Investigative Report Of Internet Addiction
Dr. Jere Mitchum
November 4 , 1996
TABLE OF CONTENT
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS ...............................................iv
Growth Of The Internet ..............................................1
THE ADDICTION .......................................................2
What causes it ......................................................2
How To Overcome The Addiction........................................4
The elements of any addiction........................................4
One Last Interesting Question .......................................9
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
1. The number of networks connected to the Internet vs. Time.
2. The percentage of the Internet domains
3. Will the equation people = Internet Users be true in 2001?
The problem of Internet addiction is not very noticeable now and that's why not
many people are taking it seriously, but what these people are failing to see is
the connection between the very rapid growth of the Internet and the addiction
problem. It is really simple logic the bigger the Internet get the more users
will be which will lead to a bigger number of addicts that can have their lives
as well as others corrupted by this behavior. The main objective of this paper
is to make sure that all reader know and understand what Internet addiction is
and how it can be solved or avoided. I can not offer a professional psychiatric
solution but I believe if a person knows more about the addiction, the better
chance they have to help themselves as well as others; that's why I have
included a short summary of the elements of addiction.
I hope that by the time you read my paper you will have a better understanding
about this issue to keep yourself as well as others of taking Internet addiction
The purpose of this paper is to make you, the reader, alert and more aware of
the newest type of addiction, Internet addiction. Many people would call it
exaggeration to classify spending a lot of time on the Internet as an addiction,
but since the subject is a fairly new not everybody is taking it as serious as
they should be.
Growth of the Internet
I am sure that everybody knows what the Internet and used it at least a couple
of times so there is no need for me to tell you what the Internet is. However,
the incredible growth of the size and technology of the Internet is a fact well
Ever since the Internet was commercially introduced to the public late in 1989
the number of the networks that form the Internet have been increasing
exponentially. As you can see in figure 1 in the United States there is a new
network connected to the Internet every 30 minutes.
Figure 1 Number of Networks connected (Source:
Not all these networks are commercial, some are educational some are for
organizations and some are simply networks that provide Internet services. All
these different kind of networks can be identified on the Internet by their
domain extension, or in other words the last three letters in the address -e.g.
http://www.arabia.com is a commercial site because of the .com- in figure 2 the
percentage of all four major domains is shown, and it is obvious that the big
share goes to the commercial domains. It does not take a genius to figure out
that since the Internet attracted that much commercial interest that means that
more and more people are using the Internet, and even more are willing to spend
time and money on it.
Figure 2 (Source of data: http://www.nw.com)
With such vast growth of the Internet what is considered as a small problem can
grow along with the Internet to cause an even bigger problem. In a recent
publication in the Los Angeles Times Mathew McAlleseter reported on a survey
conducted on the Internet by Victor Brenner who came up with the following
results: "17% said that they spend more than 40 hours a week online, 31% said
that their work performance had deteriorated since they started using the
Internet, 7% got "into hot water" with their employers or schools for Internet
related activities" (LA Times, 5/5/1996, pp A-18).However, Brenner acknowledges
that his survey is unscientific in many ways; respondents are self-selected and
many may be Internet researchers. On the other hand, Dr. Kimberly Young from the
University of Pittsgurg-Bradford conducted a more accurate survey that included
396 men and women. In her point of view heavy on-line users in her study all met
psychiatric criteria for clinical dependence applied to alcoholics and drug
addicts. They had lost control over their Net usage and couldn't end it despite
harmful effects on their personal and professional lives. What Causes It
Finding a reason for Internet addiction can be as hard as finding a reason for
smoking addiction, however, there are a couple of reasons that are obvious for
some addicts: * The power of instant access to all sorts of information and all
kinds of people is a positive that can be overused. * A different kind of
community that can draw people who tend to "shy out" in the real world because
this new virtual community does not require the social skill that real life does,
all you have to do is be good on the keyboard. * Adopting new personas and
playing your favorite kind of personality is not hard when others can not see or
hear you. * Last but not least is the fascination with technology. This might be
the best excuse -if there such a thing- to be addicted to the Internet, the
information super highway, or cyber space.
