Ten years ago, the only people who spent a majority of their leisure time on the computer were paid members of the technology industry. Today, however, surfing the Web has become a pastime as social and marketable as bar hopping or going to the movies. As the web has become a part of mainstream life, some mental health professionals have noted that a percentage of people using the web do so in a compulsive and out-of-control manner. In one extreme (1997) Cincinnati case, unemployed mother Sandra Hacker allegedly spent over 12 hours a day secluded from her three young and neglected children while she surfed the Web. For better or for worse, this phenomena of compulsive Internet use has been termed 'Internet Addiction' based on its superficial similarity to common addictions such as smoking, drinking, and gambling. Internet Addiction has even been championed as an actual disorder, notably by psychologists Kimberly Young, Ph.D and David Greenfield, Ph.D.. However, at this time the true nature of Internet Addiction is not yet determined.
In a true addiction, a person becomes compulsively dependent upon a particular kind of stimulation to the point where obtaining a steady supply of that stimulation becomes the sole and central focus of their lives. The addict increasingly neglects his work duties, relationships and ultimately even his health in his drive to remain stimulated. In some cases of addiction (such as addiction to alcohol or to heroin), a phenomenon known as tolerance occurs, wherein more and more stimulation is required to produce the same pleasurable effect. A related phenomena, withdrawal, can also occur, wherein the addicted person comes to be dependent upon their source of stimulation and experiences dramatically unpleasant (and even potentially lethal -- as can be the case with alcohol) reactions when he goes without it. Sources of addictive stimulation can be chemical (as is the case with addictive drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, nicotine and heroin), sensual (as in sex) or even informational (as in gambling or workaholism). What all sources of addictive stimulation have in common is that they provoke a strong, usually positive (at first) reaction in the potential addict, who then seeks out the source of that stimulation so as to obtain that feeling on a regular basis.
While many people like to engage in sexual relations, or gamble, or have the occasionally drink because of the pleasure to be had, clearly not all people who do so are addicts. Rather, the term addiction only applies when someone's stimulation seeking gets to the point where it starts interfering with their ability to function normally and non-neglectfully at work and in relationships.
Mental health professionals are split as to whether or not Internet addiction is real. No one disputes that some people use the Internet in a compulsive manner even to a point where it interferes with their their ability to function at work and in social relationships. What is disputed is whether people can become addicted to the Internet itself, or rather to the stimulation and information that the web provides. The controversy surrounding Internet Addiction is precisely whether people become addicted to the net itself, or to the stimulation to be had via the net (such as online gambling, pornography or even simple communication with others via chat and bulletin boards).
Some psychologists do not believe in addiction to the Internet itself, but rather in addiction to stimulation that the Internet provides. They suggests that new Internet users often show an initial infatuation with the novelty of the Web, but eventually lose interest and decrease their time spent online back to a normal, healthy amount. Those users who do go on to show compulsive Internet utilization, for the most part become compulsive only with regard to particular types of information to be had online, most often gambling, pornography, chat room or shopping sites. This is not an addiction to the Internet itself, but rather to risk-taking, sex, socializing or shopping. In essence then, the chief addictive characteristic of the Internet is its ability to enable instant and relatively anonymous social stimulation. “Addicted” Internet users are addicted to a favored kind of social stimulation and not to the Internet itself, although it is also true that the Internet has made it vastly easier and more convenient for someone to develop such a compulsion.
Because the Internet is used by many people as a normal part of their career or education, knowing how to separate excessive from normal use becomes difficult and cannot be accomplished using simple measures such as amount of time spent online in a given period. Most fundamental in differentiating normal from problem Internet use is the experience of compulsion to use the net. Normal users, no matter how heavy their usage, do not need to get online and do not neglect their occupational duties or their relationships with family and friends to get online.
Help for Internet related addiction is available from multiple sources. Anyone concerned about serious problem Internet usage should consider consulting with a local licensed psychologist, social worker or counselor, specifically one with experience treating addictions. Cognitive therapy based approaches are recommendable due to their systematic and direct focus on reducing problem use and preventing relapse, and the strong scientific support for the approach. Marital and or family therapy approaches may be useful as well when an individual's Internet Addiction is affecting their larger family system (such as might be the case when a husband uses Internet-based pornography as his sole sexual outlet, leaving his wife frozen out). More than a few books and self-help resources (such as audio tape sets) are also available for those who want to educate themselves on the problem. Our Internet Addiction Treatment article provides further detail.
