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Amanda's Secret to Losing Over 100 Pounds Wasn't a Diet

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Our next Before & After story comes from Amanda Fraijo-Tobin, who blogs about life after losing 130 pounds on her blog Friday Love Song, which is part of our POPSUGAR Select Fitness network. Below, she shares how she lost the weight and how she keeps it off.

Amanda: Before

Growing up, I wasn’t severely overweight — sure, I had a pudgy stage, but a lot of people did! My weight wasn’t something I thought much about being a kid (as it shouldn’t be). My parents had good intentions, like most, but we certainly did not grow up eating very healthy. Snacks, soda, meals prepared without nutritional aspects considered. Soda became a very bad habit for me, especially as I got into my teens and didn’t have anyone stopping me from drinking so many.

Fast-forward to high school — like most high school girls, I thought I was fat. Even though, in retrospect, I clearly wasn’t. I didn’t let it consume my life, though I was a little on the chubby side (so I thought) and I was OK with that. Looking back, I think senior year is when the trouble began for me. Stress, changes in my life, poor eating, and not exercising (hello, gym-class-not-required-after-ninth-grade!) led me to pack on some weight. Again, I already felt like a “fat girl,” so I kept going with the mind-set of “This is me — this is who I am.” I was married young, had my first child at 20, and of course, packed on more weight. Divorced, remarried, and two more babies later — more weight.

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My weight wasn’t something I paid attention to. I never weighed myself. The only time anyone took my weight was maybe once or twice a year when I had a doctor’s visit — and even then, I didn’t think much about it. This is me — this is who I am . . .

Amanda: Before

My husband is a type 2 diabetic. He had already been on tons of medications for several years to control his blood sugar and other problems associated with the disease. He got to the point of having to add insulin injections to his enormous list of meds. His doctor kept urging him to consider weight-loss surgery, telling him that, if he lost some weight, there was a possibility he may be able to stop taking some of his medications. This seemed like a great solution to my husband — I, on the other hand, disagreed. I told him repeatedly, this wasn’t the solution. If you don’t break bad habits that got you to a certain point, you could not possibly make a real change.

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Insert light bulb moment. Pot calling kettle black. Even though it wasn’t something I monitored, I was surely at the heaviest point of my life. I was waking up to get my son to school and collapsing on the couch for a nap once he was off. I was having random pains in my foot. I felt gross. I knew I needed to start making changes. I needed to make changes for myself, but also for my husband, for my kids. I needed to be a better example. This wasn’t about vanity. This was about life, making a better life for myself and my family.

I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I had packed on the weight over the course of 10 years. I knew it was going to take some time to take it back off. I knew there would be times I would feel like quitting. But from the start, I adopted a “Today I will do what I can” kind of attitude. This went for exercise as well as eating habits. I knew all my bad eating habits were not going to disappear overnight. Slowly but surely, I made mental lists of things I was doing that were awful for my body and thought of ways to change them. Drink more water, read labels of items I was eating, etc. I had been having such severe pains in my heel that some days I could not even walk on it. Some days, I may not get through an entire workout like I wanted to — that’s OK. Today I will do what I can.

Amanda: After

I chose not to be vocal about my weight-loss journey from the start. I didn’t mention it to friends. My husband and my father were about the only people who knew what I was trying to accomplish. There were many days of whining on my part to my husband about aches and pains from making my body do things it wasn’t used to doing. I admit I have no idea for sure what my starting weight was. I have a general idea based on the last time I had been weighed at the doctors — but my journey began about six months, and what I’m guessing, may even be more pounds later. I did not start out with a goal weight in mind. I didn’t want one. I wanted to be healthier. Period. Healthy is not pounds on a scale. This is not a short fix; this is a change I will continue to make for the rest of my life.

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How Did I Do It?

