Internet Addiction a Real Problem for Some

Is it possible to become addicted to the Internet? A recent article in the San Francisco Gate asked this question and highlighted that technology can be seductive as it provides an instant reward. The activities and the reward are not necessarily harmful, which make them that much more appealing.

According to mental health experts, however, any addiction in any form – whether it is drinking, gambling, drugs, etc. – still involves people seeking an intermittent, unpredictable reward that can have negative consequences.

"The fact that it is unpredictable is what compels the brain to keep checking over and over and over," said Dr. David Greenfield in the Gate. Dr. Greenfield is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University Of Connecticut School Of Medicine. “When people are afraid of not having their PDA or a phone with them, then it’s addictive.”

Dr. Kimberly Young, founder and director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery of Bradford, Pa., believes individual circumstances play a role. Young says there are no time limits, making it difficult to diagnose an addiction. In addition, it is a generational thing. For the younger sect, it is their lifeline.

There are warning signs, however. These may include being so preoccupied with online activities that it affects relationships. There is also a problem with an individual who always has to get up in the middle of the night to check e-mail.

The center’s website, notes the most common type of Internet addiction is online pornography. Rising is popularity, however, are online gambling, auctions sites and multiplayer role playing games. Surveys indicate half of the known Internet addicts also have another addiction, such as drugs, alcohol, smoking or sex.