Internet Addiction

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Internet addiction is a relatively recent phenomenon related to the growth of technology and computers in our society. It refers to excessive and possibly compulsive use of the internet, often relating to chat rooms, online messaging and game playing.

Excessive internet usage can be found in all age groups. As a university student, internet addiction may put you at risk of underperforming in your studies, as well as neglecting other important responsibilities and social activities.

While internet is probably part of your day to day life, you might wonder how much usage can be classed as addiction? This is not an easy question to answer. The amount of time spent on the internet varies for different people and different types of usage.

Perhaps the answer lies with how you balance internet usage with the rest of your responsibilities and activities. Have a think about these questions then write down your answers:

  • How many hours each day do you spend on the internet, with family or friends, at work and studying? Keep count over a week and compare all the figures.
  • What sort of sites are you using and why? Are they study or personal development related? Are they interactive or social? What do you get out of this type of usage?
  • Are you are avoiding tasks or issues by spending time on the internet?
  • Do you feel frustrated or angry if you can’t use the internet?

For some, the Internet has become an addiction, adversely affecting their lives and their family’s lives.

Many people are suffering the consequences of obsession with the online world, warns Dr. Diane M. Wieland, who treats patients with computer addiction in her practice in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

For some people, the Internet may promote addictive behaviors and pseudo-intimate interpersonal relationships, reports Wieland in the journal, Perspectives in Psychiatric Care. “Such cyberspace contacts may result in cyber disorders such as virtual relationships that evolve into online marital infidelity (cybersex) or online sexually compulsive behaviors,” she writes.

“Obsession with and craving time on the computer results in neglect of real-life personal relationships to the point of divorce,” Wieland says.

The prevalence of Internet addiction is hard to gauge at the moment, Wieland notes. Extrapolating from prevalence rates of other addictions, she thinks that 5 percent to 10 percent of Internet users will most likely experience addiction.

Signs and symptoms of Internet addiction include a general disregard for health and appearance; sleep deprivation due to spending so much time online; and decreased physical activity and social interaction with others. Dry eyes, carpal tunnel syndrome, and repetitive motion injuries of the hands and fingers are common.

Internet addicts may also get the “cyber shakes” when off line, exhibiting agitation and typing motions of the fingers when not at the computer.

Many Internet addicts have a history of depression, alcohol or drug abuse, and anxiety disorder, according to Wieland, who is an associate professor at the La Salle University School of Nursing.

“Denial is strong in Internet addicts who claim they cannot be addicted to a machine,” Wieland notes. The “one more minute” response to being asked to go offline is common and is similar to an alcoholic who says they will quit drinking after “one more drink.”

Source: May 22, 2006

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