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Psychological and behavior aspects regarding internet addiction.

1. INTRODUCTION

Using the computer and internet is emblematical for most modern people because it brings along the invigorating feeling that one can rule over time and space, giving new strength and dignity. So, access to information is amazing, online libraries and online museums open out new possibilities. Internet is also a great tool for communication which has no space limits and no time boundaries.

Unfortunately, these new technologies took control because are setting the rhythm of life and work for most people. The borders between cities, countries and continents have been destroyed and the same has happened with the boundary line between private and public space, between workplace and home.

Even if we are still dealing with old addictions, new ones have appeared, not less noxious, internet addiction being at the top of the list. This kind of addiction is not singular because other deviant conducts (like violence) appear most of time, especially in playing internet games, because they excessively stimulate some brain areas that direct emotion, diminish self-control, judgement, focusing, all this increasing aggressive behavior. Can be concluded that a revolutionary discovery has great advantages but it can also be dangerous.

The purpose of this study is approaching psychological and behavior effects manifested in internet addiction. More specifically, our aim is identifying differences between students from University "Politehnica" of Timisoara (Romania), who are addicted of using internet and the ones who aren't, regarding aggressive behavior, level of depression and anxiety.

2. THEORETICAL DEVELOPMENT

Our research is included within the context of numerous studies that were made all over the world focusing on this expanding phenomenon. For a better view of the subject we will sum up the most important reference in specialised literature regarding this matter. Two new concept terms were proposed by using the criteria from DSM IV (Young & Rogers, 1998): Pathological Internet Use (PIU) and Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).

Even if there are several concepts referring to the same problem, this addiction is a new version of the obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to Young (1999), a pioneer in this area of research, the criterion used for detecting this type of disorder is the number of hours that subjects are spending online. To define, it can be talked about addiction when the number of hours spent on internet reaches 10 every workday and between 10-14 hours during week-ends. Previously, VandeCreek & Jackson (1998) considered anyone spending more than 38 hours per week on-line can be considered addicted. In the same direction, at the annual meeting of American Psychology Association (APA) organized in 1997, was institutionalized the existence of a new form of addiction called Internet Addiction Disorder.

Even if there is still some conceptual confusion, mostly regarding the name of this disorder, the core of the problem remains the same. A new study, made by Parnell (2008), shows that the highest number of internet addicted subjects are considered to be the inhabitants of China, followed closely by the ones of Australia, Canada and USA. These results do not exclude the existence of the same problem in Europe.

Previous studies proved that internet addiction is still more frequent for men than for women and for teenagers more than people of other ages. Researchers highlight the differences between men and women regarding cyber-addiction, showing that females have a higher degree of addiction in e-mail messages. So, there are differences between genders regarding the reasons of staying online. Men are interested in information searching, playing games and virtual sex towards women, who look for support, partners or a romantic relationship online, as a compensation for a boring life (Young & Schneider, 2000).

Computer addiction has also physical, behavioral, psychological and social effects, and has been studied in various cases by Parnell (2008), Wieland (2005), Beard (2002), Cooper et al. (1999); Orzak & Young (1998), Griffiths (1995).

Summing up, at the physical level, the symptoms are: psychomotor agitation, typing motions of hand fingers, tension in the back muscles, carpal tunnel syndrome, injuries at wrists level, eye stain and dry eyes, possibility of epileptic crises produced by excess of light stimulation or by lack of sleep, irregular eating or eating disorders (bulimia), obesity risk, migraine, cardiovascular and hormonal patterns, affections of immune action caused by sleep deprivation.

Regarding psychological, behavior and social effects of internet and computer addiction, we can number multiple symptoms and also effects: attention dysfunctions affecting also on focusing and judgment, increasing introvert behavior, emotional disorders (anxiety, lack of tolerance to frustration, depression), euphoria when the person is connected online, irritation and explosive behavior if asked to do something else instead, unclear boundaries between reality and the virtual world, poor personal hygiene, diminution of physical activity, neglect of family and friends, increased risk of being unfaithful in couple because of online sexuality, also a reason for divorce, deteriorating performance in school or at work, social isolation, substance abuse. As shown above, internet addiction is a complex disorder and is affecting one's life in all aspects.

3. METHOD, PARTICIPANTS AND RESULTS

In order to study some co-morbid effects of internet addiction, and having as purpose to observe the existence of any differences regarding depression, anxiety and aggressive behavior between the addicted and non-addicted subjects, 185 students from "Politehnica" University were tested, 105 males and 80 females.

The participants were divided in two groups, a target group of 100 students (60 male, 40 female) considered as addicted of internet and 85 (45 male, 40 female) non-addicted students, all with ages between 19-23 years. To select the sample group, we used Young's Internet Addiction Scale IAS (Young, 1998), after reconstruction and adaptation to fit this research.

