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Ask Stanford Med: Stanford psychiatrist taking questions on psychological effects of Internet use

Back in 2006, Stanford researchers conducted a first-of-its-kind, telephone-based study to determine if spending too much time online is a prevalent and damaging mental health condition. They found that more than one out of eight Americans exhibited at least one possible sign of problematic Internet use.

Fast forward to today. A recent University of Maryland study suggests that some U.S. college students have an unhealthy relationship with technology and the Internet and exhibit symptoms similar to those addicted to drugs and alcohol. Additionally, Chinese researchers have found that Internet addiction may cause changes in the brain mirroring those seen in people suffering from substance abuse and impulse control disorders. These and related findings have led some to question the Internet's deleterious effects on the mind and others to voice concern about the powerful lure of technology.

To further explore how excessive Internet use may be harmful to our health, we've asked Elias Aboujaoude, MD, director of the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic and the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic at Stanford, to respond to your questions on the topic for this month's Ask Stanford Med. Aboujaoude's work focuses on obsessive compulsive disorders and behavioral addictions, including problematic Internet use. He was lead author of the 2006 paper that laid the groundwork to determine if compulsive online activity warranted a medical diagnosis. In his latest book, Aboujaoude explores how our online traits are unconsciously being imported into our offline lives.

Questions can be submitted to Aboujaoude by either sending a tweet that includes the hashtag #AskSUMed or posting your question in the comments section below. We'll collect questions until Tuesday (Aug. 14) at 5 pm.

When submitting questions, please abide by the following ground rules:

  • Stay on topic
  • Be respectful to the person answering your questions
  • Be respectful to one another in submitting questions
  • Do not monopolize the conversation or post the same question repeatedly
  • Kindly ignore disrespectful or off topic comments
  • Know that Twitter handles and/or names may be used in the responses

Aboujaoude will respond to a selection of the questions submitted, but not all of them, in a future entry on Scope.

Finally - and you may have already guessed this - an answer to any question submitted as part of this feature is meant to offer medical information, not medical advice. These answers are not a basis for any action or inaction, and they're also not meant to replace the evaluation and determination of your doctor, who will address your specific medical needs and can make a diagnosis and give you the appropriate care.

Previously: Exploring the Internet's dark side, 9/11: Grieving in the age of social media, Virtually You: The dangerous powers of the E-Personality and Stanford psychiatrist explores how people's online personas affect their real-world lives
Photo by Federico_Morando

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