This is common sense, things we have heard a million times again and again. Change the way you eat. Exercise. Repeat. It’s amazing to me when people want to know my “secret.” I have no secret. And I find it even funnier when people feel let down by my answer. There is no magic pill. I have not dieted. I have not counted calories. I knew from the start that was not the way I wanted to live my life. This is a lifestyle change. Know that it’s going to be challenging, but have faith that you can make the changes you want to.

Amanda: After

About two years later now and around 125 to 135 pounds down, here I am. Still chugging along. Still making it part of my life to make better decisions for my own as well as my family’s health. Honestly, I still feel a little silly writing this. I have had people tell me that they think I am an inspiration, which blows my mind. But I am here to tell you: if I can do this, you can do this. All it takes is a true commitment. Am I a superfit person? No, of course not. But every day, I strive to be a little better. I am a real person who did this. I am a mom to three children with a full-time job, a husband, two dogs, and a million other things going on. It takes work. It takes time. But you can do this. Start today, one small change at a time. This is me — this is who I am. Today I will do what I can. Will you?

Do you have an inspiring Before & After story to share? Message us on Facebook, and give us a few details about your journey. We might even profile you on the site, like Amanda!

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‘Female Viagra’ Doesn’t Work Very Well: Study

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The so-called “female Viagra” drug isn’t showing impressive results, suggests a new study published inJAMA Internal Medicine.

Last August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug flibanserin to treat low sexual desire in premenopausal women. The drug was the first to be given the green light for treatment of the condition in women, called hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD. Researchers in the Netherlands conducted a review on flibanserin to see how safe and effective it was, analyzing eight clinical trials in all: five published and three unpublished. Even though the studies in total looked at almost 6,000 women, the researchers caution that the quality of evidence is “very low”: the studies weren’t very detailed, they write, and the drug looked better in the findings of published studies compared to studies that were not published.

RELATED: See How ‘Female Viagra’ Works

According to the results, the drug didn’t enhance most women’s sex life all that much, nor did it meaningfully increase the frequency of their sexual encounters. Taking the drug was associated with just one-half of an additional satisfying sexual event each month. It was also linked to a higher risk of sleepiness, dizziness, fatigue and nausea.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures flibanserin under the name Addyi, provided a statement from the company’s Chief Medical OfficerTage Ramakrishna, MD, saying that trials to secure FDA approval showed a statistically significant increase in satisfying sex. It is crucial that women suffering from HSDD are able to speak to their physicians about the full range of options—including medical treatment—to manage this serious and well-established condition,” Ramakrishna says. “Analyses such as the one published in JAMA Internal Medicine, by omitting context and downplaying the importance of increased sexually satisfying events to those with HSDD, makes that conversation more difficult.”

More research is needed, the authors of the study say. “The data presented in this review suggest that the meaningful change caused by flibanserin is minimal,” they write.

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

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Here’s What LSD Does To the Brain

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What exactly happens to the brain on psychedelic drugs? A small new study, published in the journal Current Biology, peeked inside the brains of 15 people during an acid trip and found brain-scan backup for a popular drug cliche: that the tripper feels at one with the universe.

Fifteen healthy people, who were experienced users of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, came twice to a lab in London. (LSD is illegal in the UK, but it’s possible to use it in research with special permissions.) Once, they were injected with a small amount of LSD (75 micrograms); the other time they received a saline placebo. After an hour, to let the effects settle in, they got into an fMRI brain scanner, which captured images of what went on in their brains.

The researchers asked the people to rate their mood changes—getting answers like “I’m tripping like crazy” or “nothing is happening”—their visual distortions and their intensity of ego dissolution: a loss of self-identity and sense of connection to the environment outside of oneself that reportedly happens to people when they take LSD, which is illegal in the United States. “You don’t recognize yourself as a separate being from the universe,” says study co-author Enzo Tagliazucchi, a neuroscientist at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam. “It feels, in a way, like transferring the consciousness from within your body to the outside world; the focus is in the objects that surround you rather than inside.” Tagliazucchi and the team wondered if they could find some changes in the brain related to this feeling of ego dissolution.

