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Watch out! Internet addiction can make you sick

March 24, 2008 13:34 IST

If you are an internet addict, it is high time you visit a psychiatrist.

Addiction to online gaming, e-mailing, chatting and viewing porn can lead to mental health problems and therefore should be officially recognised as a 'clinical disorder', according to a prominent American psychiatrist.

Dr Jerald Block from Oregon Health & Science University claims too many hours spent on internet can cause a compulsive-impulsive disorder.

"The addicts exhaust emotions that they could experience in the real world on the computer through any number of mechanisms: emailing, gaming, porn," Dr Block said.

"Computer use occupies a tremendous amount of time in their life. Then if you try to cut the cord in a very abrupt fashion, they've lost essentially their best friend."

According to Dr Block, there are four main telltale symptoms which include: Losing all track of time or neglecting basics such as eating or sleeping; cravings and feelings of withdrawal, including anger, tension or depression, when a computer cannot be accessed; an increased need for better computer equipment and software; and negative effects such as arguments, lying, fatigue, social isolation and poor achievement.

But unfortunately, internet addiction is resistant to treatment, entails significant risks and has high relapse rates, Dr Block said.

An average South Korean high school student spends about 23 hours per week gaming. Another 1.2 million are believed to be at risk of addiction and in need of counselling.

There has been alarm over the soaring numbers of pupils dropping out of school or quitting their jobs to spend more time on computers, the Daily Mail reported.

Similarly, in China 13.7 per cent of teenagers -- around 10 million -- are reported to be internet addicts.