Nothing but internet

I recently ran across a new topic I thought would be fun to comment on.

Well, okay, not exactly fun. But certainly interesting. And ironic, considering the fact that we wouldn’t even be having this conversation without the help of the World Wide Web.

It seems that new research shows that so-called “internet addiction” is linked with depression, and even withdrawal symptoms similar to those resulting from drug use.

No kidding. A team of researchers in the UK found that these symptoms were much higher among heavy internet users than low internet users, post log off.

Not that this is too surprising, mind you. Excessive web-surfing has emerged as a modern problem worldwide. In fact, China is currently planning to design diagnostic criteria for internet addiction. They’re even looking at imposing stricter regulations on internet cafes.

But this study also found new links between excessive internet use and autism traits. And considering how often we use computers as a tool to help special needs children, it might be time to start taking this risk a little more seriously.

Anyway, on to the details…

This study looked at 60 adult subjects, both men and women, with a mean age of 24. All of the participants completed a battery of tests–including an addiction test, an anxiety test, a depression inventory, and an autism spectrum questionnaire.

Then, researchers allowed the subjects to surf the internet for 15 minutes. Immediately following internet exposure, the subjects completed these tests again, with subgroups created for high internet users and low internet users.

Results revealed strong links between internet addiction and several mental health symptoms–including depression, autism traits, and unstable moods and behavior.

Most notably, the high-use group had a more dramatic drop in positive mood compared to low-internet users. And researchers speculate that this may explain why these individuals are so quick to re-engage in web-surfing.

In other words, internet addicts experience an effect that’s similar to withdrawal. A feeling that some of the subjects even likened to the crash that follows illegal drug use.

It doesn’t take an expert to see that these observations totally fit the clinical notion of an addictive disorder. In fact, they remind me of another condition with which I have extensive experience: sugar withdrawal.

If you’ve already kicked the “white stuff,” then you know what I’m talking about. Aren’t many of those sensations the same? The crash… the bad mood… the vicious cycle of continued “use.”

It’s just a thought. But perhaps it’s time sugar addiction was officially added to the long list of addictions in our society.

Yes, addiction is a serious business–and a very complicated one at that. But if the internet can make it onto a watch list, don’t you think sugar should be there too?

Differential Psychological Impact of Internet Exposure on Internet Addicts. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55162.