(the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma)

Every addictive substance induces pleasant states or relieves distress.

A chronic relapsing condition characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and abuse and by long-lasting chemical changes in the brain. Addiction is the same regardless of whether the drug is alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, or nicotine.

Continued use of the addictive substance induces adaptive changes in the brain that lead to tolerance, physical dependence, uncontrollable craving and, all too often, relapse. Dependence is at such a point that stopping is very difficult and causes severe physical and mental reactions from withdrawal.

The risk of addiction is in part inherited. Genetic factors, for example, account for about 40% of the risk of alcoholism. The genetic factors predisposing to addiction are not yet fully understood.

Addiction is more than a habit

It is even more than mere involvement in repetitive behavior

Gambling, eating disorders, and reckless driving might be loosely referred to as addictions, but the term is best reserved to indicate dependence on narcotics, drug abuse, alcohol, and tobacco. This is according to Tabor's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary.

Psychiatric definitions of addiction

The seventh edition of Psychiatric Dictionary by Robert Jean Campbell, M.D. says addiction is the "strong dependence, both physiologic and emotional, on alcohol or some other drug. True addiction is characterized by the appearance of an abstinence syndrome of organic origin when the drug is withdrawn."

"Currently, addiction and substance abuse are believed to be based, at least in part, on neurologic factors; a corollary of this hypothesis is the belief that an endogenous 'reward center' in the brain mediates all types of reinforcement. The site of such a center has not been determined with certainty, but studies of a variety of addictive substances have found that repeated administration produces hyperresponsiveness of the mesolimbic dopamine system that increases dopamine neurotransmission. The critical areas involved may be the ventral tegmental area, the nucleus accumbens, the prefrontal cortex, the lateral hypothalamus, the olfactory tubercle, the hippocampus, and the ventral pallidum. Repeated drug exposures can produce tolerance, but they can also produce sensitization or reverse tolerance, and such long-term changes appear to involve dopaminergic systems."

Of course, you understand all of the information presented in the previous paragraph, don't you? Now you know why psychiatric treatment costs so much. Think of all the time that psychiatrists must spend in learning all of these convoluted words!

Addictionology or addiction medicine

More from the Campbell Psychiatric Dictionary: addictionology is "the branch of medicine that is concerned with the prevention, detection, treatment, and rehabilitation of persons with substance use disorders (alcoholism and other chemical dependencies or abuse). The practitioner is referred to as an addictionist. In parallel fashion, addiction psychiatry refers to the psychiatric aspects of those disorders, and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology grants a certificate of added qualification in addiction psychiatry. In Russia, the comparable terms are narcology and narcologist."

A less complicated definition for addiction

The Encarta World English Dictionary defines addiction as "a state of physiological or psychological dependence on a substance, especially an illegal drug or one liable to have a damaging effect" or a "great interest in something to which a lot of time is devoted."

The chains of addiction are too weak to be felt, at first, but then they often become too strong to be broken.

Of course, there are many other versions as to what addiction means, but you get the idea, don't you?

There is a distinction between addiction and devotion

Addicted has an unfavorable or undesirable sense of "given to a practice or habit." Devoted also suggests attachment but only to that which the speaker or writer considers good, beneficial, or favorable. "He was addicted to narcotics (or lying or thievery or alcohol)." "Jim was devoted to his mother (or his country or good literature)." If you approve of mystery stories, for example, you may say that a friend of yours is devoted to such reading; if you dislike mysteries, you may say that he is addicted to them. You may even say that someone is "devoted and care taking as a cat with her kittens". It depends on your point of view.

Addictions, like chiggers and cockleburrs, are easy to acquire but very difficult to shake off.

-John Rayoa

Is there such a thing as "Computer and Cyberspace Addiction"?

A heated debate is rising among psychologists. With the explosion of excitement about the internet, some people seem to be a bit too excited. There are those who spend way too much time there. Is this yet another type of addiction that has invaded the human psyche?

Psychologists are not even sure yet what to call this phenomenon. Some label it an "Internet Addiction Disorder," but there are many who were addicted to their computers long before the internet entered their lives. Some people are extremely attached to their computers and don't even care about the internet. Perhaps we should call the phenomenon a "Computer Addiction."

