework or other responsibilities.

Studies in adults also show that work performance is reduced due to Internet addiction and contact with colleagues is low. The more pronounced the addictive behavior, the higher the risk of termination. The financial consequences can lead to the existential threat.


The lack of time is also noticeable in the social sphere. Online addicts pay little or no attention to their friends and family. They often unite without realizing it. They live in the illusion of cultivating real friendships on the internet. Sometimes there are actually friendships on the internet, but usually there are no meetings in real life. The existing friendships in the real world are shattered when the person concerned is only on the Internet. For people who find it difficult to make contact, the Internet seems to be a good solution for now. Research shows, however, that their situation is even worse.


Because of their constant desire to be on the Internet and the fear of missing something, many sufferers suppress their need for sleep. Online role-playing games also generate an increased level of excitement, which makes it difficult to fall asleep. Internet addicts often complain of sleep disorders. The lack of sleep in turn affects the ability to concentrate and the mood. Those affected can develop depressive features as well as aggressiveness and irritability.

In addition to sleep, sufferers neglect other basic needs, such as their diet. Many feed on fast food or sweets because there is not much time left for eating. Some even forget whole meals. There are therefore Internet addicts who are more likely to be overweight and others who are normal to underweight. The risk of being overweight is compounded by the lack of exercise.

Constant sitting in front of the computer affects the posture. Joint pain, neck and headaches, as well as visual problems are other problems that brings the Internet addiction with it.

withdrawal symptoms

Even with behavioral cravings there are withdrawal symptoms. If those affected can not access the Internet, they will be depressed and impotent, irritated and in a bad mood. Some become very restless and even aggressive.

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Internet addiction: causes and risk factors

The causes of Internet addiction have hardly been researched so far. As with other addictions, several factors probably also play a role in the emergence of Internet addiction. Many experts see the Internet or the computer not as a cause, but as a trigger of addiction. According to this, the true causes are to lie in underlying psychological conflicts. Another influencing factor is suspected to be a disruption of messenger substances in the brain. Whether the Internet addiction also has genetic causes, scientists could not yet clearly prove.

Search for contact

Researchers assume that social and family conflicts play an important role. Children and adolescents who struggle with social contacts and have a preference for the Internet are particularly at risk of developing Internet addiction. For those who do not find friends in the real world are looking for them online nowadays.

Low self esteem

People who withdraw socially often suffer from low self-esteem. On the Internet, the victims can not only give a new face, but also in computer games to courageous fighters. The virtual world thus rewards the player and enhances his self-image. To a certain extent, this is also possible in social networks, in which one can only present oneself from his chocolate side or even accept an invented identity. It becomes dangerous when the computer world becomes more attractive to the person concerned than real life.

Family conflicts

Some studies indicate that family conflicts favor the withdrawal of children into the Internet. Adolescents who are addicted to the internet often live with only one parent. The exact connections are unclear. It is clear that in many cases there is a lack of social support.

Biochemical causes

Research shows that similar changes in the brain also occur in behavioral secrets, such as in alcohol addiction. Also in the Internet addiction plays most likely the increased release of the messenger dopamine in the brain a role. When dopamine is released while playing on the Internet, the feeling of happiness generates: The behavior is rewarded. Over time, the dopaminergic system becomes increasingly sensitized to behavior and reacts particularly strongly when the person is on the Internet. Other stimuli can not keep up with this feeling of happiness and are becoming less and less noticed. However, the internet is increasingly visited to relive the good feeling.

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Internet addiction: examinations and diagnosis

If you notice signs of internet addiction on yourself or your loved ones or friends, you should contact a clinic or therapist as soon as possible. These can use questionnaires to determine in a conversation whether the behavior has an addictive character or not.