When I was trying to collect more information about the symptoms of Internet
addiction, I was surprised to find out that almost one half of the sites I
visited took Internet addiction as a joke. So as a part of the research I
decided to give you the top ten signs you may be addicted to the Internet :
10. You wake up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom and stop and check your e-
mail on the way back to bed.
9. You get a tattoo that reads "This body best viewed with Netscape
Navigator 2.0 or higher."
8. .You write down your URL when asked for your Home Address.
7. You turn off your modem and get this awful empty feeling, like you just
pulled the plug on a loved one.
6. You spend half of the plane trip with your laptop on your lap...and your
child in the overhead compartment.
5. Your home page sees more action than you do.
4. You start to notice how much this list describes you.
3. People ask why you turn your head to the side when you smile, i.e. :-)
2. The last girl you picked up was a JPEG image.
1. Your modem burns up. You haven't logged in for two hours. You start to
twitch. You pick up the phone and manually dial your service provider access
number. You try to hum to communicate with the network. You succeed !!
On the more serious side, an Internet based support group for people who suffer
from Internet addiction called the Internet Addiction Support Group (IASG) has
established the Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) to be the following:
A maladaptive pattern of Internet use, leading to clinically significant
impairment or distress as manifested by three (or more) of the following,
occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:
(I) tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
(A) A need for markedly increased amounts of time on Internet to achieve
(B) markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of
time on Internet.
(II) withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following :
(A) the characteristic withdrawal syndrome
(1) Cessation of (or reduction) in Internet use that has been heavy and
(2) Two (or more) of the following, developing within several days to a
month after Criterion 1:
(a) psychomotor agitation.
(c) obsessive thinking about what is happening on Internet.
(d) fantasies or dreams about Internet.
(e) voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers.
(3) The symptoms in Criterion 2 cause distress or impairment in social,
occupational or another important area of functioning.
(B) Use of Internet or a similar on-line service is engaged in to relieve
or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
(III) Internet is often accessed more often or for longer periods of time
than was intended.
(IV) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or
control Internet use.
(V) A great deal of time is spent in activities related to Internet use
(e.g., buying Internet books, trying out new WWW browsers, researching Internet
vendors, organizing files of downloaded materials.)
(VI) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given
up or reduced because of Internet use.
(VII) Internet use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or
recurrent physical, social, occupational, or psychological problem that is
likely to have been caused or exacerbated by Internet use (sleep deprivation,
marital difficulties, lateness for early morning appointments, neglect of
occupational duties, or feelings of abandonment in significant others.)
(Source: John Suler, Ph.D. - Rider University May 1996
How To Overcome The Addiction
Now that the problem has been established and given a fancy abbreviation (IAD),
the next question is what to do about it. Several groups of people created
support groups dedicated to help people who suffer from IAD. Some of the most
famous support groups is the IASG which can be reached by a-mail at
emailprotected and the Webaholics support group which can be reached on
http://www.webaholics.com . However, the main key to getting rid of , or even
avoiding, any type of addiction is to understand the basic elements of the
addiction. Once you understand these elements you will have a better chance of
overcoming the addiction or even not getting it at all.
The elements of addiction are : (I) Denial
All people who are addicted (to anything) have some degree of denial. Without
denial, most addictions would not have become established in the first place.
Denial can take many forms. At the milder extremes, a person may believe "I can
handle this problem whenever I decide to do so." The fact that one has a problem
is at least acknowledged. At the other extreme, denial often takes the form of:
"What problem? I don't have a problem. You've got the problem, Dude. And besides,
you're beginning to tick me off!"
(II) Failing to Ask for Help
The second trademark of most addictions is that people affected are very
reluctant to ask for help. The mindset of most addicts is: "I can beat this
myself." Not only are they reluctant to ask other people for help, but even when
they do, they don't accept the advice of others easily. The best thing to do is
to look for individuals or professionals who know how to cure addicted people.
