A US psychiatrist has declared internet addiction a "clinical disorder" with some sufferers so hooked on cyberspace they "required medication or even hospital treatment to curb the time they spent on the web".
Dr Jerald Block, of the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, describes in an editorial in the American Journal of Psychiatry the four symptoms of hopeless addiction: victims "forget to eat and sleep"; they crave more advanced tech and more time online as they're numbed by "resistance" to the kicks they get from their current system; prising them away from their computer results in "genuine withdrawal symptoms"; and they begin to become more argumentative, more fatigued, more isolated from society, and perform worse in tests.
Block explained: "The relationship is with the computer. It becomes a significant other to them. They exhaust emotions that they could experience in the real world on the computer through any number of mechanisms: emailing, gaming, porn.
"It's much more acceptable for kids to talk about game use, whereas adults keep it a secret. Rather than having sex, or arguing with their wife or husband, or feeding their children, these adults are playing games."
The Telegraph notes that early studies showed "highly educated, socially awkward men" were most likely to suffer from net addiction, but more recent probes indicate it's "now more of a problem for middle-aged women who are spending hours at home on their computers".
Brit shrinks, meanwhile, have previously claimed "between five and 10 per cent of online users are internet addicts". ®