Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is a newly recognized condition characterized by an unmanageable use of the internet which impairs a person’s quality of life. A groundbreaking study led by Dr Hao Lei from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan revealed that being addicted to the internet is just as damaging for adolescents as drug addiction. The Chinese study found that internet addiction affects nerve fibres in the brain which cause changes comparable to individuals exposed to cannabis, cocaine, and alcohol. This discovery shows that being addicted to the internet can be just as physically harmful as an addiction to drugs.
The study conducted in China used an MRI technique to examine the effects on brain structure in 17 internet-addicted teenagers and 16 non-addicted individuals. The study discovered that in the IAD-diagnosed adolescents, there was evidence of disruption to nerve fibres which connect vital parts of the brain involved in decision-making, self control and emotions. According to DR Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a consultant psychiatrist at the Imperial College London, this study has substantiated what clinicians had been suspecting for some time, that “white matter abnormalities in the orbifrontal cortex and other truly significant brain areas are present not only in addictions where substances are involved but also in behavioural ones such as internet addiction”.
Do You Have an Internet Addiction?
Internet addiction is currently classified as an “impulse control disorder” as opposed to a “genuine addiction”. Also referred to as problematic or pathological Internet use, IAD is distinguished by a person’s inability to control their internet usage. Sufferers of IAD may eventually experience notable functional impairment in general areas of life such as social interaction / interest, occupational and / or academic performance, and behavioural problems. If deprived of internet access, individuals suffering from IAD may experience distress and withdrawal symptoms such as obsessive thoughts, tremors and involuntary typing movements of the fingers.
Here are some signs which may indicate you suffer from internet addiction:
*Do you spend more and more time online?
*Do you lose track of the time you spend online?
*Do you constantly think about going online when you are away from your computer?
*Do you get edgy or irritable when you are offline and only feel relieved when you are logged back in?
*Do you feel the need to go online as soon as you get up in the morning or at early hours of the morning?
*Are you ignoring your broader responsibilities to use the internet?
*Are you neglecting your daily activities such as eating, drinking or sleeping as a result of your internet usage?
*Do you spend days on end online?
*Are you completely immersed in the virtual world?