Of all the addictions one could possibly have, perhaps the least recognized is Internet addiction.
People everywhere have grown more dependent on the Internet for everything from banking and communication to media and even to medical advice.
But just like an alcoholic who can never take just one drink, people with addictive tendencies can just as easily become hooked on their computers.
It’s no longer fodder for sarcasm for those who are forced to watch in horror as a loved one loses everything because he or she can’t get up from World of Warcraft long enough to go to work.
These addicts are not on the streets, on drugs or on their way to prison for committing crimes to support their habit, so in that respect, the consequences of the addiction are different.
But in many ways the effects on the family are the same. Addiction destroys relationships, usurps opportunities and leaves in its wake loved ones who feel hurt, frustrated and alone in their suffering.
However, they are not alone. Although in-depth conclusive and consistent data on the prevalence of Internet addiction are not yet available, one study done by Dr. Jerald Block, a practicing psychiatrist and researcher affiliated with the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, estimates as many as nine million Americans suffer from the affliction.
There is still a big debate in this country as to whether the problem actually exists. China officially declared Internet addiction a disorder in late 2008 and message boards across the globe lit up with mixed responses. Some people shared heart-wrenching stories and others said it was a “hoax” or “another brain-washing tool of the communists,” but for families around the world torn apart by Internet addiction, it was an eye-opener.
The best first step to treating any addiction is to recognize that it exists, and not everyone who uses the Internet regularly is an addict. But like the late Supreme Court Justice William Brennan’s explanation of pornography, “I know it when I see it,” and seeing is believing.