In order for an activity to qualify as an addiction, several criteria must be met: Does the activity tend to dominate the waking hours of the person? Does it lead to total preoccupation, to cravings and most importantly to a reduction in social contacts? Does the activity lead to a physical and emotional high? Does the dosage have to be regularly increased?
Such is the debate over Internet addiction. Adrian Furnham, PhD, a professor of psychology at University College London, UK, explains why some people tend to get addicted to surfing on the Web. Addiction to technology has several things in common: sound and bright lights, fast-moving images and personal control of the technology, as well as the element of surprise and exploration, he writes in Psychology Today.
In addition, some Internet addicts find that their addiction boosts their self-esteem. Furnham explains that these addicts express feelings of modernity and since they spend so much time in front of a computer, are often called upon for help from technophobes.
“The Internet addict needs to be at the keyboard and the screen and, like the nicotine-deprived quitting smoker, is ratty, moody and miserable until the dose is restored,” Furnham writes. “Does the addiction to whatever lead friends, family and employers to complain about the addict’s single-minded, selfish devotion to this activity? It must be borne in mind that it is quite possibly the conflict that leads to the addiction. That is, one could take to the Web to escape an argumentative spouse.”
Furnham also mentions that many Internet addicts also engage in compulsive buying, which can lead to other problems, such as credit card debt. But he also says that many of these online compulsive shoppers also have related comorbidities, including personality, mood or anxiety disorders, and frequently, a family history of some type of addiction.
We can get addicted to many things. We all know about alcohol, drug and tobacco addiction, which is chemically based, but people get seriously addicted to gambling, overeating, exercise – and sex. Perhaps the most interesting of the non-chemical, electronic addictions are computer-game, amusement-arcade machine and one-arm-bandit addiction.