Internet Addiction and ADHD

Internet addiction (IA) has been considered a new psychiatric disorder(1). Based on a study, individuals using the internet excessively and pathologically are at risk of suffering from adverse consequences(2).

Such consequences include getting into arguments, fatigue, social isolation, and even functional problems like poor grading in school, marriage failure, and job loss(3).

Internet addiction can manifest itself in various ways. But how do you tell if someone has such a condition? What does IA mean for people with ADHD?

This article provides pertinent information about internet addiction and its possible relation with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). It also discusses treatments to help people suffering from ADHD plus IA.

Signs of Internet Addiction

Internet addiction is a growing social issue that is being debated globally. Problematic computer use is believed to be causing psychological disturbances, neurological complications, and social problems(4).

Surveys in the U.S. and Europe have shown alarming prevalence rates between 1.5 and 8.2%. However, the assessment questionnaires and diagnostic criteria used for diagnosis vary between countries(5).

If you think that someone close to you may be addicted to the internet, below are the two criteria to check:

Unsuccessful Attempts to Cut Back Internet Usage

Spending too much time online is an issue for many individuals. If someone has IA, they may be genuinely trying to limit their internet usage. However, they may still be unable to cut back their usage despite knowing the consequences.

Someone who’s suffering from IA may take risks to satisfy their desire. For example, your co-worker may view porn at work despite the possibility of being caught.

Or your son may skip class often because of having stayed up all night gaming. If reprimanded, he may be genuinely sorry but still can’t stop this destructive pattern.

Jeopardizing Oneself 

Internet addiction is usually accompanied by the following(6):

  • Changes in mood
  • Preoccupation with the internet and digital media
  • The inability to control the amount of time spent with digital technology
  • The need for more time to achieve the desired mood
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not engaged
  • Continuation of the behavior despite relationship conflicts
  • Diminishing social life
  • Adverse work or academic consequences

Mental Health Vulnerabilities

Researchers have noted that various mental disorders co-occur with internet addiction(7).

A 2011 study reported that higher scores for anxiety, depression, interpersonal sensitivity, psychoticism, and hostility can be consequences of IA. However, further research is necessary due to the limitations of the study(8).

What Does IA Mean for Individuals With ADHD?

ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is a common neurodevelopmental conditions of childhood(9).

ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. People with such a condition may have trouble controlling impulsive behavior or paying attention(10).

A 2017 study found that internet addiction was positively associated with ADHD among young adults and adolescents(11).

The researchers encouraged healthcare providers and parents to pay more attention to the symptoms of ADHD in people with IA. They also suggested the importance of monitoring the internet usage of individuals who have ADHD(12).

Treatment for Internet Addiction (IA)

It’s recommended that you do the following steps to help your loved one with ADHD who may be suffering from IA, too.

Manage ADHD First

Research about substance abuse suggests that untreated ADHD poses an elevated risk for addiction(13).

ADHD impulsive types are frequently less aware of the consequences of their action. So if you think that your loved one diagnosed with such a condition is also struggling with IA, make sure to consult your doctor for help.

Keep Time Structured

Some individuals with ADHD are already time-blind. “Unaccountable free time” represents a significant risk factor for people with such a condition.

Ensure that you manage how your loved one spends their time online. Keeping a structured time is critical for someone struggling with ADHD plus IA.

Review Their Environment 

Setting limits and restrictions may help your loved one overcome addiction. Aside from deleting unnecessary apps from their mobile devices, content filtering is also recommended to ensure online safety

Seek Peer-Based Support

Many people have joined together on internet forums and found solutions to their everyday problems that resulted from chronic internet use.

You may search for support groups online that seek to help people work through their addiction problems, such as those specific to ADHD plus IA.


Some people have developed unhealthy relationships with the internet. Perhaps, they see it as a form of escape from their problems. Rather than learning to cope with real life, they choose to spend long hours online to divert their attention.

Whatever their reasons may be, too much of anything is not good. If you suspect your loved one with ADHD is also suffering from IA, make sure you do something about it. You may schedule an appointment with your clinician to help you determine the appropriate care for them.


  1. Psychology of computer use: XL. Addictive use of the Internet: a case that breaks the stereotype

  1. The association between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and internet addiction: a systematic review and metaanalysis

  1. Ibid.
  2. Internet Addiction: A Brief Summary of Research and Practice

  1. Internet addiction or excessive internet use

  1. Internet Addiction: A Brief Summary of Research and Practice

  1. Ibid.
  2. Precursor or sequela: pathological disorders in people with Internet addiction disorder

  1. What is ADHD?

  1. Ibid.
  2. The association between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and internet addiction: a systematic review and metaanalysis

  1. Ibid.
  2. ADHD Long-term Outcomes: Comorbidity, Secondary Conditions, and Health Risk Behaviors