The brains of internet addicts may undergo chemical changes similar to those of alcoholics and drug addicts, according to a Chinese study announced last week.
Published in journal Plos One, the study saw researchers scan the brains of 35 men and woman between the ages of 14 and 21, about half of whom were identified in a diagnostic evaluation as having an internet addiction disorder.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan found abnormal connections between nerve fibers in the white matter of the brains of the internet addicts, a similar phenomenon observed in the brains of people with alcoholism and other impulse control disorders, such as compulsive gambling.
Professor Gunter Schumann, chair in biological psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London, told the BBC that similar findings have been found in video game addicts.
What this means for the future is unclear, according to reports, as scientists have long argued over whether or not technology addiction can be classified as a mental illness — but for those who believe it should be, the study could provide fresh insights.
While spending copious hours online or playing video games doesn’t necessarily qualify as an addiction, states WebMD, there are some warning signs to keep an eye on.
According to the Center for Online Addiction, video game or internet addicts will not only play games or use the internet for increasing amounts of time, but think about gaming and the internet during other activities. Addicts rely on gaming or the internet to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression. Cutting back on time spent at the computer leads to irritability, and addicts may lie to family and friends to conceal their habits.