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If you’re reading this, chances are you’re an addict

Annie Wakefield
Digital Marketing Manager
9 September 2009

internet_addictionAre you a single, college-educated, white male in your 30s? Do you spend approximately thirty hours a week on non-essential computer use? Do you sometimes hide your surfing? Do you go online to improve your mood? Do you find yourself craving more time on the internet, or feel restless when not online? In that case, you may well be an internet addict.

Internet addiction is real: the internet says so. It has its own Wikipedia page. If you search for it in Google, you’ll get about 12,200,000 hits. And researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Silicon Valley said a recent telephone survey indicated that more than one of every eight US residents showed at least one sign (there are many) of “problematic internet use”.

Symptoms of internet addiction include a general disregard for health and appearance, sleep deprivation due to spending so much time online, decreased physical activity, and a decrease in social interaction with others.
What’s more, many internet addicts have a history of depression, alcohol or drug abuse and anxiety disorder, according to Dr Diane M Wieland, who treats patients for computer addiction in Pennsylvania, USA. “Denial is strong in internet addicts who claim they cannot be addicted to a machine,” she explains.

Wikipedia describes it thus: “Internet addiction disorder (IAD), or, more broadly, Internet overuse, problematic computer use or pathological computer use, is excessive computer use that interferes with daily life.” Still not sure? Take an online quiz to see if you are addicted to the net.

If you suspect you are an addict, do not fear: self-help websites are available online to help you to get offline. But if that’s not working for you, the brand new ReStart centre for internet addiction has just opened near Seattle, USA. It claims to be America’s first residential detox centre for internet addicts and for about £8 500 you can spend 45 days cold turkey, recovering with the help of counselling and psychotherapy. Patients are encouraged to bond as a group in activities such as household chores, walks in the grounds and exercising.

It’s not all good though.

Millions of Chinese youngsters suffer from internet addiction, with figures claiming that about 10 million children from among the 340 million internet population are addicts, and the country’s treatment methods for those with internet addiction has been mired in controversy of late. Highlights in recent news include the reports of the deaths of two teenage boys at such institutions, while a third youngster is currently in hospital with kidney failure from severe beatings. And I’m not even going to mention the electric shock treatments.

Before you panic though, research has also shown that in many cases internet overuse does in fact correct itself. A certain Professor Kiesler completed a study (back in 2005) of heavy internet users, which showed the majority had sharply reduced their time on the computer over the course of a year, indicating that even problematic use was self-corrective. A case of the internet getting … boring?

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