Every morning, seconds after my eyes adjust to the onslaught of sunlight pouring through the windows, I check my inbox. Email is immediately followed by Facebook and Instagram to see what I missed between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. Sometimes, I’m still blinking away sleep while attempting to focus on the blurred words displayed on the tiny phone screen. During my morning commute, my eyes are glued to the phone as I browse news stories on the train. In the office, my eyes stare at the computer all day, and when it’s time to leave, I’m back to browsing my phone, which occurs on and off throughout the night until it’s finally time for bed.

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I’m definitely not alone when it comes to excessive internet use, and a new study says all of this screen time might impact how our bodies function. Researchers at Swansea University in Wales, United Kingdom, found that people who spend a lot of time browsing the web actually experience withdrawal.

In the small study, 144 people between 18 and 33 years had their heart rate and blood pressure measured before and after using the internet. Those who went online the most exhibited elevated heart rate and blood pressure after logging off, in addition to feeling more anxious. On average, internet junkies had a 3 to 4 percent increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Comparatively, people who weren’t always connected didn’t experience changes. Anxiety and internet usage was determined through self reporting by the participants.

“We have known for some time that people who are over-dependent on digital devices report feelings of anxiety when they are stopped from using them, but now we can see that these psychological effects are accompanied by actual physiological changes,” says study lead author Phil Reed, Ph.D. and professor at Swansea University, in a statement.

Subjects averaged five hours a day on the internet with about 20 percent spending more than six hours a day lurking online. Roughly 40 percent of the sample reported spending too much time on the web. Browsing social media and shopping were the most common behaviors. This study did not include gamers, who often play for hours, and might experience different physiological effects. While not dangerous, researchers likened physiological changes from internet withdrawal to that of alcohol or weed.

A study from 2014 estimated that about six percent of the world’s population might be addicted to the internet. However, internet addiction is not deemed an actual disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which healthcare professionals use to diagnose patients. Still, the American Psychological Association reports that Americans are greatly increasing their time online, with those who log more than 20 hours a week almost doubling to 43 million people between 2008 and 2015. Gaming is a particular area of concern as symptoms can mimic those of substance abuse (like needing more play time to get the same rush), and internet gaming disorder is included in the DSM-5 as requiring further research.

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Prior studies have shown that too much time on social media sites take a toll on happiness, causing envy and the fear of missing out, or FOMO. Many mental health professionals advise adopting tech curfews to limit your reliance on gadgets in favor of spending time enjoying the company of family and friends.

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