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15. In denial over Web use? You could be addicted

By Mark Alberstat

Drugs and gambling are common enough addictions most people have heard about and seen talked about in countless segments of daytime talk shows. Internet addiction, however, is one that is not often talked about but is more common today than it was just a few years ago.

The increase is somewhat due to a growing number of people on high-speed accounts and an ever-growing number of instant messaging programs, some of which come tightly integrated into the newer Microsoft operating systems.

Internet addiction is a far-reaching term that takes in several disorders that tend to manifest themselves when the person is on the Internet.

The Center for Online Addiction has broken Internet addiction into five basic categories. It should be noted that a person could have one or more of these addictions.

Net-gaming addiction is one of the most common types. We have all heard of computer gamers staying up for 24 hours or more playing a game until they nearly collapse, and parents or friends have to make some type of intervention.

With the advent of online gaming, this group of addicts has grown. Today, gamers can play against each other no matter where they are in the world or what time it is.

This group is wide enough to take in people addicted to online gambling, e-trading and e-auction sites. Playing the latest version of Quake, or some other interactive game, for endless hours may seem like a waste of time to some. However, other addicts may lose thousands of dollars gambling or stock trading, which can be disruptive to the individual's family and future.

A related group of individuals are those simply addicted to computer games that are not interactive. Games like solitaire and Minesweeper are loaded with Windows and some people find themselves unable to pull away from the screen, trying again and again to beat their own high score.

Chat rooms are quickly becoming the source of new addicts. People will spend hours in chat rooms making friends and talking with people from around the globe.

Problems arise when the user views these relationships as more important than their own friends or family.

Related to this group are those who go into chat rooms for cyber sexual relations. These people often engage in cyber relationships at the expense of their real ones, creating marital problems. These individuals may also spend a lot of time online viewing adult Web sites or download pornography.

A final group of people who may become addicted to the Internet are those who are fascinated and overwhelmed by the amount of information available today. This is a new type of compulsive behaviour in which individuals are preoccupied with collecting and organizing information from the Internet. It is often termed information overload, with the individual's productivity suffering from this behaviour.

The following is a list of behaviours that may indicate you or someone else may have an Internet addiction problem. They should not be considered to be an exhaustive test of conditions or a firm yardstick for the disability.

  • Using the online services every day without any days off.

  • Losing track of time while online.

  • Going out less and less.

  • Spending less time on meals at home or at work, and eating in front of the monitor.

  • Denying spending too much time on the Net.

  • Others complaining you're spending too much time in front of the monitor.

  • Checking on e-mail many times a day.

  • Looking forward with great anticipation to the next online session.

  • Logging onto the Net while already busy at work.

  • Sneaking online when spouse or family members are not at home, with a sense of relief.

On the Web: - Cyberwidows - Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery - Center for Online Addiction - Internet addiction survey

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Originally published 17 August 2003


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