Top 10 Internet Illnesses

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FACT: You use most of your body when you are sitting at a computer typing on a keyboard – not just your eyes and fingers. Your muscles allow you to sit in an upright position and all of your organs are working (sometimes, even your brain).

Sadly, despite this amazing fact, surfing the Internet does not qualify as a workout.

Is your surfing position an Igor-style hunch rather than a hang ten? Do you have the wild, crazy Igor eyes to match? Then you need to read this list!

Eligibility: To get on the list, the condition must be directly related to Internet use (I’m defining condition as an illness, disorder, or injury).
Rank: Ranked by the seriousness of the condition and number of people affected, as interpreted by me (it’s my list).

As always I will personally reply to any recommendations or complaints in the comments below, so go nuts (but not nuts like #3 below, please…)

10. Eyestrain

eye-strain

When you use your eyes a lot, they get strained- so when you stare at a computer screen intensely for hours it isn’t a surprise when your eyes get sore. According to mayoclinic.com: “Although eyestrain can be annoying, it usually isn’t serious and goes away once you rest your eyes”, placing it firmly in tenth place on this list.

9.  Health Anxiety/Pain Catastrophization

see-no-evil

Some people have a tendency to misinterpret or over-interpret pain signals.  According to Wikipedia, “psychologists refer to this as pain catastrophizing (the tendency to think the worst when one feels pain).” According to the same source, health anxiety is a “sense that something is seriously wrong that does not lessen with normal test results and reassurance from health professionals.”

Thanks to all of the scary medical information available on the Internet (some of it’s even true), people who never experienced health anxiety or pain catastrophization before are now freaking out. Speaking from experience, the Internet can make a borderline hypochondriac cross over into crazy town. Thanks a search on the Internet, a sudden case of the late-night sniffles could be nasal polyps or even diphtheria. We’re not saying it is for sure, but there’s a chance… pleasant dreams!

8. Headaches

headache

There are three different types of headaches associated with Internet use:

Tension Headaches – The term ‘tension headache’ is misleading. These headaches are not caused by stress but often due to strain to your neck or eyes. According to mayoclinic.com, they “can last from 30 minutes to an entire week”.

Chronic Daily Headaches – You suffer from these if you have a headache for more than half of the days in a month.

Stress Headaches – Apparently it’s not the big stress that causes your head to hurt. It’s the small annoyances all day long. So, if you spend a lot of time on the Internet it may be time to switch to a faster connection or upgrade to a new computer if you spend a lot of time staring hopelessly at your computer screen while it downloads information or crashes on you.

7. Back Pain

proper-chair-posture

Poor posture results in back pain, particularly when it is accompanied by obesity, smoking, or lack of exercise. Now I’m sure there are many people out there who sit on a Pilates ball and crunch carrot sticks while they spend hours each day Digging, Stumbling, or Tweeting – but, if you’re the Internet equivalent of a couch potato you might want to cut back on the corn chips and do some sit ups or something…

We interrupt this list while the writer goes to take a Tylenol or two – her back is killing her!

6. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

dvt

If you’ve been on an airplane in the last few years you’ve probably seen the warning information about Deep Vein Thrombosis: it’s “the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein” (Wikipedia). Also known as “economy class syndrome”, air travelers who don’t move around and are dehydrated are particularly vulnerable to this kind of blood clot.

The key points here are immobility and dehydration: If you are so immersed in your “Second Life” that you don’t remember the last time you went outside or drank a glass of water in this life, you are at risk. I couldn’t find any Internet related DVT cases documented, but I still think it deserves 6th place because a DVT blood clot can dislodge itself, travel to your lungs, and kill you. Zoiks!

So, move those legs around or try to type standing up for a change… oh no wait, that would be bad for your back…

5. Munchausen Syndrome

munch

The Internet provides endless chatrooms, online support groups, and social networking sites where people can share their problems, seek advice, and get sympathy.

