Feb. 11 - Social media addiction has become an official condition. A clinic in London is treating more than 100 sufferers a year, with a professional footballer among those receiving counseling. A study last year by the University of Chicago suggested sites like Facebook are more addictive that alcohol and cigarettes. Ivor Bennett reports.
Gemini Adams is a self-confessed addict. Not drugs, not alcohol, but Facebook. SOUNDBITE (English) AUTHOR AND FORMER FACEBOOK ADDICT GEMINI ADAMS, SAYING: "I'd signed up to every aspect of Facebook. and was utilising every sort of part of it. Checking in whereever I went and I remember just feeling really kind of revolting and just, you know, gnarled up inside physically because I hadn't been exercising. And I was just in this position, hunched over a computer and you know my eyesight was worse." Yoga is part of Gemini's digital detox. She won't use Facebook now for more than half an hour at a time - and once a week she'll go 24 hours straight without internet altogether. SOUNDBITE (English) AUTHOR AND FORMER FACEBOOK ADDICT GEMINI ADAMS, SAYING: "That little sensation would come up that would be oh I'l just see if anyone's commented on that thing I wrote this morning. I used to be a smoker and it's very similar to that sort of sensation of needing to have something, needing to go do something." Social media is now a recognised addiction. A study last year by the University of Chicago found it can even be more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. RESEARCH SHOWS..Likes and retweets give users a burst of the addictive neurotransmitter dopamine. But a LACK of endorsements can provoke jealousy and anxiety. So how much is too much? SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS REPORTER IVOR BENNETT SAYING: "Psychiatrists say the alarm bells start to ring if you're looking at Facebook and Twitter more than 10 times a day. And if that amounts to more than 5 hours, then you might have a problem." And it's a lot more common than you might think.../ but some aren't willing to admit it. SOUNDBITE (English) VOX POPS... "How many hours a day are you on Facebook and Twitter?" "What if I told you that meant you were addicted?" Consultant psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham treats around 100 social media addicts a year at this clinic in London. His patients range from as young as 10 to 35. SOUNDBITE (English) DR RICHARD GRAHAM, NHS TAVISTOCK AND PORTMAN CLINIC, SAYING: "They start to miss or avoid doing the necessary things in life, even at a fundamental level of self-care. They delay eating or avoid eating or drinking, delay sleep, miss meetings or delay getting into work or college. There are certainly some young people easily passing 9, 10 hours a day using social media." Treatment begins with complete abstinence. But in today's increasingly connected world, switching off may be a lot harder than it sounds.