by January W. Payne - The Washington Post - Nov 14, 2006 [original link]
Concern about excessive Internet use -- variously termed problematic Internet use, Internet addiction, pathological Internet use, compulsive Internet use and computer addiction in some quarters, and vigorously dismissed as a fad illness in others -- isn't new. As far back as 1995, articles in medical journals and the establishment of a Pennsylvania treatment center for overusers generated interest in the subject. There's still no consensus on how much time online constitutes too much or whether addiction is possible.
As reliance on the Web grows -- Internet users average about 3 1/2 hours online each day, according to a 2005 survey by Stanford University researchers -- there are signs that the question is getting more serious attention: Last month, a study published in CNS Spectrums, an international neuropsychiatric medicine journal, claimed to be the first large-scale look at excessive Internet use. The American Psychiatric Association may consider listing Internet addiction in the next edition of its diagnostic manual. And scores of online discussion boards have popped up on which people discuss negative experiences tied to too much time on the Web.
Many online discussion boards -- with names such as Internet Addicts Anonymous, Gaming Addiction and Internet Addicts Recovery Club -- focus on Internet overuse and contain posts from hundreds of members. On such boards, posters admit that they feel as though they can't step away from their computers without feeling drawn back and that their online habits interfere with personal relationships, daily routines and their ability to concentrate on work or school. Reports of failed relationships, slipping grades and workplace problems that writers attribute to their preoccupation with the Internet are not unusual.