internet addiction

ddicted to the Internet: There Is Help for Those with Trouble Logging Off

The opening of a Washington-based Internet detox center–the first of its kind in the United States–draws more attention to global online addiction problems.

In 2009, ReStart opened its doors to Internet and video game addiction sufferers who could not handle it alone. The center is the first detox facility in the United States that deals with the growing online addiction problem, co-founders Dr. Hilarie Cash and psychotherapist Cosette Dawna Rae say.

Based in Fall City, Wash., a few miles away from Microsoft headquarters, the 5-acre, 6-bed retreat offers a family-style, therapeutic and Internet-free environment to help ween addicts off of cyberspace over a 45-day period.

Signs of Internet Addiction

Cash developed a list of Internet or gaming addiction warning signs. They include:

  • computer use that interferes with school or job performance;
  • craving more time on the computer and a restless feeling when that time is cut short;
  • physical changes like weight loss or carpal tunnel syndrome;
  • changes in sleep patterns;
  • inability to control online behaviors and associated guilt;
  • neglecting friends or family and being dishonest about the frequency of Internet activities; and
  • withdrawing from other activities to feel the rush of being online.

The presence of three or more symptoms is considered Internet abuse, while five or more put a person in the cyber addiction category.

According to ReStart’s website, often those most affected by computer addiction are those who play role-playing video games, like Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft. Text messaging can also become addictive if it is over-indulged in. Sometimes, the Internet also fuels other addictions, like gambling or sexual addiction, increasing the dependency on technology to get a fix.

Global Online Addiction Recovery

In China and South Korea, which have inpatient facilities that Cash and Rae based their program on, Internet addiction is considered the number one health danger. ReStart estimates that between 6 and 10 percent of the online population is addicted to the technology. A study by research group StudyLogic, published at TGDaily.com, showed that of the 6,500 business travelers surveyed, 35 percent would choose their Blackberries over their spouses.

Because the web is worldwide, Internet addiction is not limited by geography. In fact, while American soil is filled with drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers, addictions to computers and technology have only recently started to be acknowledged. According to LiveScience.com, some psychologists are petitioning for the disorder to be added to the addition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

It seems the even in a digital age, old adages still ring true: Everything is better is moderation.

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