When they looked at the regions of the brain involved in introspection, or thinking about oneself, and sensory areas that perceive the outside world, they found that these networks were communicating more intensely than usual. “When we measured the brains of subjects who were really blown away by LSD, who had a really strong feeling of ego dissolution, they were also the ones who had the strongest increase in communication between the network of regions in charge of introspection and the network of regions in charge of perceiving the external world,” Tagliazucchi says.

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E-Cigarettes to Be Regulated as Tobacco Products

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E-cigarettes will be regulated as tobacco products, federal authorities announced on Thursday.

In a long-awaited ruling, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized rules that give the agency authority to regulate all tobacco products including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, as well as other products. Until now, e-cigarettes were not regulated by the FDA and there was no national law to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes,hookah tobacco or cigars to people under 18.

The actions being taken today will help the FDA prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, as well as communicate their potential risks,” the agency said in a statement.

The new rule means the agency will have to approve all products that made it to market as of Feb. 15, 2007—a point at which the e-cigarette market was virtually non-existent. “What we know is absence of federal restriction means that enforcement is uneven and at times nonexistent,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said during a news conference.

The risks of e-cigarettes has been a public health debate for some time and the FDA initially announced its proposal to increase its jurisdiction in 2014. The HHS and FDA said on Tuesday that surveys show 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 13 middle schoolers report being tobacco users. 16% of high schoolers also reported using cigarettes in 2015, a 900% increase from 1.5% in 2011. While e-cigarettes do not contain the same carcinogens as traditional cigarettes, they do contain nicotine, which is addictive. Early research has also cast doubt on the safety of some of the chemicals used inE-cigarettes when inhaled into the lungs.

Small and medium sized e-cigarette companies have responded to the news with concerns that undergoing the new approval process will be costly. “This gigantic price tag is affordable to Big Tobacco companies, but small and medium-sized businesses will be crushed,” said Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association. “If the FDA’s rule is not changed by Congress or the courts, thousands of small businesses will close in two to three years.”

Burwell addressed these concerns during a news conference with reporters, saying the agencies understand the concerns small businesses will have, and that the FDA will allow them to have more time to comply.

The FDA says after 90 days they will begin enforcing portion of the rule that says the products cannot be sold to people under 18. This rule also requires ID to purchase tobaccos products and bans sales in vending machines as well as free samples

The health of the nation will continue to suffer the consequences of any further delay in implementing a law intended to protect public health,”Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

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Why Songs Get Stuck In Your Head—and How to Get Them Out 

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Why do some songs stick in our heads for infuriatingly long periods of time? According to the first large-scale study of its kind, it’s all about their combination of upbeat tempos, easy-to-remember melodies, and a little something unexpected. The new research looked at some of the most popular songs with this “stick factor"—and gives advice for how to get them unstuck, as well.

Tunes that we can’t seem to shake are sometimes known as earworms, or referred to in the scientific community as involuntary musical imagery. It makes sense that recent chart-toppers that get lots of radio play are more likely to find their place deep in our brains, but that theory—and the reasoning why some songs are catchier (and stickier) than others—has not been widely examined in a scientific way.

So Kelly Jakubowski, PhD, a former psychology teaching fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, set out to do just that. Between 2010 and 2013, she and and her fellow researchers asked 3,000 people about their most frequent earworm, and compared those tunes' melodic features to other songs that were just as popular during the same time period (based on U.K. music charts), but were not named in the survey.

They found that the songs commonly cited as earworms were more likely to have fast tempos and, overall, fairly generic melodic contours. An example of a common contour pattern can be heard in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, where the first phrase rises in pitch and the second falls, Jakubowski noted in a press release.

This rising-and-falling pitch pattern is followed in other nursery rhymes, as well, which makes them easy for young children to remember. And it's used in plenty of pop music, too, she says—like the beginning of Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger,” one of the most common earworms named in the study.

