Do you have a hard time disconnecting yourself from the Web? Do your fingers itch to text or IM the second you wake up? Have your thoughts been reduced to 140-character snippets?
You may be suffering from Internet Addiction Disorder — and you're not alone. What's worse, your condition may actually be rewiring your brain.
Internet Addiction Disorder is marked by an uncontrollable need to use the Web. Sufferers generally spend unhealthy amounts of time online, to the detriment of "real-life" interactions at home, with family, or at work. Withdrawal symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder include obsessive thoughts and even involuntary typing movements.
Up until now, diagnosing the disorder has been done based on a person's symptoms. But a new study, published in PLoS One, now links real changes in the brain to Internet Addiction Disorder.
For the study, researchers looked at brain scans for 35 men and women aged between 14 and 21. Seventeen of the participants were classified as experiencing Internet Addiction Disorder based on their responses to questions such as "Have you lied to family members, a therapist or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?"
The scans revealed actual changes in the "white matter" of the addicts' brains. This is the same area of the brain involved in emotions, decision-making, and self-control. It's also the same area of the brain the experiences changes in the brains of people addicted to alcohol, cocaine and other drugs.
The study was small, but the impact may be profound. It's all well and good to laugh about how addicted we all are to YouTube or Twitter or Facebook. But could Internet addiction be a real brain-changing disorder? Could this disorder rewire teenager's brains?
And would that change the amount you allow yourself (or your teen) to spend online?