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Part I:
Understanding the
Island Syndrome

Part II:
Biology and

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Part 1: Understanding the Island Syndrome

(August 12, 2010)

The Story of Dave

Dave is a 32 year-old man, who works for a large computer company as a program tester. He is intelligent and works hard, spending most of his day in front of several computer monitors as he interacts with a variety of complicated programs. From one moment to the next, Dave is allowed to set his own pace. However, his company pushes him to work quickly without making mistakes. Throughout the day (and night!) Dave receives a lot of work-related email, much more that he can ever hope to answer. To make it possible to stay in touch at all times, Dave has a Blackberry (wireless communication device) which he checks several times an hour. He also uses text messaging a lot, especially in his personal life.

Dave is married to a 30-year-old woman who runs her own business from home, an online store she maintains on eBay. Dave's wife complains that, when Dave comes home at night, all he wants to do is eat dinner and sit in front of his computer playing World of Warcraft (an online, multi-player adventure game) or watch television. He doesn't care much about interacting with other people in person, including his wife; nor does he like to read, spend time outdoors, or think deeply. Dave sleeps poorly and uses coffee to wake up in the morning and stay alert during the day. Breakfast consists of coffee and pastry, and the rest of his diet is mostly sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates. (His favorite dish is pizza.)

When Dave needs to "relax", he will drink a glass of wine or, occasionally, smoke some marijuana, especially when he has trouble falling asleep at night. As you would guess, another of Dave's wife's complaints is that, for several years, he has rarely been happy and that he has little interest in sex or intimate communication. At this point in their marriage, Dave's wife is not hoping for much. In fact, she would be happy if Dave would just talk to her for a few minutes and share a home-cooked meal once in a while.

Is Dave a victim of technology? At first glance, it certainly seems so.

Is Dave a victim of technology? At first glance, it certainly seems so. He spends most of his time in front of a computer monitor or a television. He spends too much time emailing and text messaging; his work creates a lot of pressure on a daily basis; and he checks his smartphone (a Blackberry) for messages obsessively.

If Dave were to consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist, they would tell him he is suffering from dysthymia (mild chronic depression) and, possibly, chronic anxiety. The psychologist would put Dave into therapy, where he would be encouraged to examine his thoughts and behaviors, form new habits, and practice communication skills with his wife. The psychiatrist would treat Dave with long-term antidepressants. Both of them would advise Dave to get out of the house more and to take regular exercise.

Either of these approaches would probably help, but neither will be enough to fully bring Dave back to the land of the living permanently. Why? Because the Island Syndrome is affecting Dave in three important ways, none of which are addressed by psychotherapy, antidepressants, or exercise.

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The Island Syndrome
1. What Is the Island Syndrome?
2. What's in the News?
3. Difficult Questions
4. Why the Nature of Communication...
5. No Man Is an Island
6. Putting a Name to the Malaise
7. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
Living in the Bubble
8. What's in the News?
9. The Three Mandatory Machines
10. Life in the Bubble
11. Why We Keep On Keeping On
12. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
The Importance of the Brain's Biochemical Environment
13. What's in the News?
14. The Story of Dave
15. Importance of Neurotransmitters
16. The Stuff of Moods, Feelings and...
17. What Does Dave Need?
18. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
19. Introduction to Part II
20. The Island Syndrome
21. Excessive Text Messaging
22. Excessive Pornography Use
23. Understanding the Biology
24. Hormones and Neurotransmitters
25. The Pleasure Center
26. Too Much, Too Fast: Craving and...
27. The Female and Male Brains
28. Biology of Excessive Text Messaging
29. Biology of Excessive Pornography...
30. Conclusion: The Island Syndrome...
31. References