Internet Addiction: State of Emergency

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The new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) is scheduled for release in 2013. The DSM-V is to replace the DSM-IV-TR as the main tool Psychologists and therapists use to diagnose mental disorders. As with any new release, criteria for disorders will be updated, disorders will be removed, and some added. The DSM-V is drawing criticism due to some of the disorders proposed. An example of this would be Post-traumatic embitterment disorder, where a person after a traumatic event becomes bitter, negative, and possesses an extremely bitter world view. Internet Addiction Disorder is missing from the list, as some professionals still doubt the existence of the disorder. In my professional and personal view, this is a deadly mistake that will be costly.

I have Internet Addiction Disorder

I will make the statement now; I have Internet Addiction Disorder. To be specific, I am addicted to online gaming. My addiction began in 1999 and was severe until 2004. During this period, I played an online game 10-12 hours a day, every day. While I managed to go to school, make reasonable grades, and work, I still found the time to exist in my online world. I had few friends and did not do as well in school as I should have. I forced myself to quit but still suffer from the effects. I am currently on the computer 10-16 hours a day working, researching, studying, and playing. While I rarely play online games, I do at times. While I use the computer for all the work I do, I still find myself at a loss if I cannot get online to check mail, read current events, and explore online entertainment.

As a result, I am biased and believe Internet Addiction Disorder is a real disorder that should be included within the DSM-V. While I was able to (for the most part) put my addiction aside and succeed in obtaining my Master’s degree, I can see how I easily could have stayed in my addicted state. I understand how hard it is to put an addiction side, especially one that is easily accessible to our society. I do believe Internet Addiction Disorder in time will be a worse problem than drugs and alcohol combined.

What is Internet Addiction Disorder?

To be honest, there is no official definition, as it is not a disorder designated by the APA. Therefore, I can only give you my version of what I feel Internet Addiction Disorder consists. To me, it consists of three parts.

1. Spending time online engaged in non-work or school related activities in an amount that is disruptive to other activities in one’s life.

2. While not online, one often thinks about activities one will conduct online, to the point one is online or thinking about being online for most of their waking state.

3. Responsibilities, such as work, school, and relationships with friends and family suffer as a result of the misplaced time online or obsessing about being online.

An Internet Addict will have problems in all three criteria. Not everyone will be the same, as some will perform well at work, but spend every moment of free time online, while another may neglect work completely and stay online.

Internet Addiction is Serious

In 2006, A Stanford University study found that out of 2513 households, one in eight Americans showed potential problem markers for excessive internet use (Aboujaoude, 2006). In a study conducted in 2008, of 912 Korean 7th – 12th-grade children, 30.3% were classified as intermittent internet addiction, with 4.3% classified as internet addiction (Jang, Hwang & Choi, 2008). In 2010, a South Korean couple let their 3-month-old daughter starve to death while they played a game at an Internet cafe. Within the game, the couple was raising a virtual girl, dubbed ‘Amina’ while their real world child starved to death (Associated Press, 2010).

One cannot look at the example above and conclude this is normal behavior. It is clear; this couple is mentally ill. To value an online child more than their real world child is disturbing. When one is suffering from an addiction, one has a difficult time making rational decisions. The rational side of the person is suppressed by the side that want’s it’s next fix. The couple above are most likely not evil people; they most likely are Internet Addicts who could not make rational decisions. Does that mean their actions are ok? No! They should be legally charged, but also receive help for their addiction.

The Future of Internet Addiction

The Internet is in its infancy. We still have ways to go before we are fully integrated. In the future, it is likely all media and learning will be online. Television will no longer exist, replaced with online stations. It is already here, with Hulu, where one can watch TV shows online without a Television. Streaming media to your cell phones is becoming common place. Soon, school books will be totally online, with the student holding them in a Kindle or other portable e-reader. Printed paper will become rare. Newspapers will go online, public libraries will no longer exist, or become computerized. Soon, the Internet will house the entirety of Human Knowledge. If one wishes to learn someone, one will be forced to go online. As a result, people will be online most of their waking lives.

Is this not a concern? Will we consider Internet Addiction normal? Look at the television. It is common for people to watch 8-12 hours of television a night. Are they addicted? They still go to work, but do they have lives? Do they have friends, meet with family, go out and socialize with others? I would consider some to be addicted, but this is an addiction that has been regulated to normal within our society. Will it be normal to be addicted to the Internet?

With the advancement of technology, the more realistic the Internet will become. Virtual reality is coming, where people will be able to experience entire worlds. Imagine waking up and logging into the world you believe to be perfect. In this world, you are important, have many friends, and have a high quality of sexual partners to choose from. If you could exist in this world, why exist in the real world? To you, the made up world is real, maybe even more real. This is a possibility with the advancement of technology. If we get to this stage, then we will be in serious trouble.

The Mental Health Profession is Clueless

I am sorry, but most mental health professionals do not understand technology, or it’s ramifications. To me, most are stuck in 1970 before the age of computers. Many I have encountered are not technology proficient and do not seem to understand technology as it relates to mental health. Many view the addiction = chemical model of addiction, where an addiction must be a chemical. Many do not believe one can be addicted to the Internet, as a chemical is not ingested. They fail to see that everything is a chemical reaction. The internet is a stimulus coming from my eyes and ears that in the end results in chemical reactions within the brain.

Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) needs to be included within the DSM-V. As the internet becomes more defined, and as technology improves, more and more people will have access to the Internet. The more realistic and more user-friendly it becomes, the more people will spend their time online. Mental Health Professionals need to take IAD seriously.

Am I addicted?

How can you tell if you are addicted to the Internet? One method you can use to determine if you may have a problem is the Internet Addiction Test by Kimberly Young. This test consists of 20 multiple choice questions. If you find yourself scoring high, then you may have a problem. Taking to a qualified therapist will also help. I suggest research therapists in your area and asking them their thoughts on Internet Addiction.

I currently treat Internet Addiction within the Houston area. I use insight ordinated methods to determine the nature of the addiction and then work to change the thoughts and the behaviors of the client. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

References

Aboujaoude, Elias (2006). Internet addiction: Stanford study seeks to define whether it’s a problem. Business Wire, Retrieved September 12, 2008, from Business Dateline database.

NDTV. (2010, March 7). South Korean Internet addicts let baby starve. Retrieved June 30, 2010, from http://www.ndtv.com/news/world/south-korean-internet-addicts-let-baby-starve-17318.php

Jang, Keum Seong, Hwang, Seon Young, & Choi, Ja Yun (2008). Internet addiction and psychiatric symptoms among Korean adolescents. The Journal of School Health, 78(3), 165-171.

 

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com/Ana Labate

 

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Nathan Driskell

Hello, my name is Nathan Driskell and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor – Supervisor in the Houston / Cypress area specializing in the treatment of Internet Addiction & Asperger’s / Autism. I work with children, adolescents, adults, couples & families.

You can reach me at my website or call me directly at 832-559-3520 if you have any questions. Thank You!
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