If you feel depressed when you can’t Google yourself or check e-mail, you just might have an addiction to the Internet, according to cyber-psychologist Kimberly Young, director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery and author of “Caught in the Net” (John Wiley & Sons, $34.95), the first book to address Internet addiction.
Young likens excessive Internet use to pathological gambling.
Fortunately, treatment centers have opened up across the world including Korea, China and the Netherlands. The Priory Clinic in London is now treating texting addicts, or those who might spend up to seven hours a day writing and receiving text messages on their cell phones.
One of eight Americans exhibited at least one possible sign of problematic Internet use, a Stanford study showed. Psychological symptoms include an inability to stop using it, craving more time on line, neglect of family and friends and feeling depressed and irritable when not at the computer. Physical signs can be carpal tunnel, sleep deprivation, backaches, eye strain and increased agitation.
“Job loss, financial loss and marital loss can all be associated with the disorder,” said Young, founder of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery who has seen everything from young children who withdrew from life for online gaming to couples who divorced because of online affairs.
But others say spending large amounts of time behind the computer doesnt constitute an addiction. People who go without food or sleep because theyre so engrossed with the Internet have chosen to do so, said Jonathan Bishop, an independent Internet researcher in Wales. “The Internet is an environment, so we cant be addicted to it,” he said in an e-mail. “We dont say that people who play card games in pubs for hours on end have pub addiction. I would argue that the medical model of disability is the wrong approach, and that the social model should be adopted.”
To find out whether you have an addiction, take the test found on The Center for Internet Addiction Web site. Here are ten sample questions. The more “often” or “always” answers, the greater the chance you have a problem.
How often do you:
1. Stay online longer than you intended? (a. rarely b. occasionally c. frequently d. often e. always.)
2. Neglect household chores to spend more time online?
3. Prefer the excitement of the Internet to intimacy with your partner?
4. Form new relationships with fellow online users?
5. Check your e-mail before something else that you need to do?
6. See your grades or school work suffer because of the amount of time you spend online?
7. Hear others in your life complain about the amount of time you spend online?
8. Let your job performance or productivity suffer because of the Internet?
9. Become defensive or secretive when anyone asks you what you do online?
10. Lose sleep due to late-night log-ins?