Wednesday, September 29, 1999 Published at 02:01 GMT 03:01 UK
Internet addicts 'need help'
Surf's up - but do you spend too long online?
Internet addiction is a growing problem and doctors should be better equipped to deal with it, research from the Center for Online Addiction suggests.
In a paper to be published in the student edition of the British Medical Journal, Dr Kimberly Young, director of the centre, sets out a series of questions she says determine whether or not someone is an Internet addict.
However, other psychologists working in the same field say that her criteria are too wide ranging to provide a useful definition.
Self-test reveals all
Dr Young said that an Internet addict would answer yes to at least five of the following questions:
The anonymity of the Internet made it easier to indulge the addiction, and encouraged "deviant, deceptive and even criminal online acts, such as the development of aggressive online personas or the viewing and downloading of illegal images".
Dr Young - who offers E-mail consultations at $15 a time - said treatment should focus on getting an individual to regulate and moderate Internet use.
Dr Mark Griffiths, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University, has studied the effects of excessive Internet use and is familiar with Dr Young's work.
He said that, in its favour, it raised the profile of an important contemporary problem.
"Most Internet addicts are young, socially unskilled men," he told BBC News Online. "It's tragic - these people have the same problems as any other addict."
However, he said Internet addiction was a small problem at present, but Dr Young's criteria classified too many people as addicted to the Internet.
"A lot of these people aren't addicted to the Internet - they're addicted to sex or gambling and they use the Internet as a tool," he said.
"You can't classify an addiction in terms of its medium - if someone's addicted to gambling and spends all their time in a betting shop, we don't say they're addicted to betting shops."
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