While these resource people are rare, you should keep looking for them. If you
hook up with someone who claims to have this ability, look at your results and
don't hang around too long with this person if you don't see yourself making
progress. Keep looking for the right experienced helper and you will eventually
find one that works well with you.
(III) Lack of Other Pleasures In Other Activities One thing that is true about
most addictions is they are often either the only or the strongest source of
pleasure and satisfaction in a person's life. People who become addicted often
do so because their lives are not fulfilling. They can't seem to find passion,
enjoyment, adventure, or pleasure from life itself, so they have to get these
pleasures in other ways. This becomes important when you try to end your
addiction. If you try to eliminate your main source of pleasure in life without
being able to replace it immediately with other sources of pleasure, it is
doubtful you will be able to stay away from your addictive behaviour very long.
(IV) Underlying Deficiencies in Other Aspects of Life Addiction should never
be viewed as a problem in and of itself. Addictions are much better viewed as a
symptom of other underlying problems and deficiencies. This is why most
addiction therapies are so universally unsuccessful. To cure most addictions,
you must look beyond the addiction itself and deal with underlying deficiencies
in coping and life management skills that have given rise to it. For example,
people who become addicted to alcohol and other drugs usually have serious
deficiencies in their life management, stress management, and interpersonal
skills. Early on in life, they experience a great deal of pain and personal
suffering that they can't figure out how to deal with effectively. This drives
them to seek external relief and comfort in the form of alcohol or other
substances. As this pattern of behaviour gets repeated over time, their bodies
become physically addicted to the chemical substance, and the addiction then
becomes even more difficult to end. The same is true for cigarette addiction.
Many people find that smoking helps them cope with stress or keep their weight
under control. Even if they are successful at beating the physical part of
cigarette addiction, they often quickly return to smoking because they fail to
improve their repertoire of coping skills. So if you are trying to deal with the
problem of Internet Addiction, or any addiction for that matter, you should ask
yourself the following questions:
1. What stress management skills or life management skills do I lack that
led me to become addicted?
2. What problems in life do I have that my addiction helps me to avoid or
3. What would I need to learn how to do in order to let go of my
4. What "benefits" or payoffs am I getting from my addictive behaviour?
(V) Giving in to Temptation
Once you decide to eliminate an established addiction, there are certain
requirements and pitfalls you must be prepared for. One of these is dealing with
temptation. Whenever you try to stay away from something that previously gave
you great pleasure, you're going to be tempted to return to that behaviour.
Sometimes, the temptation may be very strong. But even if it is, you must be
prepared to resist it. Temptation, in truth, is nothing more than a powerful
internal feeling state ,i.e. a desire. It is often accompanied by thoughts as
well, that are designed to make you "cave in" and satisfy your intense internal
cravings. You, however, are always much stronger than any of your internal
thoughts, feelings, or other internal states. You have the power to consistently
ignore or to choose not to respond to your thoughts and demanding feelings.
Thoughts and feelings have very little power at all (even though many people
mistakenly "feel" that their thoughts and feelings are much more powerful than
they). Once you take on the challenge of dealing with any addiction, you will
need to marshal your ability to successfully deal with temptation. If you don't
have a sense that you have this power to succeed, you can use your addiction as
an opportunity to discover that you really do have this important capability.
(VI) Failing to Keep Your Word In order to change any established habit, be it
an addiction or not, you must be able to give your word to yourself and KEEP
YOUR WORD NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. All behaviour change involves deciding what
actions are needed to break the established pattern and then taking those
actions on a consistent basis over time. This is just another way of saying "you
must give your word to yourself every day that you will do this or that or not
do this or that. Then you must keep your word, no matter what happens around you
or what temptations or seductive excuses you encounter." Many addiction
treatment programs fail because addicts are not empowered to rehabilitate their
ability to give and keep their word. Many addicts, experience has shown, are
very accomplished liars. Their promises and statements to others often can't be
trusted. And their ability to keep promises to themselves is similarly impaired.
