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Internet addiction: threat or menace?

An editorial in a recent issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry presents the case for "Internet addiction" as a legitimate disorder deserving of inclusion in the DSM. (The DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--the official compendium of the conditions and syndromes that afflict humanity.
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Written by Ed Gottsman on

An editorial in a recent issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry presents the case for "Internet addiction" as a legitimate disorder deserving of inclusion in the DSM. (The DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--the official compendium of the conditions and syndromes that afflict humanity. If you want to get insurance coverage for your mental problem, it has to be in the DSM.)

So What?

Three areas comprise Internet addiction: excessive gaming; excessive preoccupation with (let's call them) basic drives; and excessive e-mail/texting. Each of these areas has three components: withdrawal symptoms; rising tolerance; and negative repercussions (as when relationships suffer or you start lying about your usage).

South Korea (which has had 10 cardiopulmonary-related deaths at Internet cafes) is out in front on investigating Internet addiction. As of 2006, an estimated 210,000 children are thought to have the condition; 80 percent of these are thought to require psychotropic medication. South Korea has also tried to address the issue with special camps(!) at which PCs are eschewed and healthy exercise encouraged.

But Internet addiction strikes me as being as hard to treat as TV addiction (surprise! there is such a beast)--the equipment necessary to indulge it is ubiquitous and the social pressure to use it immense. So if we do have a problem, the question is whether there's anything meaningful we can do about it. Maybe it just has to be accepted (as we accepted TV addiction) as an inevitable, if unattractive, facet of modern society. But take heart! It's nothing compared to what'll happen when we get consumer-grade direct brain stimulation. Apple iZap, anybody?

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