According to Dr. Jerald J. Block, M.D., in an editorial published on The American Journal of Psychiatry website, Internet addiction is an “increasingly commonplace compulsive-impulsive disorder” and should be included in psychiatry’s official guidebook of mental disorders, the DSM-V.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is an American psychiatric handbook that lists categories of mental disorders and the criteria for diagnosing them. Despite its controversy in certain quarters, controversy in part caused by a perceived need to add new mental illnesses, it is used worldwide by clinicians and researchers as well as insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers.
So how do you determine if you qualify as an Internet addict? Well according to Dr. Block’s statistics, if you exhibit any of the following symptoms while online or offline; excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations or excessive email or text messaging, you meet at least one or more of the criteria needed to establish Internet addiction.
Hold on now, before you become concerned with your “excessive email or text messaging”, (I wonder who defines excessive and under what circumstances), apparently you also must exhibit the following:
- Withdrawal – including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible. (I can see how some people might feel mildly depressed when their system goes down.)
- Tolerance – including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use. (I qualify here, although not necessarily in terms of hours of use.)
- Negative repercussions – including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue. (I might qualify here – there are days when I definitely get tired of looking at a computer screen.)
When I was reading this editorial, naturally I began to compare my normal daily email activity with that of my friends – I generally get up to 80 or more emails daily (excluding spam), and at least 35 or more frequently require a personal response. Is this excessive? Who says so? Should I be concerned that I might run the risk of becoming an Internet junkie?
I know I’m being facetious regarding my email, but there is a larger problem here.
My problem with this issue is not Dr Block’s research since he does go on to say that 86 per cent of “internet addicts” also have some other form of a mental disorder. I’m sure that mental illness is a complex and mystifying subject that includes a multitude of variables. My real problem is with those people who use, or more properly misuse, these types of studies to achieve their own ends.
There are always individuals/groups/organizations waiting in the wings ready to pounce with great gusto on established, or emerging technologies. It seems that computers/connected devices will continue to be the target of modern day Luddites – a term used to describe those opposed, in some form, to technological progress and technological change.
It seems to me that we are, more and more, motivated to become a guilt driven society with the result that we are often forced to second guess many aspects of our lives. On the other hand, there are those who will insist that Western civilization has historically always been guilt driven; perhaps those who hold this philosophy are right.
Interestingly in the footnotes to Dr Block’s article the following statement is appended: Dr. Block owns a patent on technology that can be used to restrict computer access. Dr. Freedman (who?) has reviewed this editorial and found no evidence of influence from this relationship.
It’s always important for us to remember that there are lies, dammed lies and then there are statistics.