It’s not uncommon to sit down in front of a computer screen, then glance down at the digital clock to suddenly realize you’ve been staring at a monitor for three hours without a bathroom break. But does that mean we’re actually addicted to the Internet, or just victims of endless Reddit threads and continually loading Pinterest boards?
A recent infographic from MapsoftheWorld.com dissects Internet addiction disorder (IAD), which is defined as a “problematic or pathological use of computers and the Internet space.” But don’t go running to your psychiatrist or a support group to discuss your problems just yet.
IAD is categorized by excessive social networking, online shopping, and blogging, as well as compulsive online gambling and watching of Internet videos or pornography, not to mention playing online games. A total 61 percent of Internet users are classified as addicts, according to the graphic.
Unsurprisingly, 18 to 24 year olds account for the majority of Internet addicts (71 percent), while 25 to 44 years olds collectively fill in the second and third place spots. But then the scale begins to tip, as senior citizens mark 44 percent of addicted Internet users. The 45-54 and 55-64 age groups earned 40 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
It’s easy to forget about real life when there’s a virtual one unfolding on your screen, a fact to which 24 percent of Facebook users can attest; they admitted to missing important real-life moments while online.
While it may not seem as damaging as some addictions, IAD can lead to structural brain damage, which causes a loss of sense of time, withdrawal when the computer is inaccessible, social isolation and fatigue, and the need for better computer equipment.
It even made the cut for this year’s edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which includes Internet-use disorder or Internet Addiction as a condition, which is “recommended for further study.”
Maps of the World broke down the various pieces of IAD, including gaming addiction, which has incurred fatal consequences in the past few years. According to the graphic, 17-year-old Daniel Petric shot his parents in 2009 after they confiscated his Halo 3 video game. Meanwhile, a South Korean couple came home to find their newborn daughter had starved to death while they were away at a cyber caf playing an online game all night.
Staring at a TV or computer screen for hours upon hours of gameplay can also do more damage than ruining your eyesight. In 2011, a 20-year-old died from a blood clot caused by playing his Xbox for 12 hours straight, while an 18-year-old died in a Taiwanese Internet caf last year, after playing Diablo III non-stop for more than 40 hours.
All may not be lost for those suffering from an addiction to the Web. The first U.S. rehab location the Heavensfield Retreat Center in Fall City, Wash. opened in 2009 with an addiction recovery program for IAD called restart. The next year, a London center announced the launch of a program for children as young as 12.
For more about Internet addiction, check out the full infographic below. Also, test your own IAD likelihood with Heavensfield’s online survey.