According to a new study, American college students are seriously hooked to their cell phones, social media and the Internet. The Internet addiction problem is rapidly growing on campuses, where students show symptoms similar to drug and alcohol addiction.
Researchers at The University of Maryland asked 200 students to give up all media for one full day. After only 24 hours, students began showing signs of withdrawal, craving and anxiety. The study also found that students had an inability to function “normally” without their social media outlets.
While reading through the students’ study reflections, Professor Susan Moeller, the study’s project director, found that many showed symptoms of the Internet addiction. Many students wrote about how they hated losing their media connections, which some students compared to going without friends and family.
“I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,” said one student. “Between having a Blackberry, laptop, television, and iPod, people have become unable to shed their media skin.”
Moeller also said the most common students complaint was about their need to text message, instant message, e-mail and Facebook.
While the American Psychiatric Association does not recognize Internet addiction as a disorder, it seems to be having a serious effect on modern life.
In South Korea, a three-month-old girl died of malnutrition after a couple allegedly neglected her because they were on the computer raising a virtual child for up to 12 hours a day.
Due to alarming cases like this, the internet addiction symptoms will be included in the appendix of the upcoming DSM-V revision. Studies have also found prolonged Internet use to be linked to obesity, social isolation, sleep problems, and depression and stress.
Last year, ReSTART, a private center in Washington state, opened to treat Internet addiction and excessive video gaming and texting. The center’s website provides examples of students who ran up large debts or dropped out of college due to their virtual obsession.
It’s hard to measure how widespread the Internet addiction problem is, but a national study conducted by the Stanford University’s School of Medicine estimates that one in eight Americans suffer from at least one sign of problematic Internet use.
Symptoms of Internet addiction can include:
- Failed attempts to control behavior
- Heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and Internet activities
- Withdrawing from friends, family and pleasurable activities
- Neglecting sleep to stay online
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online behavior
- Physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome
If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from Internet addiction, one of the first challenges in getting help is knowing where to start.