But earworms also tend to have some unique and unusual intervals, such as musical leaps or repeated notes, that set them apart from the average pop song. Jakubowski cites the opening notes of “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple, the chorus of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” or the instrumental riffs of “My Sharona” by the Knack as examples.

"Our findings show that you can to some extent predict which songs are going to get stuck in people's heads based on the song's melodic content,” said Jakubowski, who’s now a research assistant in the Department of Music at Durham University. “This could help aspiring songwriters or advertisers write a jingle everyone will remember for days or months afterwards.”

The study confirmed the idea that frequent and recent exposure to a song make it more likely to become an earworm, and that people who sing and listen to music often tend to experience this phenomenon more than others. It also found that words, images, and other associations can bring songs to mind, often from deep in our memories.

"We now also know that, regardless of the chart success of a song, there are certain features of the melody that make it more prone to getting stuck in people's heads like some sort of private musical screensaver,” said Jakubowski.

But here’s the part of the study you’ve probably been waiting for: what to do about it when it happens to you. Based on survey responses of what’s worked for other people, the authors make three recommendations:

1. Engage with the song. Many people said that listening to a song all the way through helps quiet the constant loop in their heads.

2. Distract yourself. Thinking about or listening to another song helps some people, too. In the study—which surveyed Brits—the top-named “cure song” was “God Save the Queen.” (Maybe the U.S. equivalent is the “Star Spangled Banner?”)

3. Let it be. Other people reported that the best way to get rid of an earworm was to just try not to think about it, and let it fade away naturally on its own.

Jakubowski says that 90 percent of us get songs stuck in our heads at least once a week, normally when the brain is not doing much—while we’re in the shower, walking, or doing mindless chores, for example. Further research on this topic could potentially help scientists understand how brain networks involved in perception, emotion, memory, and spontaneous thought behave in different people, she says.

The study, which was published today in the academic journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, lists the following as the most frequently named earworms. (Remember, the survey was done between 2010 and 2013.) We apologize in advance for bringing them up, as we know you’ll be humming them all week long.

Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Can't Get You Out Of My Head – Kylie Minogue
Don't Stop Believing – Journey
Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye
Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5
California Gurls – Katy Perry
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Alejandro – Lady Gaga
Poker Face – Lady Gaga

 

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

 

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How Looking at Selfies Affects Your Happiness

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Love them or hate them, selfies have become a staple of social-media culture. Now a new study suggests that the ubiquitous smartphone self portraits don’t just have psychological implications for the people taking them; they can also have a real impact on their friends and followers, as well.

According to Penn State University researchers, viewing frequent selfies is linked to a decrease in self-esteem and life satisfaction. Their findings come from an online survey of 225 social media users with an average age of 33, 80 percent of whom were active on Facebook. The participants also used sites like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Tinder.  

We tend to compare ourselves to others when we see these photos—often carefully curated photos—the authors wrote about their findings, which can lead to feelings of loneliness, exclusion, or disappointment with our own lives.

Somewhat surprisingly, the researchers did not find any connection between posting frequency and self-esteem or life satisfaction. (Other research, however, has suggested that the quest for the perfect photo can seriously undermine real-life happiness.)

In this study, viewing behavior seemed to be more important: The more people were exposed to selfies from other people, the lower their levels of self-esteem and life satisfaction. 

"People usually post selfies when they're happy or having fun," said co-author and mass communications graduate student Ruoxu Wang, in a press release. "This makes it easy for someone else to look at these pictures and think … his or her life is not as great as theirs."

When the researchers broke their results down based on personality traits, they did find one exception. People who expressed a strong desire to appear popular actually got self-esteem and life-satisfaction boosts from viewing selfies. Doing so may somehow satisfy their need for popularity, the researchers say, although the reason why isn’t entirely clear.

The study results also found a difference between selfies and “groupies,” or selfie-style pictures featuring more than one person. On average, looking at groupies seemed to improve self-esteem and life satisfaction for participants. That’s probably because the viewers themselves may be included in these groupies, the authors wrote, strengthening their sense of community and inclusion.

