Internet Addiction in the US

The Internet is developed much more in the USA and Western Europe than in other countries, and the experience of these countries can be indicative. Now the phenomenon (disease/syndrome) “addiction on the Internet”, or Internet addiction disorder, or IAD (Young, 2010) is intensively discussed and investigated. A very figurative term “Netaholic”, or “Internet addict” appeared.

In the most general view Internet addiction is defined as “not chemical dependence on using the Internet” (Young, 2010). Behavioral Internet addiction means that people prefer life on the Internet so much that actually they start to refuse the “real” life, spending in virtual reality up to 18 hours a day. Another determination of Internet addiction is “persuasive desire to enter into the Internet, being off-line, and inability to leave the Internet, being on-line” (Young, 2010).

The discussion of this phenomenon began not so long ago: in 1994. K.Young developed and placed on a web site a special questionnaire and soon received nearly 500 answers, about 400 authors of which were recognized, according to the chosen criterion, as Internet addictive people. In 1997-1999 research, advisory and psychotherapeutic web services on IAD problems were created. In 1998-1999 the first monographs on this problem (Young, 2010) were published.

Kimberley Young gives 4 symptoms of Internet addiction:

1. Persuasive desire to check e-mails.

2. Continuous expectation of the next Internet connection.

3. Complaints of people around that the person spends too much time in the Internet.

4. Complaints of people around that the person spends too much money on the Internet.

The Internet addiction is often understood much more widely, it is referred to: dependence on the computer, that is addiction to use the computer (games, programming or other types of activities); “information overload”, that is compulsive navigation on WWW, search for remote databases; compulsive Internet application, that is pathological attachment to gambling, on-line auctions or electronic purchases on the Internet; dependence from “cyber relations”, that is from social applications of the Internet – communication in chats, group games and teleconferences that can be resulted in replacement of available family and friends in real life by the virtual; dependence on “cybersex”, that is on pornographic sites on the Internet, on the discussion of sexual topics in chats or special teleconferences “for adults”  (Lam, 2010).

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The researchers note that the most part of Internet addicts (91 %) use the Internet services connected with communication (Weinstein, 2010). The other part of the addicts is involved in information services of the network.

The Internet addiction can arise as an addiction on the most various forms of the Internet use, by its manifestations it is similar to already known forms of addictive behavior (for example, as a result of alcohol intake or drugs).

According to the various researches, about 10 % of users in the USA are Internet addictive today. (Lam, 2010) Other researches call figures up to 2-6 %. (Velezmoro, 2010)

The features of Internet addiction are the following. It is not a chemical dependence, not causing organism destruction, it is closer to gambling addiction according to the impact on the organism. It is noted that years are required for formation of traditional types of addiction, for Internet addiction this term is sharply reduced: by K.Young data, 25 % of addicts gained dependence within half a year after they started using the Internet, 58 % - during the second half of the year, and 17 % - soon after a year has passed. The addiction is noticed, as a rule, by the family of the addict as his/her behavior and a daily routine change.

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The mechanisms of Internet addiction emergence are attentively investigated.

The most part of Internet addicts “sits” in the Network for the sake of communication. Internet addiction becomes possible thanks to differences of real communication from virtual (Stieger, 2010). The predominating factor, thanks to which the phenomenon was widely adopted, is the personality anonymity in the Network.

Thus, the Internet is attractive as means of escaping from reality thanks to the possibility of anonymous social interactions. Firstly, the feeling of safety and the anonymity consciousness when carrying out interactions, including using e-mail, chats, ICQ, has a special value. Secondly, it is possibility for realization of any representations, imaginations with feedback. And the last point is an unlimited access to information – information vampirism (Weinstein, 2010).

Undoubtedly, Network addicts need the qualified help. In the USA the request for the help in specialized Internet sites is widely developed, the groups of the type “Anonymous Alcoholics” for the Internet addicts and computer games addicts function. I think, such groups should be created more widely and we also have to organize specialized committees, which have trained and well-qualified staff for curing such types of addiction, which learn people to communicate and lead an ordinary life.

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Among psychotherapists the possibility of patients’ treatment online was widely discussed. And the majority agrees that personal contact of the therapist with the client is necessary for normal psychotherapeutic process. In the Network a psychological consultation, like a virtual telephone hotline, is only possible.

Obviously, the problem of Internet addiction exists. Probably, in mass media its value is a little exaggerated. Those, who ignore daily cares who have destroyed a household life, need the help of the psychotherapist.

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