After three full days surfing the Net almost continuously, an Italian cybersurfer was brought to the hospital because of hallucinations and delirium.
Tonino Cantelmi, a psychiatrist who works at the Gregoriana University in Rome, who is involved in the case, said that "Internet intoxication" or "Internet addiction" is a new form of disease that needs further study.
Most people suffering from Net addiction are normal and healthy, with no other mental problems. The typical profile of the Internet user who is most at risk is an individual 30 years old and single. These people typically spend time on the Internet to chat with people and use the computer as a window to the world, which ends up having bad effects on real-world relationships with friends and family members and, in some cases, on productivity at work, Cantelmi said.
At the moment Cantelmi is trying to determine how many people in Italy are suffering from Internet addiction disorders. He has defined different levels of addiction. If a user stays connected, from both home and office, for more than six hours a day, he or she can be considered at risk; if the time increases, the risk is that the person cannot stay disconnected from the Internet without bad feelings. Some prefer to spend whole nights surfing instead of sleeping. At this stage the addiction is complete, and there is nothing more important in the life of the subject than what happens in cyberspace.
Most addicted surfers prefer to spend their time playing casino games on the Net and chatting with other people looking for "cyber-sex", the doctor said.
Stories about Cantelmi's work appeared in all the leading Italian daily newspapers, indicating the growing interest by Italians in all aspects of the Internet.