First instrument used was the Aggression Questionnaire, devised by Buss and Perry (1992) with 29 items and a 5 point scale, measuring 4 factors: physical aggression, verbal aggression, anger and hostility. Another instrument was Depression Scale (CES-D) with 20 items, developed in the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies and designed by Radloff (1977) to measure depressive symptoms, including depressive mood, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, psychomotor retardation, loss of appetite and sleep disturbance. Also Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAMA) was used to rank and quantify the severity of anxiety symptoms. It consists 14 items rated on a 5-point scale; each defined by a series of symptoms and is often used in psychotropic drug evaluation.

First hypothesis proposes is that internet addicted students from "Politehnica" University, compared with non-addicted ones, have a significant higher level of aggressive behavior.

After analyzing and discussing the results, this hypothesis was confirmed, suggesting that addicted subjects have a higher level of aggressive behavior: physical, verbal, anger, hostility. This results are also proved by statistics, showing meaningful differences between tested groups for all components of the aggressive behavior (physical aggression t=13.501, p<.000; verbal aggression t=9.393 p<.000; anger t=9.557, p<.000; hostility t=8.871, p<.001). Explanation can be the sedentary posture, violent content of the sites visited but also irritability that appears when contact with internet is disrupted. Spending so much time in a virtual world, can make people overreact in order to obtain the reaction they are waiting for, forgetting that the ones around them have real feelings and their own opinions.

Second hypothesis proposed is that internet addicted students from "Politehnica" University, compared with non-addicted ones, have a significant higher level of depression.

Results show meaningful differences between studied groups, addicted students are more depressed (t=19.665 p<.000), similar with Young & Roger (1998) research. Existence of depression can be explained because it is characteristic and present in all dependence disorders, being a cause and also effect for the addicted behavior. Lack of a real interaction with the others brings sadness. Unfortunately, high level of depression brings physical symptoms as loss of appetite and sleep disturbance, but also psychological damage, like feelings of guilt and worthlessness etc.

Last hypothesis suggested that internet addicted students from "Politehnica" University, compared with non-addicted ones, have a significant higher level of anxiety. The results are also proved by statistics, showing meaningful differences between tested groups regarding anxiety (t=20.461, p<.000).

Confirmation of this hypothesis is implying that addicted students have a higher level of anxiety. This can be explained by the link between anxiety symptoms and the existence of depression. Convergence of these two symptoms leads towards increased psychological discomfort and demands specialised pharmaceutical help and also psychotherapeutic intervention. Being the slave of internet is a way of running from real life and becalming in an ersatz existence that cannot valorise human potential and leads to an insecure and meaningless life.

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Because of the limits of this study further research should include testing a larger group of students, also from the field of humanities. Definitely, not only students can be touched by this new epidemic, so another limit is not studying the impact upon other categories of persons, research that would surely bring new interesting results. Similarly, going deeper into this problem implies the need to research internet related disorders at different ages and also making a gender difference.

4. CONCLUSION

This study has explored the existence of internet addiction as being a problem, in a group of students from Romanian polytechnic education. Its usefulness has been proven because, by comparison with foreign literature about same topic, Romanian research is still limited as to the number of studies, but not as to the number of internet users.

Because in our country, as a result of our socio-political environment, daily use of the internet has had a short history, our study can have a larger impact by proving that this kind of addiction, with all its negative consequences, is setting in fast, generating new forms of disorder. We suggest extending, in our country, the Centre for Online Addiction and why not, developing an Institute of Internet Addiction Recovery, as well as using counselling and support groups for the ones who are dependent on over using the internet.

5. REFERENCES

Beard, K. W., & Wolf, E. M. (2002). Modification in the proposed diagnostic criteria for Internet addiction. CyberPsychology and Behavior, Vol. 4, pp 377-383

Cooper, A.; McLoughlin, I. & Cambell, K. (2000). Sexuality in the cyberspace: Update for 21st century. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 3(4), 521-536

Cooper, A.; Putnam, D.; Planchon, L., & Boies, S. (1999). The Online sexual compulsivity: Getting tangled in the net. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: Journal of Treatment and Prevention, vol. 6, 79-104

Griffiths, M. (1994), Technological addictions. Clinical Psychology Forum, Vol. 76, page 14-19

Orzack, M., (1998). How to recognize and treat computer addictions. Directions, 9(2), 13-20

Parnel, L. (2008). Taking back control from computer addiction, Natural Life, May/June 2008, 28-30, 0701-8002. Young, K. (1999). Internet addiction: symptoms, evaluation and treatment. In L. VandeCreek & T. L. Jackson (Eds.), Innovations in clinical practice: A source book, Professional Research Press, Vol. 17, pp 19-33

Young, K., & Rogers, R. (1998). The relationship between depression and internet addiction. Cyber Psychology and Behavior, 1, 25-28

Wieland, D. (2005). Computer Addiction: Implications for Nursing Psychotherapy Practice. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 41, 153-161
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Author:Munteanu, Anca; Costea, Iuliana; Palos, Ramona; Jinaru, Adrian
Publication:Annals of DAAAM & Proceedings
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUAU
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Words:1832
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