Many young people addicted to net, survey suggests

Woman on internet while man looks bored Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The survey asked whether people were ignoring family as a result of net use

A significant number of young adults may be suffering from internet addiction disorder, according to a survey.

The survey of 1,300 young adults, conducted by marketing agency Digital Clarity, found that 16% of the 18- to 25-year-olds displayed symptoms of net addiction.

Almost all of this 16% admitted to spending over 15 hours a day online.

Experts remain divided over how real a condition internet addiction is.

The survey looked at five signs of possible net addiction.

  • spending hours online
  • becoming irritable when interrupted during web use
  • feeling guilty about how much time is spent online
  • isolation from family and friends due to excessive online activity
  • a sense of euphoria when online and panic when offline

Malissa Scott, a student from Middlesex, believes she is suffering from the condition.

"I'm online for most of my waking hours and feel sick and depressed if I lose access to the web," she said.

"I know it has spiralled out of control in the last 12 months and it has definitely affected my relationship with friends and family members."

Previous studies have suggested that internet addiction, which is an umbrella term for a variety of scenarios including excessive gaming or viewing online pornography obsessively, operates in a similar way to drug or alcohol addiction - and releases the chemical dopamine in the same way.

But other psychiatrists believe that the effects of internet addiction are just symptoms of other psychological conditions.

In a paper published this week in the journal Addictive Behaviours, Dr Andrew Doan outlines his view that internet addiction is real.

He describes a case of Google Glass addiction, involving a 31-year-old US Navy serviceman who was admitted to his substance abuse and recovery programme for treatment for alcoholism.

While there, the man also complained of feeling irritable and argumentative without his Google Glass device.

He said he had worn Google Glass for 18 hours a day and had even begun experiencing his dreams as if viewed through the device.

It was evidence, said Dr Doan, that internet addiction was a real condition.

The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is one of they key reference books for psychiatrists and it has not yet included internet addiction as a condition in its own right.

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