Thursday, May 25, 2006

Internet Addiction

Millions of people rely on it for everyday tasks. But when is the line crossed between average use and addiction? An article published in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care states, "The Internet has properties that for some individuals promote addictive behaviors and pseudo-intimate interpersonal relationships." Nurse practitioners will soon find themselves faced with the issues of "internet addicts" and their inability to get offline.

While not yet defined as a true addiction, many are suffering the consequences of obsession with the online world, unable to control their use. From gaming to sexual and emotional relationships, the internet is taking over lives. More and more people will be confronted with consequences such as divorce and physical symptoms which will force them to seek both medical and psychological treatment.

Online marital infidelity (cybersex) can lead to divorce and harm personal relationships. Individuals who seek out sexual partners online also appear to be at higher risk for sexually transmitted disease. Furthermore, such behaviors can lead to cybersexual addiction. Previous studies have reported that "Approximately 9 million people, or 15 percent of Internet users, accessed one of the top adult Web sites in a 1-month period."

Some physical symptoms include "cyber shakes," dry eyes, carpal tunnel syndrome and headaches. "A focus on the computer and lack of attention to daily reality is indicative of poor judgment and results on lowered grades in school, job loss, and indebtedness."

Recognizing this as an addiction will allow for appropriate treatment. Subsequently, therapists will be faced with how to treat such technological addictions and their associated issues.

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