Friday, February 10, 2012

Which Way to Internet Rehab?

Are you suffering from impaired individual psychological well-being, academic failure and reduced work performance?  If these symptoms describe you, there is a good chance you could be addicted to things such as cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse, or worse, the internet.

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If you are all wondering how in the heck I could even begin to compare internet addiction to smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol,  I assure you; I have not fallen completely off my rocker. Alice G Walton, of Forbes explains that in a recent study researchers found changes in the brain very similar to those involved in other types of serious addictions.

The study shows that the brain of young people, who are addicted to the internet, shows destruction in the volume of certain areas of the brain and in its white matter as well as the highways of connection between brain cells. What researchers found interesting in these results is that the brain changes mirror the ones in people who are addicted to drugs such as heroin.   

How can the internet be this addicting?  I hear people say all the time, “I could stop if I wanted to,” or “it’s a choice, not an addiction.”  Helen A.S. Popkinof MSN Today quoted, "Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not 'cost much' to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist."  She makes a good point that had never even crossed my mind. It doesn’t ‘cost much’ to spend countless hours on the internet.  We don’t pay per click, we don’t pay per Facebook or email log on, and we don’t pay for most of our everyday internet use.

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Jaak Pankseep,a Washington State University Neuroscientist, explains that the dopamine system is activated by finding something unexpected or by the anticipation of something new.  If the rewards come unpredictably, such as emails, texts or updates do, we get even more of a dopamine high.  Instead of paying insane amounts of money to get drugs to obtain the high, or spending every last penny on vodka, we spend next to nothing for wireless internet and can get a high that seems to be just as satisfactory, a dopamine high.

If you still think I have fallen off my rocker, sit back and take a look at your internet habits.  When you check Facebook, what are you looking for?  Could it be the possibility that someone may have liked your status, commented on a photo or sent you a message?  If they did any of the above, you should be tied over for at least another 5 minutes before you want to “use” again.  

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