Top 10 Internet Illnesses
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…)
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
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!
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
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)
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
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
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
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)
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
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?
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: