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Naming Your Net Neurosis

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It’s official; we’re all freaks. If Pavlov were alive today, he’d hang the bell elsewhere to see if it would ring by the sound of a mouse click. Between 5 or 10 percent of Internet users, a recent study says, suffer from a form of Internet addiction.

Medical professionals published in Perspectives in Psychiatriac Care divide Internet addiction into five compulsive behaviors:

1. Cybersexual Addiction: Addicts in this category view an unhealthy amount of pornography and engage in, as you may have guessed, enough cybersex to populate “The Sims: Asia Edition.”

2. Cyber-relationship Addiction: When being emotionally blackmailed isn’t fun enough in person.

3. Net Compulsion: Unhealthily and intrusively engaging in various online behaviors like gambling, shopping, and stock tradingand eBay sniping, probably. “I got that Styxx 8-track with just 4 seconds to go and $35. Who’s the king of eBay?”

4. Information Overload: You can stop Googling now, really. No, they called, and said you’re tying up their bandwidth and they’d like you to stop. Wikipedia sent a letter since your inbox was full.

5. Interactive Gaming Compulsion: A serious condition that, if one survives dehydration, starvation and toxic shock, causes the skin to become translucent. Common signs of ICG: rotating between Linux, Star Trek, and Jedi t-shirts; speaks Klingon; writes in 1337.

“Just like all addictions, it takes you in a direction that you don’t want to go. It’s slow moving at first and all of a sudden it takes over,” said the study author Dr. Diane Wieland. “It’s probably very subtle, but people who are antisocial would be most vulnerable to this form of addiction.”

Internet addicts tend to have other problems as well. The study showed that 54 percent of them report a prior history of depression; 34 percent report anxiety disorder; and 52 percent report a history of alcohol or drug abuse. Denial also seems to be especially strong.

The study also reports gender differences in addiction. While women tend to get hung up on cyber relationships, men show more proclivity toward gambling and cybersex – logging off IM once they’re finished and never emailing again!

Physical symptoms include “cyber-shakes,” which involves involuntarily making typing motions with the fingers, dry eyes, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive motion injuries in the hands, wrist neck, back, and shoulders, and migraine headaches.

The Globe and Mail offers an Internet addiction test to measure your level of Web OCD.

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Naming Your Net Neurosis
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