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Internet addiction: how to return from the virtual world to the real?

24.07.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Internet addiction is a learned behavior model in which a person spends time online to the detriment of other areas of life. In this case, the Internet becomes the only leisure. Online communication replaces meetings with friends and relatives, the image on social networks is of particular importance. Every free minute is spent checking notifications on your smartphone screen. So virtual life replaces the real one, and every year this problem becomes more urgent.

According to the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM):

  • In 2013, more than half of the respondents (53%) said they were addicted to the Internet.
  • In 2016, a significant portion of the respondents (75%) recognized Internet addiction as a significant problem for modern youth.

How to detect Internet addiction? Why is this problem occurring? How to get rid of the pathological habit of surfing the Internet all the time? You will find answers to these and other questions in our article.


  1. Types of Internet addiction
  2. Test for Internet addiction
  3. Symptoms of Internet addiction
  4. Why is Internet addiction developing?
  5. How to overcome addiction

Types of Internet addiction

internet addiction

In the scientific world, they began to speak about this problem back in 1995 (1). Psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg proposed the concept of “Internet addiction” as a form of non-chemical addiction – along with addiction to gambling. The first large-scale research was begun by psychologist Kimberly Young in 1996. (2)

She identified 5 types of Internet addiction: (3)

  1. Computer addiction. Attachment to any computer activity. Working at the computer compensates for the inner feeling of emptiness and loneliness.
  2. Dependence on Internet surfing / searching. In fact, this is Internet surfing without a specific purpose and sense. For example, a person needs to make a work report or prepare a study report, but instead, after a couple of hours, he/she founds that he/she is surfing entertainment sites. Thus, the dependence on searching becomes a form of avoiding work or study. Result: information overload, fatigue and low productivity.
  3. Pathological attachment to online shopping, auctions and gambling. This kind of dependence is especially dangerous because it leads to financial losses. Due to the possibility of instant payment by a card, addiction develops even more than in relation to traditional slot machines or casinos.
  4. Cyber communication addiction. Or dependence on social networks, chat rooms, multiplayer games, which leads to the replacement of real communication with virtual one.
  5. Cybersex addiction – a strong desire to visit sites with pornographic materials and virtual sex. All this negatively affects relationships: destroys existing ones or leads to unwillingness to create a couple in reality in general.

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Test for Internet addiction

If you suspect yourself or a loved one of this problem, you can take a psychological test for Internet addiction, which will help you understand how serious the problem is.

The authors of the test are psychologists L.N. Yuryev and T.Yu. Bolbot (4).

Statement Never Seldom Often Very often
1. How often do you feel revitalization, pleasure, satisfaction or relief while at the computer (on the Internet)?        
2. How often do you anticipate staying at the computer (on the Internet), thinking and reflecting on how you find yourself at the computer, open a certain site, find certain information, make new friends?        
3. How often do you need to spend more and more time at the computer (on the Internet) or spend more and more money in order to get the same feeling?        
4. How often do you manage to independently stop working at the computer (on the Internet)?        
5. How often do you feel nervousness, decreased mood, irritability or emptiness away from the computer (offline)?        
6. How often do you feel the need to return to your computer (online) to improve your mood or avoid life problems?        
7. How often do you neglect family or social responsibilities and studies because of the frequent work at the computer (on the Internet)?        
8. How often do you have to lie, hide from your parents or teachers the amount of time spent at the computer (on the Internet)?        
9. How often is there an actualization or threat of loss of friendships and / or family relationships, changes in financial stability, academic success due to frequent work at the computer (online)?        
10. How often do you notice physical symptoms, such as: numbness and pain in the hand, back pain, dry eyes, headaches; neglect of personal hygiene, eating near the computer?        
11. How often do you notice sleep disturbances or changes in sleep patterns due to frequent work at the computer (on the network)?        

How to count points:

  • “never” – 1 point;
  • “rarely” – 2 points;
  • “often” – 3 points;
  • “very often” – 4 points.