Smoking is known to be damaging to one’s health and can cause various cancers in the body. Smoking at any age has negative effects, including for teenagers and young adults. Teens are often exposed to images of celebrities smoking, which can make it seem cool, even though there are many serious downsides to smoking. In some instances, the media tries to make smoking look acceptable, which helps tobacco companies make sales.
Teens may be faced with peers who smoke or family members who smoke in their home. Being bullied to start smoking is very possible, especially for those who are over 18, since it is then legal to smoke cigarettes in the United States. If teens live with smokers, they are likely exposed to second-hand smoke and all the health repercussions that come with it. These teens are also more likely to have access to packs of cigarettes that older siblings, parents or other family members have in the household. It’s important to inform teens regarding a number of smoking-related topics, including:
- How the media portrays smoking
- Peer pressure and smoking
- The dangers of smoking
If you suspect your teen is addicted to nicotine, call us at 1-888-287-0471 Who Answers? . Our helpful staff can give you the information you need to properly educate yourself and your child about the dangers of smoking tobacco and addiction in general.
Teens, Families, Peers and Smoking
Teens may start smoking for a number of reasons, including peer pressure. Friends may smoke at parties or events and offer a cigarette to a friend or a circle of friends. When everyone is participating, your teen may feel obligated to join in. Peers may start smoking when they are younger than the legal age of 18, if they are able to obtain cigarettes from older siblings, family members or friends. If this is the case, your teen could be exposed to smoking much earlier than the age of 18.
If a teen grows up in a smoking household, it may be difficult for your teen to see the dangers of smoking and the many reasons to stop smoking. The popular media and entertainment companies may show smoking as a positive activity, although there are many well-known side effects and noted dangers.
Peer and Family Acceptance to Smoke
Teen smoking can be dangerous no matter what the starting influence is. It is important to recognize the different areas of your teen’s life that could cause him or her to start smoking and to keep your teen informed about the damage that smoking can cause to the lungs, heart and other parts of the body.
Popular Media and Teen Smoking
Your teen’s favorite celebrities may be smokers. The popular media outlets may promote this in order to help the tobacco companies make sales. There are literally hundreds of thousands of images that portray smoking as cool and harmless, and these images can have an impact on your teen. It is important to make sure that your child understands that the media is a business, like any other.
Problems with Teen Smoking
Teen smoking can cause your teen to develop an addiction and dependency on nicotine. Teens who start smoking at a young age may also face more difficulties if they decide to stop smoking. Addiction and dependency can cause a smoker to smoke more and more cigarettes, especially when stressed. This dependency is dangerous to a teen’s health and a drain on their financial resources.
“Teens who start smoking early in life are more prone to developing a nicotine addiction. “Teens who start smoking early in life are more prone to developing a nicotine addiction. Nicotine addiction is dangerous because it leads to smoking more often, which can cause other health problems. Cancers, asthma, bronchitis and other conditions can arise due to smoking, so it is important that your teen is aware of the damaging effect cigarettes have on the body. Dependencies are easy to develop, so it is best to stop smoking earlier, rather than after years of addiction.
Smoking and Relationships
It is important to have your teen understand that smoking is not only damaging to his or her health, but also to those around him or her. Second-hand smoke can harm friends and family members who are exposed over time, or even the first time if the friends or family members have conditions such as asthma. Smoking bans are in place now in many states and public locations. This means that smokers may be forced to smoke outside, away from events, friends and family members at restaurants, bars and other locales.
Smoking addiction can be treated if you wish to stop. A tobacco treatment center can help you get off cigarettes with little to no withdrawal symptoms. There are also some medications and nicotine gums available over the counter that can help address nicotine addiction and withdrawal symptoms when used in place of a cigarette.
There are many reasons to stop smoking, from the health dangers that smoking causes to the taste of cigarettes in your mouth or the smell of smoke on your clothing. These things may cause strain on your relationships, especially if you are surrounded by non-smokers.