I confess: I am a slave to my computer ten hours a day during the week, and usually five hours daily on the weekends. Yes, I work a lot because my responsibilities demand it. Would I (sometimes) rather be somewhere else? You bet!
I am not, however, addicted to the Internet. I like to think that it’s addicted to me. The term “Internet addiction disorder (IAD)” is making news again. We’ve focused on baby boomer addictions here with two Mind Your Body episodes featuring Tricia Greaves of The Nelson Center in Los Angeles. Now we have more evidence this week that Internet addiction is real, as confirmed by a new study—although quite limited in scope—out of China. It’s so limited that when a Canadian news service reporter requested an interview with the researchers, she was referred to Wikipedia! Yikes.
Gray vs. white matter
“Previous studies regarding IAD were mainly focused on associated psychological examinations,” said the authors. “However, there are few studies on brain structure and function about IAD.”
Here’s what they found: IAD brain changes resembled those in alcohol and drug addicts. Researchers compared “normal” brains with those of non-addicted. Chinese subjects, divided into groups of 18 people each, were between ages 14 and 21. Those addicted exhibited more “white matter” on their brain scans: The brain’s white matter is the source of nerve fibers that relay signals to other key brain areas.
Fndings show IAD is “characterised by impairment of white matter fibres connecting brain regions involved in emotional generation and processing, executive attention, decision making and cognitive control.”
How much is too much?
These numbers add weight to the increased probability of Internet addiction: And yes, we know it’s real. Approximately:
- 70 percent of U. S. residents are considered “regular” Internet users.
- 14 percent find it difficult to stay away from the Internet for a few days.
- 9 percent conceal non-essential use from family and friends.
- 6 percent of relationships suffer as a result of excessive use.
We don’t, of course, have statistics on how many baby boomers are Internet addicted. I do know someone who spends 18 hours a day on the computer, and sometimes doesn’t go outside at all: not healthy. And in New Zealand, where I sometimes live, a friend’s son spent every spare minute playing war games, locked in his man cave to the exclusion of any real human relationships.
Don’t you agree that anything in excess is simply too much? We’ll be hearing more about IAD, especially as discussions continue about what disorders to include in the upcoming new DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) of psychiatric disorders.
(Photo courtesy: © Maxim Golubchikov | Dreamstime.com)