Are you an Internet-aholic?

Americans are addicted.  We are addicted to all kinds of things.  Some to eating, some to drinking, drugs, shopping, technology… the list of addictive behaviors goes on and on.  We are in denial, and turn to these things as a way to mask too many difficult and unpleasant events in our lives.  When we’re stressed, we may eat to mask the stress and make ourselves feel better temporarily, but the effects don’t last, so we keep eating, but all we’re really done is make ourselves fatter, adding a new stress to our lives of being fat, and become addicted to eating.  We may turn to drinking or drugs as a way to lift the weight of the world away for a while, but these too, are temporary escapes that almost always turn into addictions; this addiction will eventually cause permanent organ damage or even death of the addicted of an innocent bystander.  Oddly enough, many people are turning to the internet for the same sort of relief.

With social media technologies, many people create personas that bear no resemblance to their true identities and struggles as a way to escape the woes of reality.  They spend hours and hours wasting away on online games, social media, and other internet offerings.  Depression, loneliness, stress, boredom, and anxiety can be washed away through imaginary online gaming spaces and chat features, which take the place of actual face-to-face conversations.  For some, the internet can produce feelings of euphoria.   In fact, the excessive use of the internet, online gaming, and social media has become a serious problem, and psychologists have now classified Internet addiction as the newest mental health disorder.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a person who suffers from an internet addiction, or Internet Use Disorder, will experience many common symptoms associated with other addictive behaviors. The American Psychiatric Association’s list of symptoms of Internet Use Disorder include, but are not limited to a an preoccupation with internet use and/or internet gaming, symptoms of withdrawal if removed from the internet, the need to spend increasingly more time on the internet, loss of previous interests and hobbies, a significant relationship, educational or career opportunity, or a job due to excessive Internet and/or internet gaming use, deception of family, or other significant people in their life about internet use, and trading time for sleep and/or interaction with family and friends to be online, and the use of the internet as an escape or to achieve a euphoric mood.

So, Internet Use Disorder is now joining the family of other addictions and psychological disorders. What do you think? Is Internet Use Disorder actually a addiction or psychological disorder? And more importantly, are you an internet-aholic?  Take this quiz, and find out!

What would you do if you knew…

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture presented by Mayo Clinic Physicians about the use of new technologies in the medical field, specifically ultrasounds in the emergency room, to better diagnose patients and save more lives.  For some reason, this presentation brought to mind a study I recently read, Scientists Find Spinal Clue to Detecting Dementia, which detailed new medical technologies that can potentially detect Dementia, and eventually Alzheimer’s, ten years before it sets in.  The scientists conducting the study examined the spinal fluid of patients who had mild thought and memory issues, and a decreased amount of a specific protein, beta-amyloid, in their cerebro-spinal fluid.  These study participants’ memory and thought processes were tracked for ten years, and the end result for nearly all of them was a prognosis of Dementia/Alzheimer’s in the near future.

While reading this article, it reminded me of a study done a few years ago about new medical technology that can detect the genes which can potentially result in Breast Cancer.  Women who tested positive for these genes, who had no history of breast cancer in their family, and no other indicators of possibly developing the disease other than this particular gene, went to extreme measures, a total mastectomywith reconstructive surgery, to give themselves the peace of mind that they will not develop breast cancer.  It was also noted that women with all the indicators: family history, one or many of the identified Breast Cancer genes, etc., never developed breast cancer, while those without any indicators did.

So this begs the question, are we better off not knowing if we are “predisposed” for certain medical conditions? Are these medical technologies for identifying certain illnesses reliable? Are the results, positive or negative, useful in creating a better quality of life?  Does the knowledge of knowing you test “positive” for, in the case of these articles, a certain gene or protein deficiency cause you to live in fear of the disease? What measures will we take to prevent these diseases if we test positive? 

Medical technology is not a bad thing, it just needs to be used in beneficial, lifesaving ways, and I’m not sure if testing someone for Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Breast Cancer genes, or other life-threatening diseases is really a good use of technology.  These tests are informative, but are they necessarily beneficial or lifesaving?

Personally, I am not in favor of these medical technologies that will indicate if you are susceptible (or not) for a certain medical condition.  If women who test positive for a Breast cancer gene are getting mastectomies, then what extremes will potential Dementia/Alzheimer’s patients go to to prevent this condition?  Suicide?  This has yet to be determined.  I feel like if I tested positive for a condition that I would live in fear of developing it, and that is certainly no way to live a happy, healthy life.  These medical technologies are not 100% accurate, and as a result, they may give you false information—either a false sense of security, or false alarm for something you will not develop.

As far as preventing certain diseases, regardless of personal medical history, I believe in preventative care.  It has worked for decades, and continues to work now, in the midst of medical technological advances.  Obviously, certain people are more likely to get certain diseases than others, and there is simply no way to avoid some medical conditions.  For someone like me with fair skin, I am already at a greater risk for skin cancer and melanoma than others, and living in Arizona only increases my chances of getting it.  I don’t live in fear of skin cancer, I just use ridiculous amounts of sun protection to hopefully prevent it.  Medical technology has advanced in a way that there are now apps for your smartphone and tablet.  These apps can help you track medications, exercise, diabetes, heart disease, and even “diagnose” your condition–WedMD in an attempt to reduce doctor visits.  I like the fact that they can help track certain things like medications, and especially diabetic’s blood sugar and diet, but I’m not sure if they are really all that beneficial in the medicine and diagnosis aspect, and many doctors aren’t either.  The WebMD app is a useful tool if you simply want to know about certain medical issues, but as far as actually diagnosing yourself, I have found that WedMD has caused me more harm than good.  It tends to take simple things like a cold and blow them completely out of proportion to the point of some incurable disease.  So, are these medical apps really a good thing? For tracking diabetic blood sugar and diet, I would say yes, but as far as self-diagnoses, I would say no. So, go to the doctor for regular exams, use sunscreen, eat right, and exercise regularly.  This will be your best bet in warding off these dreaded diagnoses.