4 MIN READ | Clinical Psychology

Elena Deeley

Online Addiction: The Bad, the Worse, and the Ugly

Cite This
Elena Deeley, (2021, January 5). Online Addiction: The Bad, the Worse, and the Ugly. Psychreg on Clinical Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/online-addiction/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Today, the internet facilitates many things, apart from the basic social interaction with family and friends. However, it has positive and negative sides, with many people having different views of whether it does more harm than good. The truth is, the time you spend and the activities you do on the internet determine whether it improves or ruins your life. If your computer or mobile phone is interfering with your day-to-day activities, be it work or school, or how you interact with other people offline, then you should consider that an internet addiction. 

However, just because you use the internet a lot in watching videos, checking social media, or occasionally shopping online doesn’t mean you have an online addiction. Many people use the internet for good intentions, such as work or communications. The problems come when your online use is excessive that it interferes with your daily functioning. The internet’s riskiness comes in the kind of activities you excessively indulge in and the amount of time you spend doing them. Let’s look at some of these online addictions.

Video games addiction

Video games provide a perfect way to enjoy your leisure time and make great hobbies for many people. However, when you spend most of your time playing video games that you cannot perform other activities, you are addicted to video games. Many people do not know they have video game addiction and confuse that for the game’s love until it is too late.

Video game addictions have not started today. As computers became more widely available at workplaces, technological advances led to integrating games such as solitaire into the software. Office employees could spend most of their time playing these games, which notably reduced productivity. Over the years, more advanced and exciting video games have come up, which has led to an upsurge in the number of video game addicts. 

How do you know if you have a video game addiction?

  • Inability to play less or quit gaming.
  • You think about playing video games all the time.
  • You have gaming-related problems at work or at school.
  • Inability to do other activities as you used to before gaming.
  • You are feeling frustrated when you can’t play.
  • You are lying about the time you spend playing video games and playing despite all these problems.

Video gaming is a great hobby, but if it interferes with your daily functioning, you should seek psychological therapy.

Online shopping addiction

Online shopping addiction is real. Doing a shopping spree here and there from time to time is harmless, but when it gets habitual, then it becomes a shopping addiction. With the rise of e-commerce businesses, many people today shop in their houses’ comfort with just a mobile phone and the internet. The timely delivery and shipping of products give many people a shopping convenience in saving time and money.

While overshopping or overspending can happen to anyone, online shopping addiction is characterized by an extreme craving to shop more products after another, which you don’t necessarily need. A shopping addict gets relief after shopping, but soon after, he/she has another craving for a different product and only gets instant gratification after shopping. 

People with compulsive shopping disorders often spend more than they can afford on shopping and get loans to facilitate their shopping sprees. They experience post-purchase guilt but will shop more to suppress the guilt and feel better after shopping, creating a more vicious cycle. Online shops are mostly accessible all around the clock making such people unable to control their shopping habits.

How to identify if you have an online shopping addiction

  • Thinking about online shopping all the time, and it is the only thing that relieves you.
  • You are feeling frustrated when you can’t shop online, maybe due to a lack of funds.
  • You are shopping more than you can afford and borrowing money to facilitate your online shopping sprees.
  • You feel guilty after purchasing but shop more to suppress such feelings.
  • You are purchasing unnecessary things.
  • Online products and adverts excessively excite you and lead to unnecessary shopping.
  • Your close friends and family are concerned about your online shopping habits.

Seeking behavioural therapy and the treatment of probably an underlying issue can help improve the compulsive online shopping.

Gambling addiction

Gambling is a recreational activity, but it becomes an addiction or a problem when it goes overboard. Gambling addiction occurs when you are in financial ruin, and you only feel like you can solve your financial problems by gambling with the little money you have in the hope of getting more. Or, you have lost a massive sum of money to gambling, and you gamble more in the hope of winning the money back. That only leads to you losing more since gambling companies do not favour anyone based on how many times they play. It is a game of odds.

So, the cycle continues until you realise you have spent all your money on gambling. Gambling addictions also occur when someone enjoys placing high risky bets with money they can’t afford to lose with expectations to win more.  

Here are the signs of gambling addiction

  • You are gambling all the time.
  • Gambling even when you can’t afford to.
  • You are spending all your money on gambling activities.
  • You are having problems with your family and friends due to gambling.
  • You are borrowing money to gamble and being secretive about your gambling activities.

The indicator of gambling addiction is when you feel you can’t stop, you keep trying one more time, and you get anxious when you think about quitting. That means you should seek behavioural therapy.

How to prevent online addictions

Since it is difficult to avoid using the internet altogether, the only thing you can do is mitigate the risks of developing online addictions. Today, online companies are integrating technology with human interaction to reduce the chances of users developing addictions. For instance, if it is gambling, someone on the other end interacts with you and monitors your gambling trends to warn you if you go overboard or limit the time you spend on the gambling site.

Human interactions on online platforms reduce the risks of online addictions since someone is actively monitoring your activities. When using online sites such as gambling, choose one that utilizes technology and human interaction to control your dependency, monitor your spending trends, and the time you spend on the online platforms.


Elena Deeley did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.


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