According to Dr. Jerald 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 DSM-V (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, ( and why not? More “sick” people equals more money), 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, a family member or someone close to you qualifies as an Internet addict? How do you determine if its real?
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 “excessive email or text messaging”, (I wonder who defines excessive and under what circumstances), apparently you must also 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 – I do.)
Tolerance – including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use. (I qualify here, I am always upgrading to better equipment, and I test upwards of 400 applications annually.)
Negative repercussions – including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue. (I might qualify here – there are days when I definitely get fatigued, after hours 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 100 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 know that mental illness is a complex and mystifying subject that includes a multitude of variables. And mental illness is the issue that needs to be addressed here. Lets not confuse this important issue with the “red herring”, of Internet addiction.
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, has reviewed this editorial and found no evidence of influence from this relationship.
We now live in a highly reactive society; one in which there are individuals, groups, and organizations willing to find fault, in some form, with technological progress and technological change. Generally, for their own monetary gain. The Internet, and addiction, seems to be the flavor of the week.
I wonder if you, like me, have noticed the huge increase in television adds for addiction “cures”, or the number of reality television programs focused on addictions. Not surprisingly, these adds or television programs, do not deal with so called “Internet addiction”. Why would they – Internet addiction, as a standalone issue, is a myth. Mental illness leading to addiction is not.
It would be foolish to suggest that “Internet addiction” does not need to be studied more thoroughly – it does. We need to resolve this issue that the popular press would have us believe is a serious problem.
Or, is it that the media, for the sake of sensationalism, takes isolated instances of computer addiction (in their view), and creates a frenzy of concern that is unwarranted, and not supported by the facts? The media and the “facts” – an oxymoron if there ever was one!
Let me give you an example of the outrageous controversy (in the media), surrounding this contentious issue. The best way to illustrate this, is to offer you a recent quote published in the Toronto Star, from Dr. Bruce Ballon, a psychiatrist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.
“We’ve been receiving at least a couple of calls a week asking, ‘How do you deal with Internet addiction?” Ballon goes on to say, “(Society is) just starting to realize – oh my God, it’s so huge. This is why people have been afraid to open the doors.”
I think you’ll agree, there seems to be a major disconnect here. Consider, “a couple of calls a week” versus “oh my God, it’s so huge.”
I’m not a mathematician, but I do know this, given that Toronto is a city of 3 million people +, the number “two” is hardly “huge”. In fact, its not even significant. As my old English professor would say, this is “balderdash”. Or as my friends, who are much more down to earth would say, “what a load of bullshit”.
Despite the possible negative psychological effects of Internet usage for those who already struggle with some form of a mental disorder, overall, the many positive effects associated with the Internet would be hard to overstate.
It’s always important for us to remember that there are lies, dammed lies and then there are statistics.
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