1. What is Internet addiction?
Internet addiction is a growing problem facing today's society that is plaguing many families, couples, and individuals both young and old. Internet addiction not only threatens the psychological well-being of individuals, but quite possibly the entire social fabric and as we know it. This psychological disorder is defined as uncontrolled Internet-related behavior which interferes with or impairs normal functioning, and causes severe emotional distress for the individual, their family, friends, or their loved ones. Internet addiction can also disrupt one's academic performance, or their job performance. Internet addicts typically and unwittingly make cyberspace the top priority in their daily lives. In effect, the Internet becomes their primary organizing structure, and the sufferers of Internet addiction are frequently willing to sacrifice most everything else in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behavior. Thus, the debilitating process of Internet addiction becomes both self-perpetuating and self-defeating.
2. How does a person know if he/she is an Internet addict?
As a relatively new problem, Internet addiction has not yet been included in the DSM. However, there are recognized behavioral patterns that assist in formulating a diagnosis. These behaviors include: compulsive use of the Internet, preoccupation with online activities, lying or deceiving others regarding the extent or nature of your online behavior, and lastly, the inability to restrict or limit the amount of time that one spends online. The question to ask oneself is: Does your Internet use interfere with your life in any way, shape, or form? Does it impact your relationships, your family life, your work, or your schoolwork? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes", then chances are you may have a problem. In addition, if you find that you are using the Internet as a means to regularly alter your mood you may be developing a problem. It is not so much the actual frequency of sessions or time spent online that determines whether or not you have a problem, but rather how the time that you do spend impacts your life.
3. What are the causes of Internet addiction? How does it develop?
The study of Internet addiction is still relatively new. The etiology of this affliction is conceived to be very similar to that of other common types of addictions. In a nutshell, Internet addicts find that the experience of being online provides a high, and they then become dependent on this high in order to feel "normal". Gradually, over time, the person's unhealthy relationships become substituted for their healthy ones, and they prefer to seek the immediate gratification available online - instead of the deeper qualities found in normal healthy relationships. While the Internet addict struggles to control his/her behavior, they often experience frustration over their failure to do so. The addictive cycle continues as their loss of self-esteem grows, fueling the need to escape even deeper into their compulsive behavior. The Internet addict is left with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair.
4. What are the different types of Internet addiction?
There is an extremely wide range or broad spectrum of behaviors related to Internet addiction. Pornography and cybersexual addictions are perhaps the most common type, due most likely to the widespread availability of sexual content on the Internet. Those involving interactive online applications are recognized as another primary subtype of Internet addiction. These applications include: "chat", "IMing" (instant messaging), message boards/discussion forums, "blogs", as well as virtual reality gaming. Lastly, applications such as eBay and other online shopping sites, online gambling, and online stock trading are all recognized as important subtypes of Internet addiction.
5. Are there gender differences involved in Internet addiction?
There appear to be gender differences influencing the types of Internet applications preferred by men and women. Generally speaking, men are more likely to become addicted to online pornography, online gaming and gambling, while women are more likely to become addicted to chatting, instant messaging, "blogging"/MySpace, and online shopping/eBay.
6.What are the treatment options available to those who suffer from Internet addiction?
At present, the most common or popular forms of treatment for Internet addiction include individual psychotherapy or counseling as well as support groups. Treatment plans generally employ cognitive-behavioral strategies supported by psychoeducation and bibliotherapy, and are aimed at reducing and controlling the compulsive behavior and achieving moderation. In addition, a comprehensive psychosocial approach is taken to address the fundamental underlying problems in a person's life which created the need to use the Internet as a mean of coping or psychological escape in the first place. A "harm reduction" is approach is seen as preferable over total abstinence in the treatment of Internet addiction because of the ever-growing shift in the structure of society to perform perform personal and business functions online. Our reliance on computer applications to perform our "routine" daily functions (e.g. bill-paying) will continue to grow over time.

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