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Behavioral Dependencies in a Hyperconnected World ~ Antonio Giordano, MD, PhD, Sbarro Institute

In 1995, Ivan Goldberg, an American psychiatrist, first recognized an unusual condition, which he called "Internet addiction disorder" (I.A.D.). It basically refers to a severe internet addiction with a well-defined set of symptoms, including the need to spend an increasing amount of time online, withdrawal crises and relapses similar to those of substance addiction, a noticeable decline in interest in any relational activity, the inability to stop or regulate internet use, lack of awareness of having a pathology and denial of obsessive-compulsive behavior.

This set of symptoms is also associated with evident mood swings, modifications of sleep cycles and tendency to confuse virtual reality with the real world.

In addition, individuals have low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacies and insecurity, and posture-related issues. These aspects should not be taken lightly as in fact they can cause symptoms such as carpal tunnel syndrome, widespread neck and back pain, deteriorating vision from prolonged internet use, prolonged unhealthy postures, and even phlebitis, which is the swelling of lower limbs, and obesity associated with extended periods of inactivity.

A wide range of additional behaviors are also present in this contest including compulsive online shopping, addiction to virtual sex (cybersex addiction), dependency on so-called "virtual relationships" (cyber-relation addiction), and addiction to online games (internet gaming disorder). What are referred as "hyperconnection dependency syndrome and "teenage hyperconnection disorders” are affecting young people when "deprived of the network," leading to discomfort, poor anxiety control, and difficulty in controlling rage. According to a recent survey, 0.8% of young people between the age of 14 and 21 are strongly affected by internet use, primarily due to social network addiction, while 5% of them are just somewhat dependent on it.

It is therefore important to keep an eye on young people's excessive use of these new platforms and technologies, though It can be a difficult task. There are serious risks involved: young people who use the internet run the risk of being victims of frauds or grooming, sharing private images and demeaning content, and being the target of cyber-bullying and online predators. It is insufficient to merely put in place Parental Controls—a filter that parents setup on gadgets that their minor children use. Additional robust data regarding the physiological and psychological hazards of extended internet use are required, as these dangers can be so severe to result in lifelong harm to body and mind, similar to the effects of narcotics and alcohol.


Professor Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D., is the creator and head of the Sbarro Health Research Organization, located at Temple University's College of Science and Technology in Philadelphia. Stay connected with him through his various social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, to receive the latest updates.


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