Without the ability to give and keep your word, especially to yourself, you've
got very little chance of curing any addiction. On the other hand, if you make
this goal part of your overall game plan, you may be able to emerge from your
addiction a stronger, healthier, and more trustworthy human being.
(VII) Failing to Do What May Be Necessary Be very clear about this one important
point: ALL ADDICTIONS CAN BE CURED AS LONG AS THEY AGREE TO DO WHATEVER MIGHT BE
NECESSARY. One reason most addictions appear to be "incurable" is because people
shy away from the types of actions that are often necessary. What types of
actions are these? Well, they can be numerous, diverse, and highly specific for
any individual. They might include any or all of the following (using Internet
Addiction as an example):
1. Setting an absolute schedule or time limit for how much time you spend
on the Internet.
2. Forcing yourself to stay away from the Internet for several days at a
3. Placing self-imposed computer "blocks" on certain types of
recreational programs, which include the web browser.
4. Setting an absolute policy for yourself of never signing on to the net
at work (unless this is required for your study).
5. Establishing meaningful (but not harmful) consequences for yourself
for failing to keep your word.
6. Applying these self-imposed consequences until you do regain your
ability to keep your word consistently.
7. Forcing yourself to do other things instead of spending time on the
8. Resolving to learn how to derive other more healthy sources of
pleasure in life to replace or even exceed the pleasure you got from being on
9. Asking for help whenever you feel you are not being successful.
10. Avoiding people or environments that might encourage you to return to
your addictive behaviour, this might be impossible in college but it still is a
These are not the only actions that can be taken, many of them will work for a
majority of individuals. The point is that in order to cure an addiction, you've
got to be willing to do things that may seem drastic or outrageous but not
harmful to yourself or others. So if you have a history of failing to make any
type of desired behaviour change, all this may mean is that you weren't willing
to do what is necessary. All addictions (and other dysfunctional behaviours) can
ultimately be cured. It's just a matter of figuring out what specific actions
will work (and will not cause you or others harm) and then executing those
actions despite any thoughts or feelings you might have to the contrary.
(VIII) Failing to Anticipate and Deal With Relapses No matter how much initial
success you have in eliminating an addiction, unintended relapses are just
around the corner. Something unexpected might happen in your life or you might
otherwise succumb to a moment of weakness. Good addiction treatment plans
anticipate that such relapses commonly occur and prepare individuals to deal
with them successfully. A relapse does not mean that you have failed in your
efforts to cure yourself of an addiction. If you stay away from cigarettes for 3
months and then smoke again for two days in a row, you can view this as a
"failure" if you want, or you can focus on the fact that of the last 92 days,
you successfully abstained for 97% of them. That's pretty good. The trick is to
keep 2 days from becoming 5 days, or 5 days from becoming 10 days, etc. Here you
will need a game plan to keep an occasional relapse from triggering a return to
the addiction. Once you understand these elements, chances are you will not be
and addict for long. And for those who were close, I don't think that you are
smart enough not to get sucked in.
Internet addiction is a serious addiction that should not be taken lightly, it
might not be life threatening like some drug addiction, but it can very harmful
to the person professional and personal life. The key to staying away from this
addiction is to understand its elements and have a strong will power to control
one's self from all the temptations that the Internet might provide.
One Last Interesting Question
We all know that more and more people are gaining access to the Internet some
way or another, but not every body had the chance of looking at figure 3 !
Figure 3. Will the equation people = Internet Users be true in 2001? (Source:
Elias, M. (7/7/1996) Net overuse called "true addiction", USA Today, pp 1-A.
McAllester, M. (5/5/1996), Study says some may be addicted to the Net; Bulldog
Los Angeles Times, , pp A-18.
Network Wizards, online
Available URL: http://www.nw.com/zone/
Rodgers, J. (1994), Treatments that works, Vol. 27, Psychology Today, pp 34.
Young, Kimberly, Centre of on-line addiction (COLA), online
Available URL: http://www.pitt.edu/ksy/
Merit Network Inc., online
Available URL: ftp://nic.merit.edu/statistics/nsfnet/