I was shocked to learn that some people actually fake illnesses or tragedies just to get attention. They pretend to be victims of rape, assault, abuse, and serious illness in order to get attention: a symptom of Munchhausen Syndrome. And, according to an article at the BBC News website, the “internet may be encouraging people to pretend they are ill in order to get attention, according to US research.”

In the same news article quoted above, a Dr. Feldman from Alabama explains that persons with this syndrome can be treated with “a chance to get… attention from medical professionals in a psychiatric setting. However, most patients do not want this. They want to have a serious medical ailment and not a psychiatric illness” (news.bbc.co.uk).

4. Facebook Depression

facebook-logo

According to the Daily Mail, Facebook and other social networking sites make teenage girls “prone to anxiety and depression”. Along with texting and emailing, these sites allow teens to coruminate (a fancy word for talking about things over and over and over again). According to the same article, “repeated conversations among adolescent girls, particularly about romantic disappointments, worsen their mood and create negative emotions” (www.dailymail.co.uk). Prior to this teenage girls apparently did not dwell on topics such as ‘do my bangs look funny’ or ‘why didn’t he call?’ for hours and hours and then sulk in their rooms.

These are the results of a study conducted on 83 teenage girls at Stony Brook University (NY). One of the doctors, Dr. Davila, offers this antidote for teenagers who continuously talk about the same problem: “They could change the subject”.

Parents of teenage girls everywhere now plan to send their daughters to Stony Brook University so that they too can learn to deduce blatantly obvious solutions to things that everyone already knows.

3. Internet Rage

internet-rage

While it might be argued that Internet Rage itself is not really harmful to your health, it can lead to Internet stalking and perhaps even violence – so if you are the one inciting the rage then you should beware.

According to Tim McDonald of www.newsfactor.com, one of the sources of Internet rage is “information overload”. He explains, “the sheer volume of information available on the Web — and the slowness in accessing it — causes a great deal of stress, according to the independent survey commissioned by WebTop, a British Web indexing company.” He also reports that a study “found that 68 percent of the 200 people surveyed found computer glitches more stressful than spending a weekend with a partner’s parents, and 38 percent found them more stressful than being stuck on public transportation.”

Internet Rage manifests itself all over the place, from the comment section of a blog post to the headlines on your local news station.

Browse the comments under a Youtube video, a website’s forum, or on someone’s blog and it doesn’t take long to find some very nasty words. Perhaps the anonymous nature of the Internet encourages people to say what they really think. The worst part of this is that it’s contagious- your angry comment angers others, and the downward spiral continues.

Please let me point out that when your therapist suggested that you ‘write your feelings down’, she didn’t mean in the comments section of a blog. If you can’t restrain yourself, then try to limit yourself to sites that actually want your harsh words, like justrage.com or mybiggestcomplaint.com.

Some people say, ‘get over it’, but I think we have a right to be appalled and upset by fellow human behavior. It brings us all down, so stop passing your bad vibes onto other people, already!

And, by the way, you’re not as anonymous as you think so you might want to stop before you enrage someone who is even more of a nut job than you are. A Mr. John Jones experienced this in 2005, after getting into an argument with another man in a Yahoo chatroom, who then used “details obtained online… traveled 70 miles to Mr Jones’ home… and beat him up with a pickaxe handle” (new.bbc.co.uk). Yikes!

Okay, so enough Internet Rage – there’s only two more spots left on my list and then next one is a real pain in the neck:

2. Upper Limb Disorders (ULD)

keyboard

Upper Limb Disorders include: neck tension syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, tendinitis (mainly hands/wrists), tenosynovitis, bursitis, repetitive strain injury (RSI), and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. All of these ailments can be linked to Internet use.

RSI Repetitive Strain Injury – the modern version of writer’s cramp, you experience pain and strain when you overuse one of your upper limbs (i.e. arms). “The basis for this illness concept is the idea that one can overuse a tool, such as a computer keyboard… in a way that causes tissue damage leading to pain” (Wikipedia).

