Who hasn't spent countless hours surfing the web? From checking email, to updating your Facebook page or chatting with people through message boards and instant messaging to playing games and shopping. But when does loving the internet become internet addiction? There's almost nothing we can't do from the comfort of our computers now. And for some people, that's the problem. Since the web went mainstream in the 90s, internet use has skyrocketed. We use it in schools, work, at home and even on the go, in our car, at the airport, or at the grocery store. With just about everyone being online at all hours of the day, it's hard to know what's normal and what's excessive. Some reports suggest that five to 10 percent of the population is hooked on the Internet. Though it's not yet recognized as a psychological disorder by the medical community, compulsive internet use is a problem that can interfere with school, work, relationships and daily life. Spending a lot of time on the internet is not inherently bad, of course. You may need it for work, or school research, or for keeping in touch with family and friends who are abroad. But if it is taking over your life and keeping you from interacting with the real world, you could have an addiction. So what are some of the signs of Internet addiction? You feel guilty about your computer use, and neglect family, friends or responsibilities in order to spend time online; When you are not on the computer, you think about it frequently, and try to figure out ways you can get access to the internet; You look for ways to get online from school, work or family events; You feel anxious, irritable or depressed when you can't be on the internet; You lie to family and friends about how much time you're spending online; You try to limit your time on the computer and usually fail. Some people are more susceptible to internet dependence than others. People who are at greater risk for internet addiction include: Those with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. People with other addictions, including sex, porn, and gambling addictions. People who are lonely, feel like they have few friends, or can't get out of the house to socialize. If you think you spend too much time on the internet, but aren't sure if you have an addiction, try to cut back on your use. Schedule time with friends and family members. Invite them out for coffee or a walk and leave your iPhone or Blackberry at home. Give yourself set hours where you are allowed to use the internet. Make a list of your must-dos, like responding to emails or paying your bills and get those done first. Set a timer, and make sure you get off when your time is up. If efforts to cut back on your internet use fail, talk to a mental health professional. Chances are, you have an internet addiction that needs medical attention.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012