Internet junkies? Study says Americans may be addicted

By U-Wire

STANFORD, Calif. – Ever feel that need to continuously click the refresh button on your Internet browser to see if you’ve got mail? Ever show up late to class because you were writing an e-mail and got distracted? Ever wake up at 4 a.m. and automatically check Facebook?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be an Internet addict.

A new study from Stanford University Medical School found that excessive Internet usage can be compared to alcoholism – and what may be labeled as merely bad habits could be signs of a compulsive disorder.

“Just think about the pandemic of e-mail once you get to college,” said junior Jordan Moncharmont, a Resident Computer Coordinator in Cedro. “It’s expected of all students to check their e-mail all the time. Those who don’t, miss out on things like announcements over the dorm list saying ‘I’m going to Safeway in a few minutes, does anyone want to come along?’ or a teacher canceling class for the day.”

Adding that to convenient social networking, gaming, problem sets due online and an endless flow of news and information, makes it no wonder that students can spend hours online each day.

“I check e-mail every five minutes,” said senior Ethan Townsend. “You like to feel that all the e-mails you’ve gotten are taken care of.”

But is this constant behavior a warning sign?

Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, director of Stanford’s Impulse Control Disorders Clinic, recently surveyed 2,500 people in a nationwide study of Internet usage.

The results showed 14 percent of the population found it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time, while eight percent used the Internet as an escape from their problems. Another six percent said their personal relationships suffered directly from too much time online.

Some internet users are seeking professional help for the addiction.

At the Stanford clinic, Aboujaoude has treated many patients, including University students, for problems related to the Internet.

“People come in because they’ve been disciplined or fired for spending too much time on the Internet,” Aboujaoude said. “They know they have a problem, but find it hard to stop.”

He compared excessive use to more serious behaviors like alcoholism.