Although some mental health professionals have begun to recognize Internet addiction as a legitimate behavioral disorder, it is still difficult to separate the idea of 'Internet addiction' from simple overuse or temporary obsession. One might just as easily form an undiagnosed addiction to televisions, telephones or other entertaining technologies. True Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) can be defined by a number of behaviors similar to other addictions such as gambling, sex, or drugs.
There is little doubt that the Internet can provide hours of entertainment and connectivity for users. In one sense, Internet addiction would be no different that claiming addiction to socializing or information gathering. The technology of the Internet itself does not create Internet addiction. Lengthy chats in online chatrooms are not much different from lengthy phone conversations or face-to-face meetings. What can create an Internet addiction is the habitual feeding of a social or emotional need.
There are a number of questions to ask yourself when confronting a possible Internet addiction. Do you find yourself needing to spend more and more of your spare time on the Internet in order to feel satisfied? A number of people suffering from Internet addiction experience the same sensation of 'tolerance' felt by substance abusers. If you've ever spent far more time than you intended online, you may be facing an Internet addiction.
Another aspect of Internet addiction is withdrawal from the real world. Have you ever chosen time on the Internet over a social obligation or opportunity to interact with others? Have you kept others waiting while you checked your email or message board responses? Again, time spent on the Internet is not necessarily an indicator of Internet addiction, but there needs to be a healthy balance between the real world and the virtual one presented on the Internet.
A number of Internet addiction sufferers actually report feelings of anxiety and frustration which are only relieved through Internet access. If you find yourself feeling panicky or anxious whenever Internet access is limited, you may be suffering from Internet addiction. Some Internet addicts also become openly hostile towards others if an online session is disrupted. If you notice any secretive or defensive reactions while surfing the Internet, you may be suffering from Internet addiction.
Another warning sign of possible Internet addiction is the inability to quit 'cold turkey'. Removal from the Internet environment for even a few days can cause those with Internet addiction to experience withdrawal symptoms. If you notice any uncontrollable trembling or obsessive thoughts about the Internet during abstinence, you may have an Internet addiction. It is normal to be concerned about important emails or job-related Internet activities, but if those concerns prevent you from enjoying your time away from the computer, then you may want to seek professional counseling for Internet addiction.