Internet Addiction or Caught in the Web



Key Words: College students, gender differences, denial obsessive-compulsive disorder, erotic chat, legal aspects medical information, instant messaging, Bluetooth.

According to authorities at the recent annual meeting of The American Psychological Association, Internet addiction should be classified as a recognized psychological disorder. Getting hooked on the web is much more complicated than other addictions because it can involve very different obsessive activities ranging from compulsive gambling, shopping, daily stock trading and visiting pornographic sites, to checking for new e-mail every few hours and involvement in chat room activities.

College students are at particular risk. In one study, three out of four reported that excessive web involvement had caused problems at school work, and/or in their personal relationships. A significant number had also experienced mood changes and withdrawal symptoms when when they were unable to log on that were consistent with the criteria for addictive behavior.

There is a surprisingly strong correlation between dropping out of college and excessive Internet involvement. In one facility, the dropout rate for Internet addicts was twice that of non-addicted controls. Some campuses try to curtail the amount of Internet time available to students and are establishing support groups.

Females also seem to be particularly susceptible, which may explain the dramatic increase in women web surfers. A few years ago male Internet users outnumbered females 20:1; it is now 3:1 and may soon be equal. It's much easier and quicker to find and purchase items on the web, and the resultant instantaneous gratification can foster obsessive shopping tendencies. Women seem to be particularly attracted to interactive chat rooms. Such sites can become highly addictive for those who are lonely because they provide an easy and safe opportunity to meet and interact with other individuals.

There is also no shortage of sites for compulsive gamblers who can log on any time of day they choose as long as they have a credit card. Other frequent destinations provide sexual excitement that would normally be difficult for females to access, while allowing participants to remain anonymous. In one survey of 18,000 adults, two out of three Internet junkies regularly logged on to porn sites, although the majority of respondents were men.

The American Institute of Stress.

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