Internet to Sex: Defining Addiction
Addiction is used to describe everything from the Internet to shopping to sex. So how do you tell when something really becomes an addiction?
Dangerous Online Habit continued...
David Greenfield, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Connecticut,
says other characteristics of the Net encouraging addiction include easy
access, sense of timelessness, the hypnotic quality of the screen, and the
unfinished, intermittent nature of information.
What's even worse, he says, is the "synergistic effect"
that these characteristics have when combined with stimulating Web content
that, in themselves, could be habit-forming. Such content could be found in
gambling, shopping, stock trading, video gaming, and porn sites, and cybersex
For instance, "You may have a predilection for liking
pornography," explains Greenfield, "but when the pornography is in your
face, is easily accessible, affordable, and is available at any time and any
place in an anonymous way, that lowers the threshold in regard to acting out
with that behavior."
Greenfield, who has authored a book called Virtual
Addiction, is one of several mental health experts that recognize Internet
addiction as a growing problem, certainly one that could facilitate other
compulsions. He says that 6%-10% of online users are addicted to the Web, and
about half of them visit porn sites or have cybersex chats.
His estimations appear similar to the figures used by the
Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, which put the number of addicted
Internet users at 5%-10% of those online.
The institute has compiled the findings of various studies on
addictions and has determined the following: Of the general population, 8%-10%
are addicted to alcohol or chemicals, 1.5%-3% to gambling, 1%-3% to food, 5% to
sex, and 2%-8% to spending.
There are specialists, however, who question the legitimacy of
the use of the word "addiction" in relation to various topics.
The term, critics say, may now be used too loosely.
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh recently
confessed to his listeners that he was addicted to painkillers. Actress Halle
Berry's estranged husband, Eric Benet, reportedly checked himself into a
rehabilitation center last year for treatment of a sex addiction.
There's certainly nothing new about addictions among
celebrities and common folk, but the type of compulsive behavior reported
appears to be more varied. It seems people used to talk only of alcohol or drug
addiction. Now, the discussion also involves things such as food, sex,
shopping, gambling, and the Internet.