Posted: Mar 26, 2013 10:00 AM
You love to surf the web, checking out everything from the latest sale at your favorite store to reading the Facebook status updates of your friends. But as the clock ticks away and you spend more and more hours in front of your computer and on your smartphone, you begin to wonder if your time spent online is normal. Or if could you have a real problem?

Internet addiction isn't uncommon — especially for moms

The internet is a great place to find like-minded people with whom you connect. Especially if you are a mom who isn't feeling like she's getting the support she needs in her personal life. Dr. Ramani Durvasula, an addiction specialist, says, "For moms who may feel isolated, it becomes a way to connect with others, while simultaneously disconnecting from the real people in life."

1 in 8 Americans suffer from problematic internet use

This is what happened to Sarah Taylor, a mother of two boys (ages 6 and 9), and manager at who says she was addicted to the internet and, at her worst, spent more than 10 hours a day online. Taylor says her addiction caused her to become increasingly agitated, often losing her temper with her husband and children. "I was trying to mask a shameful situation," says Taylor.

"It took my husband asking me what was more important — the internet or the kid — for me to see how awful the situation was," says Taylor, who suddenly found herself in the shocking number of 1 in 8 Americans who suffer from problematic internet use.

The warning signs that could point to an addiction

Taylor says she'd spend almost half of every day on travel blogs and forums, but would refuse her husband's offers to take a real-life trip. "I didn't cook a meal, I was doing nothing around the house. I would sleep while the boys were in school and when they wanted to speak to me, I was staring at the computer."

If you're reading this and feeling your own time spent online might mean you have an addiction, Erica Ives, a therapist who specializes in treating addiction, says there are at least 10 warning signs to look for that could mean you have a problem:

  1. Is your use of the internet resulting in neglecting your responsibilities (including family, work, finances) and is your productivity declining?

  2. Is it causing emotional distress for you, your family, loved ones and friends?

  3. Are you finding yourself thinking about getting on the internet when you are otherwise engaged in other activities?

  4. Are you losing sleep by staying up late hours at night to be on the internet?

  5. Is your use of the internet resulting in changes in your appetite, weight, mood and/or your overall health?

  6. Is your hygiene being neglected as a result of excessive internet use?

  7. Is your use of the internet interfering in your social functioning?

  8. Are others asking you to get off the internet and you find yourself ignoring their requests?

  9. Do you stay online longer than you planned?

  10. Do you become secretive or defensive about your internet use?

Ways to get over an internet addiction

The good news is, it's very possible to get over an internet addiction, even in these times where everything seems to be linked to the world wide web. To get over your addiction. Dr. Durvasula suggests the following ways:

  • Using a phone that does not have internet service so that when away from a desk, the behavior cannot be engaged in. (And no carrying a tablet either!)
  • Creating no-internet zones either regions of home where wireless doesn't work, or times of day it gets unplugged (e.g. after 4 p.m. when the kids get home).
  • When the urge to reach for the internet hits, engage in other activities such as reading, exercise, hobbies, journaling, anything except internet.
  • Working with a licensed mental health provider, especially if the issue has already caused significant disruption in the person's life.

And Taylor? She says getting over her addiction took her nearly seven months. "Little by little, I began to exclude the internet from my life to minimal usage, until it was only job-related. I realized that I was spoiling the life of my family over something trifle. It was unbearable to be unconscious of it, but it was my healing remedy."

More about your family's time online

Moms addicted to smartphones
How to protect tweens from online bullying
Online safety for tweens and teens