Are you one of the millions of people that are addicted to the Internet? You know who you are. You’re obsessed with your e-mail to the point that you forward things to yourself from five different e-mail accounts just to maintain the high of opening your inboxes. Your avatar’s marriage in a virtual world is more important then your real marriage, and you become incredibly depressed when your avatar’s wife leaves you for some younger European avatar. And you’ve stayed up until 5 AM in the morning refreshing the homepage just in case Renaisauce posts again (you can now rest).
Well, you may be relieved to know that what you have isn’t just a broadly recognized social and psychological problem. It’s also a medical problem.
An editorial published recently in the American Journal of Psychiatry, and reported on in New Scientist, says that Internet addiction should be considered a psychiatric disorder listed in DSM-V. Dr. Jerald Block, currently of Portland, OR, argues that addiction to any internet phenomenon constitutes part of a spectrum disorder that requires treatment. He pointed out that this is considered a major problem in Asian countries, but not as much is known about it in the US. As an example, he referenced reports about people playing games until they rolled over and died. He also said that people with a tendency to be addicted to online content usually have other addictive behaviors as well.
Now, the idea of Internet addiction is nothing new (the first South Korean who keeled over from gamer exhaustion was back in 2005, and the site “Internet Anonymous” was put up back in 1997, and has since been abandoned to allow car advertisers to post). But the push to make the condition medical is newer for us in the US. Putting it into the DSM is a way of making it a subject of national concern.
The really big question is this: does that make Internet content providers… drug dealers?
The answer would seem like “no”, since not all addictions come from illicit substances. Food addiction, for example, can’t exactly be regulated at the federal level. And gambling addiction, which works through the same self-reinforcing set of stimuli, has minimal legislation attached to it.
The quest is to find ways to help stop Internet addiction in a world that has become totally dependent on it for everyday activities. There’s no quiting cold turkey.
Maybe the answer is some kind of patch. What if there was an armband connected to your computer USB port. What if that band gave increasing electrical shocks with every 5 minutes of chatting or gameplay beyond an alloted amount (set by your therapist). It wouldn’t have to be painful, but maybe if you received enough stimulations you’d become physically unable to move your hands. Alternatively, if gaming is the addiction, perhaps goggles can be warn that give short bursts of light and bell sounds in smaller and smaller doses during the day. Oh, wait. That’s the same concept as the cell phone.
I put it to the readers. What’s the solution to curing internet addiction? Has anything worked for you? And how can you solve it in such a way that people can free themselves to a point but still have to come back to read blogs like this? That’s critical.