Hooked On The Internet -
True Addiction Or
Simple Mania?
From Discovery News Briefs

People who seem addicted to the Internet often show a bumper crop of psychiatric disorders like manic-depression, and treating those other conditions might help them rein in their urge to be online, a study suggests.
On average, Internet "addicts" in the study reported having five psychiatric disorders at some point in their lives, a finding that "just blew me away," says psychiatrist Nathan Shapira of the University of Cincinnati's College of Medicine.
It's unclear whether the Internet problem should be considered a disorder or just a symptom of something else, or whether certain disorders promote the excessive online use, he says.
Shapira is scheduled to present the study today at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Toronto.
He and colleagues studied 14 people who'd spent so much time online that they were facing problems like broken relationships, job loss and dropping out of school.
One 31-year-old man was online more than 100 hours a week, ignoring family and friends and stopping only to sleep. A 21-year-old man flunked out of college after he stopped going to class. When he disappeared for a week, campus police found him in the uni versity computer lab, where he'd spent seven days straight online.
The study participants, whose average age was 35, were interviewed for three to five hours with standard questions to look for psychiatric disorders.
Being hooked on the Internet is not a recognized disorder. But Shapira says the excessive online use by the study participants would qualify as a disorder of impulse control, in the same category as kleptomania or compulsive shopping. In fact, he suggeste d the Internet problem be called "Internetomania" or "Netomania," rather than an addiction.
But the striking thing, Shapira says, was the other psychiatric problems that turned up. Among them:
-- Nine of the 14 had manic-depression at the time of the interview, and 11 had it at some point in their lives.
-- Half had an anxiety disorder such as "social phobia," which is a persisting and unreasonable fear of being embarrassed in public, at the time of the interview.
-- Eight had abused alcohol or some other substance at some time in their lives.
Kimberly Young, a University of Pittsburgh psychologist, says she has found a similar pattern of prior psychiatric problems in most people hooked on the Internet. Some people who'd abused alcohol or other substances told her they were using the Internet as a safer substitute addiction.

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