The Virtual Addiction - Tired But Wired

by Sam Malone

Internet addiction seems like a small price to pay when weighed against the many benefits that the internet has given us. But as many worried parents will testify, falling grades at school, anti-social behavior and eating and sleeping disorders are some of the unpleasant facts that they have to deal with daily, all because of excessive internet usage. The more worrisome fact is that this addiction is not limited to kids alone. Many adults, both at home and at the work place, are also guilty of spending inordinate amounts of time surfing the net to the detriment of their health, work and social lives.

Internet addiction is a phenomenon that has been documented in a growing number of countries. It has become a serious public health concern in China, Taiwan and Korea. In fact, there have even been a few documented cases of death due to internet addiction.

In this day and age, when computers and the internet are synonymous with 21st century life, how can one identify themselves as an internet addict?

Some of the symptoms of internet addiction that are included in the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ) include:

  • Preoccupation with the internet such as thinking of previous online activity or the next session
  • Increase in time spent on the internet
  • Repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut back on time spent on the internet
  • Feeling restless, depressed, moody or irritable when attempting to cut back on internet usage
  • Risking or jeopardizing jobs, relationships, career or relationships because of excessive internet usage
  • Lying to family members, therapists or others about the amount of time spent online
  • Using the internet to cope with feelings of depression, guilt, inadequacy, anxiety or stress

Other symptoms include:

  • Neglecting family and friends to stay online
  • Avoiding social engagements
  • Excessive leave from school or work
  • Irregular eating and sleeping habits
  • Loss of weight or weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Backaches
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Disinterest in former pleasurable activities such as sports

Apart from the obvious health issues, other consequences of internet addiction are also of significant concern. Increased internet usage in the work place can result in lowered productivity as employees devote more time to surfing than to work. More worrying is the effect it has on children. Many kids prefer to spend time online rather than interact with other children. This may lead to a lack in the development of social and interactive skills, leaving them emotionally weakened.

Internet addiction can be treated using techniques such as 'cognitive-behavioral therapy' (CBT). Self-help groups can also provide valuable support to those who are trying to rehabilitate themselves.

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