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The Internet: The Latest Form of Addiction?

Internet-Related Addictions

In my travels through cyberspace, I have noticed an increasing number of websites and blogs discussing various forms of Internet-related addictive behavior. In fact, I have recently encountered the following online dependencies: porn, gambling, video games, comment addiction (i.e., checking the comments on one’s blog), Internet addiction, blog addiction, Technorati addiction, forum addiction, information addiction, MySpace addiction, and addiction to Bloglines.

This inventory is obviously not an official list gathered from the medical or psychological literature. It is interesting to note, however, that Internet users themselves are the ones labeling their online behavior and the online behavior of others as “addictive.”

How Dangerous are Internet Addictions?

While the more “typical addictions” such as alcoholism and drug dependency are more established regarding the various forms of treatment and therapy that are available, employed, and researched, other dependencies, such as the above mentioned Internet-based addictions, are not. The question, however, needs to be asked: how serious are Internet addictions? To help answer this question, consider the following statement made by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine in a recent study on Internet addiction: “The United States could be rife with Internet addicts as clinically ill as alcoholics.”

Addiction Horror Stories

Even though most of the addiction horror stories I have read about pertain to the more “typical” dependencies such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and substance abuse, other Internet-related dependencies such as “game addiction” are starting to share the headlines. For instance, there’s various stories circulating the Internet about teens and young adults who play online video games 18 or more hours per day.

As disconcerting as this is, the most shocking and disturbing Internet-based addiction story I have heard so far is the following. In 2005, a 54-year-old male, unable to take a break from his online world, died from starvation. How is this possible you ask? Easy. For 7 weeks before his death, he posted comments into one forum after another every 30 seconds, while refusing to eat.

What Can Be Done?

What can a person do who is addicted to the Internet? Among other things, take a break, go outside, and enjoy life. If you think that this is a rather simplistic suggestion, please continue reading.

I remember hearing about a person who complained to his therapist about being depressed and “stuck in a rut” for many years. After listening to her patient ramble on for weeks about his drab, meaningless, and unexciting existence, it came time for the therapist to advise her patient what to do. On the day of reckoning, the therapist calmly smiled at her patient and said: “on a consistent basis, you need to get some sleep and spend some quality time outside in the sun.” Upon hearing this, the patient understandably felt “cheated” with such a “simple solution.”

The point: sometimes we make things so complex and complicated that we become caught in a cycle of “paralysis by analysis.” Clearly, with a more traditional form of therapy such as years of psychoanalysis, the patient described above may have finally “understood” why he had been depressed and “stuck in a rut.” Perhaps based on this “insight” he may have started to live his life more honestly, more fully, and with more joy. On the other hand, this same patient might have viewed his world in an entirely different way had he started living in a more healthy manner and developed some quality interests, relationships, and hobbies.

Conclusion

I think we have to learn how to balance our online lives with our lives outside of cyberspace. Sadly, many people engrossed with the Internet haven’t learned this and have, as a result, become so enamored with their online activities that their lives, especially their relationships, have become dysfunctional. Realizing this, however, leads to perhaps an even more penetrating question: have our lives become so devoid of meaning that we get hooked on the first thing that seemingly fills this void? If this is even partially on target, this is indeed a sad commentary on our “enlightened” society.

Copyright 2007 - Denny Soinski. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way, and give the author credit.


About the Author: Denny Soinski, Ph.D, writes about alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, alcohol testing, alcoholism, alcohol recovery, alcohol treatment, and alcohol rehab. For more information, please visit clean and sober living right away!




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