Trapped in the web



Following hot on the heels of the 46 Stages of Twitter, today’s post looks at the growing numbers of those addicted to the internet….

PSYCHIATRISTS STRUGGLING to draft a new manual to diagnose mental illness haven’t agreed it’s a mental illness yet. But mental health professionals are already gauging, parsing and analysing internet addiction, which bears all the hallmarks of addictive behaviour.

And they are asking, as Washington University’s Drs Dimitri Christakis and Megan Moreno did in a commentary published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine  last week: will internet addiction become a 21st century epidemic?

If there were a medication for it, this process of declaring internet addiction a true illness would probably go faster. But for now, there’s little more by way of treatment than pulling the plug.

We live in a world where going online has become as essential and inescapable as, say, eating. And pulling the plug isn’t much of an answer.

So prevention becomes a pretty important strategy. And if professionals are to prevent internet addiction (if it exists), they must know who is most likely to fall prey to the affliction, so they can, perhaps, intervene early to avert it.

A two-year study tracked more than 2,000 young teens in 10 middle schools across southern Taiwan, and found that 233 subjects – 10.8 per cent – could be classified as having an addiction to the internet.

Males were more likely to fall into that category.

Those who played online games were more vulnerable. And teens who used the internet every day and/or 20 hours a week or more were more likely to be deemed addicted.

And what other features did potential internet addicts show?

For boys, those with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and those who exhibited a significant level of hostile behaviour were more likely to have developed a dysfunctional dependence on the internet.

For girls, having ADHD and hostility also heightened the risk of internet addiction. But two more groups of girls – those with social phobias and those suffering depression – were also at greater risk.

ADHD had the strongest association with internet-addicted behaviour. And no wonder, observed the study’s authors: “Internet behaviour is characterised by rapid response, immediate reward and multiple windows with different activities, which may reduce feelings of boredom or delayed aversion in adolescents with ADHD.”

The study was conducted by psychiatrists from Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan.

– (Los Angeles Times/Washington Post)


2 responses »

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review « Diary of a Country Wife

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