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The stereotype of an internet addict is a teenage or young adult male who is socially awkward, often unattractive, yet intelligent.

The reality is completely different.

Internet addiction is considered an impulsive-compulsive disorder and is a recognized mental health disorder. Certain groups are more at risk of developing an addiction to the internet, to video games and to email or text messaging - and they are teens of both sexes and middle aged and older men and women.

Having a present or past addiction to another substance or activity increases the risks of developing an e-addiction dramatically, as does having an additional past or present mental health disorder.

Although teens and the middle aged are statistically the most likely to succumb, anyone seems vulnerable, and as we become increasingly reliant on the internet for communication and entertainment, the numbers who experience problems with their use will likely rise.

Any of us can develop a compulsion, and the internet can create altered states that because they are pleasurable, are reinforcing and addictive. The internet can be used to escape reality, to live an alternate identity or to socialize compulsively. The internet is an amazing medium of information and entertainment, but should be taken, like all things, in moderation.

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Page last updated Aug 19, 2010

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