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David Baxter

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How Internet Addiction Is Affecting Lives
May 10, 2006
by Diane M. Wieland

The Internet -- millions of people rely on it for everyday tasks. But when is the line crossed between average use and addiction? An article published in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care states, "The Internet has properties that for some individuals promote addictive behaviors and pseudo-intimate interpersonal relationships." Nurse practitioners will soon find themselves faced with the issues of "internet addicts" and their inability to get offline.

While not yet defined as a true addiction, many are suffering the consequences of obsession with the online world, unable to control their use. From gaming to sexual and emotional relationships, the internet is taking over lives. More and more people will be confronted with consequences such as divorce and physical symptoms which will force them to seek both medical and psychological treatment.

Online marital infidelity (cybersex) can lead to divorce and harm personal relationships. Individuals who seek out sexual partners online also appear to be at higher risk for sexually transmitted disease. Furthermore, such behaviors can lead to cybersexual addiction. Previous studies have reported that "approximately 9 million people, or 15 percent of Internet users, accessed one of the top adult Web sites in a 1-month period."

Some physical symptoms include "cyber shakes," dry eyes, carpal tunnel syndrome and headaches. "A focus on the computer and lack of attention to daily reality is indicative of poor judgment and results on lowered grades in school, job loss, and indebtedness."

Recognizing this as an addiction will allow for appropriate treatment. Subsequently, therapists will be faced with how to treat such technological addictions and their associated issues.

This study is published in the Perspectives in Psychiatric Care.

Diane M. Wieland, PhD, RN, CS has been a psychiatric nurse for over twenty-five years. Dr. Wieland also has a private practice in which she has treated patients with computer addiction. She received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and is certified as a clinical specialist for adult psychiatric-mental health from the American Nurses' Association.
 

stargazer

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I'm just curious what kind of treatment is available. I've never heard of any specific treatment program for Internet addiction. I know there are 12-Step programs for just about anything (workaholism, sex addiction, etc., as well as alcoholism and drug addiction) but I don't know if there's one for Internet addiction. I also don't know that I myself am necessarily an "addict," but I do know that when I spend too much time on my computer, my judgment can become clouded in various areas.
 

Diana

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I wonder if this is going to become a real problem in Korea. I know that internet and gaming is popular everywhere, but in Korea it's huge. In Canada we have Internet Cafes, but in Korea they are called PC "bangs"(rooms), and they are incredibly cheap. People of all ages will spend their whole days off there sometimes. They're also open 24 hours. I'll ask my students what they did over their holidays, etc and so many of them will say they played computer games. If I ask "What do you like to do in the spring/summer?", I'll always get the kid who says "play computer games". On the other hand Koreans are really into going to the parks and bike paths with their families, so I hope that these kids are doing more than playing on the computer.
 

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