There have been times in my life when I’ve questioned my addiction to the Internet – when my ISP goes down, during my vacations from work, and sometimes in the evenings and on the weekends when a particular blog post receives a lot of new comments. Of course, I quickly justify my obsession with the Internet and being “connected” because it’s my job… right? Well, this news story explains that there might be a little bit more behind the addictive nature of the Internet than meets the eye: “Internet addiction a growing concern.”

According to the article, “For some people, the Internet may promote addictive behaviors and pseudo-intimate interpersonal relationships.” Dr. Diane Wieland, who treats patients with computer addiction, offers the following warning: “Such cyberspace contacts may result in cyber disorders such as virtual relationships that evolve into online marital infidelity (cybersex) or online sexually compulsive behaviors… Obsession with and craving time on the computer results in neglect of real-life personal relationships to the point of divorce.”

So, how do you know if you, a loved one, or a co-worker, have an addiction to the Internet? “Signs and symptoms of Internet addiction include a general disregard for health and appearance; sleep deprivation due to spending so much time online; and decreased physical activity and social interaction with others. Dry eyes, carpal tunnel syndrome, and repetitive motion injuries of the hands and fingers are common.”

It’s almost laughable discussing Internet addiction while working for an Internet company that caters to Internet professionals, but some of the side effects are serious. “Internet addicts may also get the ‘cyber shakes’ when off line, exhibiting agitation and typing motions of the fingers when not at the computer.”

What are the odds that this could happen to you? Wieland predicts “that 5 percent to 10 percent of Internet users will most likely experience addiction.” To find out if you’re already addicted, take “a screening test outlined in the book ‘Caught in the Net–How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction and a Winning Strategy for Recovery,’ authored by Kimberly S. Young.”    

Are you in tune with your Internet usage?