This research is important, says co-author and mass communications graduate student Ruoxu Wang, because it examines a lesser-understood angle of social-media culture. "Most of the research done on social network sites looks at the motivation for posting and liking content, but we're now starting to look at the effect of viewing behavior," said Wang in a press release.

And the findings suggest that even just “lurking”—the act of observing what others post on social media, rather than “liking” posts or contributing content of one’s own—can have a real effect on how people view themselves.

The authors hope that their study, which was published online in the Journal of Telematics and Informatics, can raise awareness among social-media users about how their posts might affect others in their network.

"We don't often think about how what we post affects the people around us," said co-author and graduate student Fan Yang. "I think this study can help people understand the potential consequences of their posting behavior.” Yang adds that it may also help counselors working with young adults feeling lonely, unpopular, or unsatisfied with their lives.

 

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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How to Survive a Quarter-Life Crisis and Find Your True Purpose

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During my quarter-life crisis, I felt paralyzed to make a change. I felt like I was at the intersection of hopeless, stuck, and FOMO (or fear of missing out).

I said to myself, “I hate my job and I want to do something else, but I don’t know where to start. I’m interested in so many things, but none of them seem perfect. All my friends on Facebook are so happy and successful. My friend is a Forbes 30 Under 30. My buddy is traveling around Thailand. My friend just got engaged. I’m tired of being single. I’m a failure.”

Everything feels impossible during a quarter-life crisis, even small decisions like which shampoo to buy, or which show to watch on Netflix. 

But the five simple steps below helped me get through that period of intense confusion—and eventually, find my true purpose. I hope these tips will be helpful as you discover yours.

Stop the comparisons

Social media has made it all but impossible to avoid comparing yourself to others. We see only the coolest parts of our friends’ lives, like when they get a new job, fall in love, or travel somewhere beautiful. We think, “Wow, I really need to get my act together.”  All of us are figuring it out, even our friends whose Instagram grass looks really green. All of us are on different paths, with no right or wrong answer. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time. Stop worrying about what other people think and start figuring out what you want.

RELATED: Elizabeth Gilbert Shares Her Secrets to Living a More Creative Life

Pursue what’s meaningful to you

If you want to turn your quarter-life crisis into a breakthrough, you have to stop focusing on everyone else’s noise, and start asking yourself why you’re here. What do you care most about? What do you want to do for the world? What are you really good at? What types of people do you want to surround yourself with? How much money do you need to live your desired lifestyle? I call this finding alignment between who you are and how you’re spending your days.

Turn your doubt into action

When I was stuck in my old job, fear of the unknown often kept me up all night. This doubt never really goes away, but I’ve learned that we can turn our doubts into research, into positive energy that takes us closer to our next lily pad. If you write your doubts and fears on paper, you can begin to take tangible action steps toward figuring out what’s next in your life. This might mean reading a book that interests you, signing up for a class, launching a crowdfunding campaign for a creative project, starting a blog, attending a cool conference or event, traveling somewhere you always wanted to go, having coffee with a mentor, or pursuing an apprenticeship or volunteer opportunity that excites you.

Find a community of people who believe in the beauty of your dreams

Surviving a quarter-life crisis is the result of both hard work and finding the right people to support your journey. You can’t do it alone. Building a community of believers is the difference between your breakthrough being a dream and a dream come true. So, start finding people who make you better. People who inspire you; who are creative, who are living for others, who hold you accountable. Depending on where you live, believers might be easy or incredibly difficult to find. Attend conferences, ask your network for ideas, and use social media to find local meet-up groups based on your interests.

RELATED: 8 Promises Every Woman Should Make to Herself

Practice weekly self-care rituals

When I was stuck in my quarter-life crisis, overworked and stressed, I definitely wasn’t taking care myself—and I got shingles! I didn’t give myself time to eat well, see friends, meditate, write in my journal, or exercise. If you don’t take care of your body, it’s nearly impossible to reach your goals or help anyone else reach theirs. Finding your purpose doesn’t translate to applying to as many to jobs online as you possibly can. Finding your purpose means spending time doing the things you love, with the people you love most. It also means learning how to be kind to yourself. So, what are three things you can do to be kind to yourself this week? Think about ways you can treat yourself, take care of yourself, and create yourself.

