By Andy Bloxham
Last Updated: 5:23PM BST 19/06/2008
Obsessive internet use is a public health problem which is so serious it should be officially recognised as a clinical disorder, according to a leading psychiatrist.
Sufferers spend unhealthy amounts of time playing online games, viewing pornography or emailing.
They suffer four symptoms: They forget to eat and sleep; they need more advanced technology or more hours online as they develop 'resistance' to the pleasure given by their current system; if they are deprived of their computer, they experience genuine withdrawal symptoms; And in common with other addictions, the victims also begin to have more arguments, to suffer fatigue, to get lower marks in tests and to feel isolated from society.
Early research into the subject found highly educated, socially awkward men were the most likely sufferers but more recent work suggests it is now more of a problem for middle-aged women who are spending hours at home on their computers.
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