PEOPLE who send excessive texts and emails may have a mental illness, according to an article in a leading psychiatric journal.
As more people leave the office computer, only to log on as soon as they get home, the American Journal of Psychiatry has found addiction to text messaging and emailing could be another form of mental illness.
The article, by Dr Jerald Block, said there were four symptoms: suffering from feelings of withdrawal when a computer cannot be accessed; an increased need for better equipment; need for more time to use it; and experiencing the negative repercussions of their addiction.
Dr Block said that although text messaging was not directly linked to the Internet, it was a form of instant messaging and needed to be included among the criteria.
"The chief reasons I see to consider it are motor vehicle accidents that are caused by cell phone instant messaging, stalking and harassment via instant messaging, and instant messaging at social, educational, (and) work functions where it creates problems," he said.
"It should be a pervasive and problematic pattern, though, not isolated incidents."
Leanne Battaglia, 21, said she would not classify herself as being clinically addicted to online communication, but could see how quickly the problem could develop.
"It's become a way of life now, but I don't think it's at that stage yet," Ms Battaglia said.
Despite sitting at a computer all day, the sales consultant admits she will often log on again when she gets home.
"I use it almost every night and during the day. I'm pretty much always on Facebook, eBay, ninemsn and gossip sites."
Ms Battaglia also sends about 20 text messages a day.
"I swear by my mobile, it's like a security blanket. I just feel really bare without it," she said.
Dr Robert Kaplan, a forensic psychiatrist at the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Wollongong, said he first saw a case of internet addiction in 1998.
Since that time, he has noticed a steady increase in the disorder among Australians.
According to a report titled Media And Communications In Australian Families 2007, the average child spends about one hour and 17 minutes on the internet each day, with teenagers aged 15 to 17 spending an average of 30 minutes sending text messages and another 25 minutes playing online games.
"I think in general it's escalating," Dr Kaplan said. "We now all live in an internet world, and it brings with it a range of problems."