Losing yourself on-line

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HEALTH AND MEDICAL NEWS: BRADFORD, PENN.

Nerds wearing pocket protectors aren't the only people who get hooked on the Internet. Psychologist Kimberly Young at the University of Pittsburgh recently surveyed 396 World Wide Web habitues and found that housewives, construction workers, and secretaries more often fit the criteria for addiction.

These were neophytes to the Internet who soon found themselves ignoring jobs, family, and friends in favor of cavorting in cyberspace an average of 38 hours a week--almost five times longer than a typical user. The result: the social withdrawal and loss of control that are hallmarks of addiction. Instead of seeking information, Internet junkies spent long hours in chat rooms and role-playing games. They seemed, Young says, to be searching for missing parts of their emotional lives: social support, sexual fulfillment, and an opportunity to safely express forbidden aspects of their personalities. Side effects ranged from plummeting work performance to divorce. One housewife, forced to choose between husband and computer, opted to stay wired. Face-to-face therapy is best, Young says, but this group of addicts might be better contacted through on-line support groups.

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by Sarah Henry and Sally Lehrman

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