In the not too distant future, computer, telephone, and video technology may very well merge into one, perhaps highly addictive, mental problem

Also, let's not forget the very powerful, but now seemingly mundane and almost accepted addiction that some people develop to video games. Video games are computers too; very single-minded computers, but computers nevertheless. How about telephones? People get addicted to those too, and not just the sex lines. Like computers, telephones are a technologically enhanced form of communication and may fall into the category of "computer mediated communication"; as some researchers are labeling internet activities.

Perhaps, on a broader degree, it makes sense to talk about a "Cyberspace Addiction"; an addiction to virtual realms of experience created through computer engineering. Within this broad category, there may be subtypes with distinct differences. A teenager who plays hooky from school in order to master the next level of Monkey Kong may be a very different person than the middle aged housewife who spends $500 a month in AOL chat rooms; who in turn may be very different from the businessman who can't tear himself away from his finance programs and continuous internet access to stock quotes.

Some cyberspace addictions are game and competition oriented, some fulfill more social needs, some simply may be an extension of ergomanic compulsion. Then again, these differences may be superficial.

Not many people are waving their fingers and fists in the air about video and work addictions. Not many newspaper articles are written about these topics either. The fact that the media is turning so much attention to cyberspace and internet addictions may simply reflect the fact that this is a new and hot topic. It may also indicate some anxiety among people who really don't know what the internet is, even though everyone is talking about it. Ignorance tends to breed fear and the need to devalue.

Nevertheless, some people are definitely hurting themselves by their addiction to computers and cyberspace. When people lose their jobs, or flunk out of school, or are divorced by their spouses because they cannot resist devoting all of their time to virtual lands, they are pathologically addicted. These extreme cases are clear cut; however, as with all addictions, the problem is where to draw the line between "normal" enthusiasm and "abnormal" preoccupation.

Another perspective about what addictions are

"Addictions", when defined very loosely, can be healthy, unhealthy, or a mixture of both. If you are fascinated by a hobby, feel devoted to it, would like to spend as much time as possible pursuing it; this could be an outlet for learning, creativity, and self-expression.

In truly pathological addictions, the scale has tipped. The bad outweighs the good, resulting in serious disturbances in one's ability to function in the "real" world. Almost anything could be the target of a pathological addiction: drugs, eating, exercising, gambling, sex, spending, working, etc.

You name it, someone out there is obsessed with it. Looking at it from a clinical perspective, these pathological addictions usually have their origin early in a person's life, where they can be traced to significant deprivations and conflicts. They may be an attempt to control depression and anxiety, and may reflect deep insecurities and feelings of inner emptiness.

As yet, there is no official psychological or psychiatric diagnosis of an "internet" or "computer" addiction

The most recent (4th) edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not include any such category. It remains to be seen whether this type of addiction will someday be included in the manual. As is true of any official diagnosis, an "Internet Addiction Disorder" or any similarly proposed diagnosis must withstand the weight of extensive research. It must meet two basic criteria:

1. Is there a consistent, reliably diagnosed set of symptoms that constitutes this disorder?

2. Does the diagnosis correlate with anything or are there similar elements in the histories, personalities, and future prognosis of people who are so diagnosed? If not, "where's the beef?" It's simply a label with no external validity.

Top 10 signs that indicate that someone may be addicted to the computer and the internet

1. You wake up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom and stop and check your e-mail on the way back to bed.

2. You get a tattoo that reads "This body best viewed with Netscape Navigator 1.1 or higher."

3. You name your children Eudora, Mozilla, and Dotcom.

4. You turn off your modem and get this awful empty feeling, like you just pulled the plug on a loved one.

5. You spend half of the plane trip with your laptop on your lap and and your child in the overhead compartment.

6. You decide to stay in college for an additional year or two, just for the free Internet access.

7. You start using smileys in your snail mail.

8. The first thing you do when you get up in the morning is turn on your computer, even before going to the toilet or getting dressed.

9. When you have to go somewhere, you have feelings of anxiety until you get back to your computer.

10. Your hard drive crashes. You haven't been able to log in for two hours. You start to twitch. You pick up the phone and manually dial your ISP's access number. You hum in an effort to communicate with the modem.

—Partly compiled from excerpts in
The Psychology of Cyberspace; "Computer and Cyberspace Addiction"
by John Suler; 2004.

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