Introduction to Internet Addiction
Ten years ago, the only people who spent a majority of their leisure time on the computer were paid members of the technology industry. Today, however, surfing the Web has become a pastime as social and marketable as bar hopping or going to the movies. As the web has become a part of mainstream life, some mental health professionals have noted that a percentage of people using the web do so in a compulsive and out-of-control manner. In one extreme (1997) Cincinnati case, unemployed mother Sandra Hacker allegedly spent over 12 hours a day secluded from her three young and neglected children while she surfed the Web. For better or for worse, this phenomena of compulsive Internet use has been termed 'Internet Addiction' based on its superficial similarity to common addictions such as smoking, drinking, and gambling. Internet Addiction has even been championed as an actual disorder, notably by psychologists Kimberly Young, Ph.D and David Greenfield, Ph.D.. However, at this time the true nature of Internet Addiction is not yet determined. In a true addiction, a person becomes compulsively dependent upon a particular kind of stimulation to the point where obtaining a steady supply of that stimulation becomes the sole and central focus of their lives. The addict increasingly neglects his work duties, relationships and ultimately even his health in his drive to remain stimulated. In some cases of addiction (such as addiction to alcohol or to heroin), a phenomenon known as tolerance occurs, wherein more and more stimulation is required to produce the same pleasurable effect. A related phenomena, withdrawal, can also occur, wherein the addicted person comes to be dependent upon their source of stimulation and experiences dramatically unpleasant (and even potentially lethal -- as can be the case with alcohol) reactions when he goes without it. Sources of addictive stimulation can be chemical (as is the case with addictive drugs such as...
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