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The aim of Web4Health is to give good and useful free medical advice, help and self help in the areas of mental health, psychology, personality disorders, relationships, stress, anxiety, depression, emotional abuse, substance abuse, sexual abuse, types of mental illness, etc.

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Become Addicted to the Internet; Internet Addiction

Written by: Wendy Moelker, Psychologist in charge, tutor, Emergis center for mental health care, Goes, the Netherlands.

First version: 22 Jul 2008. Latest revision: 24 Jul 2008.

Question:

 How can you become addicted to the internet? What is internet addiction?

Answer:

As yet, we believe that users can reduce their internet behaviour by themselves. But developments are moving very fast. An investigation of problematic internet use has been done in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, recently. It showed that 3.5% of the internet users were using the internet in a problematic way. They are privately on the internet for 8 hours or more per week and experience problems when they have to stop. Their partners criticize them, and they say that they use the internet to get rid of negative feelings. Since the internet is such a new phenomenon, the researchers believe this figure will increase in the next years. Research has also been done in the United States. Psychologist David Greenfield put a questionnaire on the internet that measures internet addiction. A total of 18,000 people responded to the questionnaire. According to Greenfield, 6% of those who filled in the questionnaire were more or less addicted. The most addictive activities were: gambling, trading shares, on-line shopping, chatting and e-mailing. There is also a centre for On-Line Addiction in the United States. They have developed a list with 20 questions indicating problematic internet behaviour. Here is an adapted version of this list below. The list consists of a dozen questions to be answered "yes or no".

  • I regularly use internet longer than I intended to. Yes/No.
  • Friends or family sometimes complain about my internet behaviour. Yes/No.
  • Work or school suffers from my internet behaviour. Yes/No.
  • Internet helps me to get rid of unpleasant thoughts. Yes/No.
  • Internet regularly influences my night rest. Yes/No.
  • I regularly say 'only a few more minutes'. Yes/No.
  • I sometimes try to reduce my internet behaviour. Yes/No.
  • When I'm not on-line internet comes to my mind. Yes/No.
  • I get irritated when somebody disturbs me when I am on the internet. Yes/No.
  • I feel down and nervous when I am not on the internet. Yes/No.

If you have answered two questions with yes, you should start thinking whether internet doesn't play too big a role in your life. And more so if you have answered yes three times. A possibility to limit the use of internet is cost control. There are programs that limit internet use. When you reach that limit, the connection is automatically cut off. Of course, you can also place an alarm next to your computer and stop using internet when it goes off after one and a half hours. If necessary, you can even put a time switch between your computer and the socket that goes off five minutes later than the alarm. That gives you five minutes after the alarm goes off to shut down your computer. For the time being, we believe that these tools should be enough to control your computer behaviour. If that doesn't work, you can, of course, register yourself with an addiction treatment institution.

Internet addiction selftest
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