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Cases are beginning to reach South African doctors’ and therapists’ consulting rooms in which an individual may spend up to 36 hours at a stretch surfing the Internet.

He or she may spend the time bingeing on non-essential information, playing games on specialised sites, seeking out pornographic images and stories, or conducting virtual relationships with other users in chat rooms - often without sleep, food or any personal engagement with family and friends.“Internet addiction is very much a condition of the new age,” says Dr Gordon Isaacs, honorary professor of clinical social work at the University of Cape Town and a practising psychotherapist. But it may well come to that - in the same way that it took some years for post-traumatic stress disorder to achieve that status.”According to Peter Powis, clinical director of Stepping Stones, a private addiction clinic in Cape Town: “Society is in denial about a lot of addictions, but certainly about this one, which tends to involve some pretty high-functioning people.”Denial is most pronounced when it comes to people obsessed with sex on the Internet.

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And that may well be an underestimate of the problem, according to a number of psychologists doing work in the addiction field.

South Africa may have as many as 20 000 Internet addicts - if one applies a conservative 2% addiction probability rate to the more than one million Internet connections in the country.

American psychologists dealing with Internet addiction currently work on the assumption that a far higher proportion of Internet users - between 5% and 10% - are highly susceptible to addiction.

The assumption is derived from the incidence of other forms of addiction.

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Last modified 05-Nov-2015 10:11