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Mental Health Center

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Internet Addiction May Be as Hard to Kick as Drugs

A New Condition continued...

"However, the emergence of literature suggesting that this helpful tool might also produce problems for some people seemed to warrant some attention. In fact, the flagging of [this] disorder as a potential problem in the new DSM-5 also means that we need to know more about this issue," he says.

For this study, 60 adults, average age about 24, took a battery of tests that examined their Internet use, their moods and feelings, including the potential for anxiety or depression, and even if they had some autistic traits.

All participants then used the Internet for 15 minutes. Immediately after, they again answered questionnaires to judge their mood and anxiety level.

Of the 60 people, 32 were deemed problematic and/or high Internet users and 28 were low Internet users.

Drug-Like Withdrawal

Results showed strong associations between Internet addiction and depression, some autistic traits, and impulsive and nonconformist behavior. There was a weaker association between this addiction and long-term anxiety.

The high-Internet-use group also showed a much greater drop in their mood than did the lower-use group.

"The immediate negative impact of exposure to the Internet on the mood of Internet addicts may contribute to increased usage by those individuals attempting to reduce their low mood by re-engaging rapidly in Internet use," the researchers write.

"This negative impact on mood could be considered as akin to a withdrawal effect," they write.

Reed says in a prepared statement that for these people, the feeling is similar to "coming off illegal drugs like ecstasy."

"These initial results, and related studies of brain function, suggest that there are some nasty surprises lurking on the Net for people's well-being," he says.

To see a version of this story for physicians, visit Medscape, the leading site for physicians and health care professionals.

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