  • If the total score is less than 16, then the risk of developing an Internet addiction is 0.
  • From 16 to 22 points – the stage of enthusiasm or “sticking”. A person is still able to control the time he/she spends on the Internet, realistically evaluates himself/herself, but is already at risk of developing an Internet addiction.
  • From 23 to 37 points – the first stage of dependence. Rehabilitation measures are recommended. A person with difficulty is able to control time on the Internet.
  • 38 or more points – the second stage of dependence. It is necessary to carry out rehabilitation measures. The user is unable to objectively assess the harm caused by addiction, does not control the time and nature of staying on the Internet. An Internet addiction destroys personal life, relationships and work.

Symptoms of Internet addiction

relieve stress

Maress Orzac, an American psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, devoted many years to the study of Internet, computer, and computer games addiction. She gives the following signs by which a problem can be identified:

  • staying online is the main source of pleasure and stress relief;
  • money is being spent on the Internet (purchases within online games, paid applications);
  • when it is not possible to access the network, a person’s mood significantly changes in a negative direction;
  • constant thoughts about the Internet when offline;
  • attempts to control time online again and again do not bring success;
  • staying online is used to avoid actual problems or responsibilities in real life;
  • personal relationships that have a high significance for the person in the past are being destroyed;
  • a person is lying about how much time he/she has been online and why;
  • excessive use of computer and the Internet leads to financial difficulties;
  • health problems caused by longtime surfing, sleep disturbance, sitting position.

The presence of at least 5 symptoms may be the reason for seeking professional help. (5)

Why is Internet addiction developing

Why is Internet addiction developing

Each person dependent on the Internet goes his/her own individual way. But there is a common symptom that unites people with an irresistible craving for the Internet – poor communication skills.

Real life communication requires more spontaneity. And on the Internet there is always an opportunity to think about the answer a little longer. Negative or inadequate communication experiences can cause poor communication skills in everyday life. (3) That is why Internet addiction is often formed in children.

This point of view is confirmed by the opinion of a Russian practicing psychologist, author of the book “Virtual Psychology” Nikolay Nosov: the development of Internet addiction lies in shifting attention to virtual reality in order to fill in the gaps in real life (6).
The risk of developing an Internet addiction also increases in the following cases:

1.      In children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Studies have shown that Internet addiction and ADHD are often found in parallel. (7)

2.      People who already have some kind of addiction. Dependent behavior generally triggers toxic habits.

How to overcome addiction

Everyone who has discovered such a problem will ask a question: “How to get rid of Internet addiction?” You can try to cope on your own, but it will be safer to go to a psychologist or use modern technologies of psychological correction of behavior. Any addiction is a habit, and a habit can be changed.

We will help you to banish your gambling addiction

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7Spsy behavior modification technique is based on behavioral psychology and allows you to effectively solve the problem by changing the behavior model. The method is based on the theory of reflexes by I.P. Pavlov and the theory of operant conditioning by B.F. Skinner.

The behavior modification program lasts from 2 to 6 weeks. At the same time, the course is remote: you can practice at a convenient time in a comfortable environment. The 7Spsy method has no side effects.

As a result of the course, you can free from the constant desire to spend time on the Internet and enjoy real life again.


  1. Goldberg, I. (1996) Internet addiction disorder // CyberPsychol. Behaviour. V 3. #4 P. 403-412.
  2. Iang, K. S. (2000) Diagnoz – internet-zavisimost // Mir Internet. # 2. C. 24-29
  3. Young, Kimberly (2017). “The Evolution of Internet Addiction Disorder”. Internet Addiction. Studies in Neuroscience, Psychology and Behavioral Economics. Springer, Cham. pp. 3–18
  4. L.N. Iureva, T.Iu. Bolbot. Kompiuternaia zavisimost: formirovanie, diagnostika, lechenie i profilaktika. Monografiia. Dnepropetrovsk “Porogi”, 2006.
  5. Orzack, V. H. (1998) Computer addiction: What is it? // Psychiatric Times V. 15. #8. P. 34-38.
  6. Nosov N. A. (2000) Virtualnaia psikhologiia. M.: Agraf.
  7. Przepiorka, Aneta Małgorzata; Blachnio, Agata; Miziak, Barbara; Czuczwar, Stanisław Jerzy (April 2014). “Clinical approaches to treatment of Internet addiction”. Pharmacological Reports. 66 (2): 187–191.