BOSTON (CBS) – Social media may seem harmless, but experts warn Facebook and Twitter can be harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol. Ryan knows this all too well. He is a recovering addict. “For the better part of two years I was just in this different world,” is how Ryan describes his obsession with the Internet and video games.
He was a promising college pitcher, but instead of practicing baseball he was playing the game “World of Warcraft.” He spent up to 100 hours a week playing the game. The obsession left him depressed, he quit the baseball team, and eventually dropped out of school.
His parents took him to see Dr. Kenneth Woog who says the addiction includes video games, social media, even web surfing. “The addiction we’re talking about is the same addiction in many ways as drugs,” says Dr. Woog. Experts say addiction to the Internet affects pleasure centers in the brain, just like drugs and alcohol. “The withdrawal from the computer can be like the withdrawal from any addiction. It can be very difficult,” explains Dr. Woog.
Patients can be treated with psychological therapy. Dr. Woog also uses a device to automatically shut off the computer or game console after a preset time. This is the method that helped wean Ryan from his addiction.
The medical community now recognizes Internet addiction as a very real and growing problem and the American Psychiatric Association is debating whether to classify it as a disorder that can be diagnosed and treated, like depression and anxiety.
While many Internet users may not have a full-blown addiction, it appears we’re willing to make sacrifices to stay connected. A recent survey asked Americans what they would give up for one year in exchange for the Internet. Seventy-seven percent said they would stop eating chocolate, 73% alcohol, 69% coffee, and 21% say they’d go a year without sex.