If you’re lucky, practicing self-love might even bring you closer to the purpose you’ve been searching for.

Adapted from The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work, and Build a Life That Matters by Adam Smiley Poswolsky, available from TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House. Subscribe for more career resources at smileyposwolsky.com.

 

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Excessive Internet Use May Signal Other Mental Health Issues

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Young adults who spend excessive amounts of time online may have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new Canadian study. The research also suggests that Internet addiction may be widely under-reported, and that commonly accepted diagnostic criteria may need to be revised to keep up with the changing role of the Internet in our lives.

The study, presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) conference in Vienna, used two scales to evaluate Internet use: the commonly used and globally accepted Internet Addiction Test (IAT), and a newer scale designed by the authors.

The IAT was developed in 1998, before smartphones and tablets were such a prevalent part of society. “In addition, Internet use has changed radically over the last 18 years, through more people working online, media streaming, social media, etc.,” said lead author Michael Van Ameringen, MD, in a press release. Dr. Van Ameringen is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University.

RELATED: Parenting Against the Internet

“We were concerned that the IAT questionnaire may not have been picking up on problematic modern internet use,” he added, “or showing up false positives for people who were simply using the Internet rather than being over-reliant on it.”

So Dr. Van Ameringen and his colleagues recruited 254 college students and tested them for Internet addiction using both scales. They also asked the participants about their overall mental health and well-being.

According to the IAT, only 33 students met the criteria for Internet addiction. Based on the authors’ new questionnaire, however, 107 students—more than 40 percent—were considered to have problematic or addictive Internet use. (The latter number is closer to the results of another recent study, in which half of teens said they felt “addicted” to technology.) 

And when the researchers looked at how the Internet addicts by either set of criteria compared to the “normal” web users in several areas of mental health, they made some strong connections.

RELATED: Is Your Teen Suffering From an Internet Addiction?

“We found that those screening positive, on the IAT as well as on our scale, had significantly more trouble dealing with their day-to-day activities, including life at home, at work/school and in social settings,” Dr. Van Ameringen said. People with Internet addiction also had higher rates of depression and anxiety symptoms, problems with planning and time management, and higher levels of attentional impulsivity and ADHD symptoms.

“This leads us to a couple of questions,” said Dr. Van Ameringen: “Firstly, are we grossly underestimating the prevalence of Internet addiction and, secondly, are these other mental health issues a cause or consequence of this excessive reliance on the Internet?”

Larger clinical trials are needed to answer these questions, said Jan Buitelaar, MD, PhD, a member of an ECNP advisory panel on child and adolescent disorders, in the press release. But what’s clear, he added, is that large amounts of time spent online may disguise mild or severe mental health problems.

"Excessive use of the internet is an understudied phenomenon,” said Dr. Buitelaar, who is a professor of psychiatry at Radboud University in the Netherlands but was not involved in the study, adding that it “may be strongly linked to compulsive behaviour and addiction.”

RELATED: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think

The researchers hope that their research one day helps mental health professionals diagnose and treat patients more accurately and effectively. For example, therapists may need to keep in mind that unhealthy Internet behavior may be triggered by another condition, or vice versa.

“If you are trying to treat someone for an addiction when in fact they are anxious and depressed, then you may be going down the wrong route,” says Dr. Van Ameringen.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that excessive use of technology has been linked to emotional problems. Another recent study on college students—a group that’s known for its near-constant digital connectedness—found that problematic cell-phone use was associated with lower levels of trust, and higher levels of alienation, within students’ family and social networks. In fact, the researcher suggested that using phones to surf the Web and use social media—rather than text or talk directly with personal connections—could be, at least partially, to blame.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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