Causes of Internet Addiction

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There is no single cause that can explain the addiction to the new technologies; this disorder is associated with a combination of factors:

Brain with a marked area

Neuro-anatomical factors Research studies suggest that people with an Internet addiction have alterations in the brain similar to those individuals with an addiction to drugs and with the old compulsive gambling habit. In particular, it has been observed that there are changes in the area of the brain associated with attention, planning, and prioritising (pre-frontal area). These changes explain why people with addictions put the use of the Internet or consumption of drugs before basic everyday things, like eating or sleeping.  

Changes in brain neurotransmitter levels

Biological factors. Research studies suggest that people with addiction problems have an imbalance in the chemical substances that the brain uses to communicate (neurotransmitters). In particular, it has been observed that the levels of the dopamine and serotonin transmitters are lower than that of the general population. This deficiency could explain why people with addiction problems consume drugs since some of them increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain.

Person with anxiety, fear and worry

Individual factors. People that are shy and have problems relating have more risk of having an addiction to the new technologies, since the use of the Internet and social networks allows one to communicate without having to interact face to face.

Person with social media icons

Factors associated with the Internet. The type of reward that the Internet offers, immediate and unpredictable, makes it easier to be addicted to this activity than others that may offer fixed and long-term rewards. For example, on connecting to their Facebook profile, an individual can discover that one of their friends has been on holiday or that the person that they like has just ended the relationship that they had. Each start of session offers unpredictable and potentially positive information that makes the person look forward to return to consult it.

Risk factors of Internet Addiction

The addiction to the Internet more often affects:



Teenager girl and boy


Person with anxiety, fear and worry

People with difficulties to relate socially

Person smoking next to another person

People with drug addiction problems

Disheveled person looking in the mirror

People with psychiatric disorders like anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

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Substantiated information by:

Eva Varela

Published: 16 October 2019
Updated: 16 October 2019


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