A new study revealed that people who are addicted to the internet may experience significant changes in their physiological state, such as increased in blood pressure and heart rate, when they stop their internet usage.
The study, published in the journal Current PLOS One, showed that the physiological changes people with problematically high-internet usage experience when they are withdrawn from their devices are mirrored with increased feelings of anxiety.
"We have known for some time that people who are over-dependent on digital devices report feelings of anxiety when they are stopped from using them," said Phil Reed, a professor at Swansea University and lead author of the study, in a press release. "But now we can see that these psychological effects are accompanied by actual physiological changes."
For the study, the researchers enlisted 144 participants between the age of 18 and 33 years old. The researchers measured the heart rate and blood pressure of the participants before and after their internet use. Additionally, the participants' self-reported internet addiction and anxiety levels were also measured.
The researchers observed that people addicted to the internet experience 3 to 4 percent increase in their heart rate and blood pressure immediately after they stopped using the internet. In some participants, the rise in heart rate and blood pressure were significantly higher. However, the researchers noted that the physiological change experienced by the participants were not enough to be life-threatening.
Interestingly, the physiological changes experienced by those addicted in the internet are akin to the withdrawal symptoms experienced by those terminating their use of addictive substances, including alcohol, heroin and cannabis.
Despite being non-fatal, the researchers noted that increased blood pressure and heart rate could be linked with increased levels of anxiety. Furthermore, physiological changes could also alter the hormonal system of the body, reducing its immune responses.
"Whether problematic internet use turns out to be an addiction -- involving physiological and psychological withdrawal effects -- or whether compulsions are involved that do not necessitate such withdrawal effects -- is yet to be seen, but these results seem to show that, for some people, it is likely to be an addiction," said Roberto Truzoli, a professor at Milan University and co-author of the study, in a statement.
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