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – “The two groups of people most likely to develop TOS are those suffering neck injuries in motor vehicle accidents and those who use computers in non-ergonomic postures for extended periods of time” (Wikipedia).

Upper Limb Disorders earn second place on this list due to the overwhelming list of disorders they encompass and the fact that I couldn’t come up with anything funny for them (so they must be quite serious).

1. Internet Addiction

internet-addiction

This is Number One for two big reasons: it actually has the word Internet in the title of the affliction and also because it has been fatal in some cases.

The nature of the addiction is also pervasive: when it comes to the Internet, someone can “be addicted to nearly everything, starting with pure act of typing, visiting chat rooms, shopping on-line and ending up with multiplayer games, which users characterize as “heroinware.” (www.infoniac.com).

Also, it’s so real that there are rehabilitation centres for treatment. In a NY Times article, Martin Fackler describes Internet Addiction rehab in South Korea: “Drill instructors drive young men through military-style obstacle courses, counselors lead group sessions, and there are even therapeutic workshops on pottery and drumming.” He goes on to explain the seriousness of Internet Addiction in South Korea, “It has become a national issue here in recent years, as users started dropping dead from exhaustion after playing online games for days on end…”

Are you addicted?

  • Are you unable to limit your use of the Internet? Does it take up most of your free time?
  • Do you lose your sense of time when you’re online?
  • Do you take steps to allow yourself to stay online longer? (Do you stock up your desk with several meals? Wear a diaper? Drink energy drinks? Are you always improving your computers or your software?)
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you are prevented from getting online? (Anger, craving, restlessness, moodiness, irritable, depression)
  • Do you use your computer to escape reality?
  • Do you lie to others about your computer use?
  • Are you social isolated in the real world?
  • Have you traded your real life experiences for emotions that you now experience on the Internet through social networking, games, and porn?
  • Have you risked a real life relationship or your job over your Internet use?
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If you were able to answer yes to several of these questions, please seek professional counsel for your Internet Addiction. Conveniently (and ironically) there are many online resources for you:

  1. Net Addiction
  2. Daily Strength
  3. Internet Addiction

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19 Comments

  1. I have to say that ‘always improving your computers or your software’ is not necessarily a symptom of internet addiction – it is merely the result of the world we live in, where you can purchase a new component which is superseded by the time you get it home and installed.

    Just my two cents,
    SB

  2. Tanya Bennett on

    Re: Two Cents: Good point – I meant 'always' as in 'way more than is actually necessary'… excuse me, I have to go update my software now…

  3. One that I come across that I know is pretty common is that people think they have a disease and will look different horrible diseases up and compare their symptoms with what they read and will be convinced they have it. New medical students usually suffer from this as well, thinking they have everything they study. Sometimes, it is not a very good idea to search out your symptoms online. It is much better to go to an actual doctor and see if you are actually suffering from anything at all. If you hear hooves don't think zebras, think horses!!

  4. I am definitely addicted to the internet. I've known this and I don't care; I don't want to change. I suspect I'll get a job in the computer industry…

  5. Hmmmm… a new take on an old joke: "What does an internet addict smell like?" Answer: "Depends" MWA Ha ha ha ha. Hope you don't have any roommates, Joe!

  6. there is also OLGA, Online Gamers Anon, who might be of help to some who are hooked on games. I found them when I worried that I was spending too much time on Second Life. I've gone off that now, but, I still seem to spend a lot of my time in my laptop.

  7. wow…I answered yes to almost every question about internet addiction. Sadly including the last one…I had no idea. Guess I'll have to stop.

  8. A big NO to all the above mentioned Illnesses from my side coz I daily practice yogasanas early in the morning @ AASTHA Televsion (5:30 – 7:30) and also play with dogs (excellent stress reliever)

    howbout you?? How do you workout to get rid of the work stress?

