What is Pathological Internet Use?
Pathological Internet Use or Internet Addiction is a type of impulse control disorder. (Holliday 10) Psychologists put it under this category because the effects of chemicals produced in the brain during Internet use haven’t been properly documented. The addiction is similar to an obsessive compulsive disorder and is also often compared to alcoholism. “An estimated five to ten percent of people who use the Internet can be classified as having a problem.” (Ross 2)
More than 90 percent of addicts became addicted to two-way communications functions: chat rooms, MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons), news groups, and e-mail, says the author of Caught in the Net, Kimberly Young. Typically it’s new users that become addicted, the unemployed, and people with low level jobs. (Schuman 1) In a short article, “Diary of a Mad Mousewife,” Lea Goldman describes how her addiction started, “Six years ago a well-read, suburban bred college kid pulled me into a corner at the all-night library and showed me the Internet Relay Chat (IRC), the grand daddy of chat rooms. By sunrise I was still settled in that corner, illuminated by the blue glow of the monitor and the flicker of the chats scrolling down my screen.”
For many people their addiction started with just such an all-night occasion. Once contacts are made and you have “regular” chat sessions before you know it your spending all your time in front of the computer, even meals.
Can Internet Addiction truly be considered an addiction from a psychological standpoint?
Although psychologist have tried to group Internet Addiction with other addictions such as drug and alcohol abuse and even used the criteria for a compulsive gambler for a compulsive surfer it seems that this addiction is in a league of it’s own. We know what the addiction feeds off of and the artificial feeling of connection that it offers but the largest problem for researchers is finding a way to classify the disorder. “I’ve seen the Internet change the landscape in much the same way crack cocaine did for those who treat drug addicts,” says Jennifer Schneider, MD, an internist and addiction medicine specialist in Tucson, Arizona.
How is a person classified as an addict?
A 1996 survey found that, “The addicted Internet user will spend an average of 38 hours per week online dealing with nonemployment\ nonacademic efforts, compared with “non addicts” in the survey who averaged eight hours. Almost half of the participants diagnosed with PIU reported they get less that four hours of sleep.” Some of the criteria for Internet Addiction are: tolerance, withdrawal, increasing usage, and loss due to usage. (Ferris 1)
What causes or enables a person to become an addict?
Because Internet Addiction is often based on loneliness and feelings of inadequacy, the Internet can provide a means of having a relationship that is easier than real life. A person who finds making friends, and establishing social ties difficult may find Internet communication more fulfilling. (Schuman 1) Ultimately, using the Internet to counteract the feeling of loneliness only serves to compound the loneliness and shame an addict feels. (McCormick 17)
When online an addict can become any type of individual he or she desires. No one can control a user’s actions online, which allows them to develop a definite sense of power and control over their lives. When offline addicts may actually feel they do not have control. (Schuman 1) Despite excessive fees a true addict may return to the Internet and use it as a means of escaping, relieving feelings of guilt, anxiety, and depression. (Ferris 1)
In today’s world the Internet is readily available, it’s used in schools, homes, and in the work place. Now it’s almost impossible to find a home or family in the United States that does not have Internet access. In almost every facet of society addicts see the temptation of the monitor and hear the clicking of keyboards. Removing one’s self from the problem may not be as easy as many psychologists promise.
How can Internet Addiction impair or negatively effect a person’s life?
The Internet is “a socially connecting device that’s socially isolating at the same time,” say David Greenfield, Ph.D., founder of The Center for Internet Studies. (DeAngelis 1) By separating ourselves from each other with TV’s, and computers we keep ourselves from developing real world skills. (Stoll 203) Brian McCormick, in his article “Hooked on the Net,” quoted one man as saying, “I could lose myself for hours or days without ever leaving home. The level of isolation and separation from real people was jarring. I had an active real life with friends and a job I loved, but I was spending more and more time in an online fantasy world, which I found ultimately to be very empty.”
Not only can the Internet keep one from knowing how to deal with real life, it builds shallow relationships. Online friends can’t be depended upon for tangible favors. (200) Although an addict may feel that his online friends are true friends the likelihood that they will still be there in 20 years is slim.
How can Internet Addiction be treated?
Internet Addiction like many other addictions is difficult to treat because the Internet itself is not a bad thing until it is misused. The Internet can be an extremely helpful and positive tool when used properly. The psychiatrist who coined the term “Internet Addiction Disorder,” Ivan Goldberg, MD says that people must first recognize patterns of abuse, identify underlying problems, and make a plan to work through problems before any treatment could be effective. (Ferris 1)
How can Internet Addiction be prevented?
Internet Addiction is an impulse control disorder. The Addiction starts when one loses interest in the real world and seeks solace in the computer. The only way that Internet Addiction can be prevented is to learn to deal with life whether it promises to be a good experience or bad. Instead of hiding from problems and procrastinating one must get to the root of the issue and solve it. If we don’t begin to live by that simple rule we may find that lack of computer skills is no longer the problem when finding a job, we may simply be so connected to our online lives that an interview will become too daunting for even the most professional person.
Caragata, Warren. “Crime in Cybercity.” Maclean’s 22 May, 1995: alt. Crime. Ed. Eleanor Goldstein. Vol. 5. Boca Raton: SIRS, 1998. Art. 47.
Ferris, Jennifer R. “Internet Addiction Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Concequences.” (5 March,2001).
Goldman, Lea. “Diary of a Mad MouseWife.” Forbes 20 March, 2000:328.
Ross, Melanie F. “Study shows some Internet addicts suffer from mental illness.” Link-Up May, 2000:2.
Schuman, Evan. “It’s Official Net Abusers Are Pathological.” Tech Web. 13 August, 1997. (5 March, 2001).
Wilson, Tim. “Some People are Too Hooked on the Net.” Internet Week 22 November, 1999:60. Infotrac Student Edition. 2000. 5 March, 2001 .