It is thought that approximately 5 to 10% of people who use the internet are clinically addicted. To be addicted, the individual must find it impossible to control their use.
Henrietta Bowden Jones, consultant psychiatrist at Imperial College London and head of the UK’s only internet addiction clinic, said: “I have seen people who stopped attending university lectures, failed their degrees or their marriages broke down because they were unable to emotionally connect with anything outside the game.”
The press has recently reported a number of tragic cases related to internet addiction. A young man from Sheffield, who’d been accepted into the University of Leicester, died of a blood clot after spending up to 12 hours a day playing his Xbox. In the US, a toddler starved to death while her mother was busy playing online games for hours at a time.
With the rise of increasingly sophisticated games, we can expect to hear more stories like this. Henrietta Bowden Jones was careful to differentiate between real, detrimental internet addiction, and our naturally increasing exposure to internet attributed to the changing face of communication and work tools.
Researchers in China scanned the brains of 17 young people diagnosed with internet addiction disorder and compared them with MRI scans from 16 non-addicted adolescents. The results revealed an impairment of white matter fibres in the brain that connect to regions associated with attention span, decision making, emotional processing and cognitive control.
Similar impairments have been observed in other forms of addiction, such as alcohol and cocaine abuse.
If you would like help dealing with an internet addiction or any other form of addiction, you may benefit from seeing a counsellor specialising in this subject. For more information, please visit our Addictions page. Alternatively, search for a counsellor according to location, specialism, method or keyword.
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