  9. haha I was reading this and not feeling too worried until I got to number 2 – I had an operation to fix my thoracic outlet syndrome not too long ago! (Although mine was apparently due to my extra rib)

    Scary stuff.

  10. yeah. i agree with 1 of the comments above.

    you know, if not because of our project, i'll not browse this page.

    this will develop thoughts of pain, aches etc. in us.

    despite that, this also help us to be aware of our health.

  11. So…erm….if the Internet is so harmful, how come this article is on the Internet in the first place? ;p

  12. very well put together article, on par with a university aricle, with multiple references and actual events

    Very good!

  13. wow, i'm surprised that I'm not addicted to the internet. only one of the symptoms apply to me. I lose sense of time. my friend used to be, but he got over it when he got an xbox 360, lol.

  14. This shall be fun. As a long time “resident” of the internet (addict makes it sound like a problem) I had no idea what this list would entail. Really hoped that it would be a list of the worst internet viruses (the real “internet illness”) but I was disappointed. And now I will slash it to bits. This is not personal, but anybody who makes such sweeping generalizations needs to be patched up on the other side of things.

    10) This is not restricted to the internet or computers, you can fark up your eyes from simply overusing them by being awake for an over-extended amount of time.

    9) Another that has always happened, and always will. It’s just that now people can look it up for themselves instead of waiting days to plot and doom themselves by talking to friends and family. You know how many times I’d been asked if I had strep just because my smokers cough was acting up?

    8,7,6) While there is some basis to these, the internet is not so much to blame, as general laziness of our culture.

    5) Really? You were surprised that people make stuff up for attention? Do you live in a bloody cave? Social Commentary – Social Knowledge =

    4) Ummm yeah. It’s called “being a teenage girl”. If not for FaceBook (which I personally loathe as a privacy concern, be it private or government snooping too much) they would just be driving themselves into this in the hallways. At least now it’s on public display for amusement of others.

    3) Not only are these incidents more few and far between than we are lead to believe. Although I do agree; being rude strictly for the sake of, is pathetic. But once again, what do you expect when you get people together? It’s like road rage, only digital.

    2) ULDs are bad, and that IS something we need to work on. I always use ergonomic devices however, far more comfortable and easier to use once you adjust to the way keys are spaced out.

    1a) I said it elsewhere, I will say it again: addictions do not exist. Either the criticism comes from an outside source (finger pointing, which is as bad as ), or the individual uses the addiction crutch to get the critic off their back. When you begin calling someone addicted, all you are doing is telling them that what they find important really isn’t. Internet, food, drugs, smoking, kicking puppies, whatever the example the case is the same.

    1b) Another fact to consider: There is a growing majority that creates their entire income with the internet. Be it working from home for a company, E-Bay, or any of the slew of musicians and artists who have gotten their start and expanded their fan-base strictly online. Some do it because of choice, others (myself included with this category) because their local economy or social environment is not sufficient for their needs. For me to spend 10hrs a day online, can turn into 14hrs worth of productivity.

    I think for me, the worst part of this article is that it treats the internet itself like a disease. If this was the intent of the author (if so: please unplug the cable, we do not need your hating kind here) or a simple error in voice (which is forgivable, and can be corrected in time) would make the difference. The biggest part of it is that the internet’s pool of information simply allows us to be stupid more efficiently, but this is not enough to combat the amazing good the net has (and will) accomplished. We can drive ourselves crazy(ier?) with the information we have access to now, or use it as it is intended to become more aware and in touch with what is going on in the world. No invention is good or evil, it is all our intent and how it is applied.

    Once again, all of this is in the common interest of mutual discussion for betterment of ourselves.

    I await your hate with great anticipation, oh people of differing views, and will even bookmark if anyone decides to engage in a logic war. 🙂

    (this site blocks a–, p0rn and stupi-? wow….there really are no words for that)

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