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Is Internet Addiction a Medical Condition? 227

Posted by kdawson
from the depraved-on-accounta-he's-deprived dept.
PreacherTom writes "Arising from such cases as a recent lawsuit with IBM over employee termination due to online sex chatting at work, recent debate over whether Internet abuse is a legitimate addiction, akin to alcoholism, is heating up. From the article: 'Attorneys say recognition by a court — whether in this or some future litigation — that Internet abuse is an uncontrollable addiction, and not just a bad habit, could redefine the condition as a psychological impairment worthy of protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.' The condition could even make it into the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association's DSM, making it a full-blown neurosis. It wouldn't be a huge surprise, with a recent Stanford study showing that 14% of people state it would be 'hard to stay away from the Net for even a few days in a row."
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Is Internet Addiction a Medical Condition?

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  • by Vintermann (400722) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @10:56AM (#17236452) Homepage
    on this. I quote myself [paranoidkoala.org]:

    The official diagnosis systems ICD and DSM currently have identical criteria for addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs and tobacco. Addiction to gambling, sex, internet etc are not mentioned, but psychologists who care about these addictions obviously use equivalient definitions.
    The diagnosis systems mention 6-7 possible symptoms which can be classified into three groups:
    - increased tolerance and/or abstinence problems
    - signs of loss of control (strong craving/ compulsiveness or drinking more than planned or failed to cut down on use)
    - damaging effects (social, health or work-related)
    Currently no "symptoms" are mandatory. The addiction diagnosis demands that one has at least 3 of 6 symptoms through the previous year (ICD-10) or 4 of 7 at one point in life (DSM-IV). One does not need to have symptoms from all three groups, for instance is lack of control not a prerequsite.
    Compared to regular medical diagnoses, it's remarkable that the important boundary between healthy and ill is set at an arbitrarily chosen number of symptoms (3 out of 6 or 4 out of 7)
  • If it is, then.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by s31523 (926314) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @10:58AM (#17236502)
    ... so is masturbation. Seriously, though, come'on!
  • by nyctopterus (717502) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:18AM (#17236842) Homepage
    Err, no. None of the things were scientifically proven to be diseases, they were defined that way. Alcoholism is not considered a disease in psychology.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:27AM (#17237020)

    Except that by definition you can't scientifically prove anything. All you can do scientifically is advance a theory and show that is supported by experimental evidence available at the time. That's kinda the point of science: it's only as good as the evidence underlying it, and as new evidence comes to light, theories can and should be revised or dropped if this is what the evidence supports.

  • Who cares! (Score:3, Informative)

    by balsy2001 (941953) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:30AM (#17237096)
    So what if it is an addiction. If you are addicted to drugs you get fired from your job. If you can't keep yourself from surfing the net the whole day you get fired. End of story.
  • by hey! (33014) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:43PM (#17238596) Homepage Journal

    ADD is one of the most overdiagnosed conditions I can think of.


    Not having access to your mind, I can't dispute that.


      Most people with it are just lazy undisiplined fools


    Not having access to an accurate epidemiological study, I can't dispute that either. But I suspect that many "lazy undisciplined fools" _do_ have ADHD, at least if they are underperforming and not simply stupid.

    ADHD is not about focus. It's about the stability of attention.

    Let me give you the benfit of my personal experience. I have been diagnosed with ADHD without the H. Laziness has never been my problem. I have always been capable of tremendous feats of concentration. I could wrestle with difficult problems hours on end. In a crisis, I had a reputation for cool and collected decision making.

    But when you have ADHD, it's the easy things that are hard.

    Attention is the sustained coordination of the mind towards some end. There is a "pass band" for stimulation, below which attention wanders, above which it falls apart. For ADHD people, this pass band is very high, high enough that we can't stay on task except in conditions where other people would be paralyzed by overstimulation.

    Before I was on meds, I sometimes found myself looking at the start menu and wondering why I had popped it.I would often forget what I wanted to say in the middle of a sentence. I had a reputation for gruffness, because I was always pressuring people to get to the point. What I wanted to pay attention to had absolutely nothing to do with what I could. The degree of chaos, fear, or interest a task involved was everything.

    There is an element of foolishness in ADHD, because you get into deeply engrained habits whose effect is to maintain a high level of brain stimulation. For some people this means seeking risk. For others it means seeking conflict. And for still others, this mean seeking interesting things learn. Addictive Internet behavior is a huge problem for the last group. It's also hard to get started on a task that looks boring, because long years of experience teach you that you aren't really going to accomplish anything on it.

    ADHD isn't disease like the epilepsy, in which the brain functions break down. It is part of the natural range of human variability. What makes it a disease is that people who have it can't function in society. If society were organized differently, it wouldn't be a disease. However, the society I live in requires that I pay my own bills, pick up my own clothes, remember my own promises and appointments, get myself to work on time, and listen attentively to people who take forever to get to the point.

  • by Froboz23 (690392) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:42PM (#17241110)
    IAAP, or at least I have a psychology degree.

    I would agree that some people are more prone to addictive behavior than others, and that the addictive people need help when their addiction gets to the point that it is interfering with their quality of life. Calling this addiction "Internet addiction" does sound more like a flashy news headline. However, in terms of treatment, the specific focus of the addiction obviously plays a factor. The therapy in this case would be two fold. First, you'd have to concentrate on reducing the patient's specific addiction, in this case to the internet. Then, you'd have to focus on the core addictive tendencies, so that the patient wouldn't just switch from internet addiction to some other addiction.

    For clarification, your analogy of a child cleaning excessively is probably a bad example. Compulsive cleaning falls under obsessive compulsive behavior. [wikipedia.org] OCD behaviors appear to have a physiological basis, at least in part. OCD also differs from internet addiction in that the behavior is often irrational, and provides no benefit to the individual. An internet addict at least gets some actual benefit out of his activities, by learning new things, or making friends online. A person that cleans their room for 5 hours straight gets no benefit, other than the misattributed pleasure of the cleaning experience, because their room was probably already completely organized and spotless when they started cleaning. In OCD cases that involve hand washing, the person will often wash their hands raw, resulting in injury and possible infection.

    Pharmacological therapies are the most effective at helping OCD patients, combined with behavioral or cognative therapy. Internet addiction, on the other hand, would probably not require any medication, and could be resolved directly through behavioral or cognative therapy.
  • by Cryssen (959305) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:50PM (#17241294)
    You're now confusing the word addiction (the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma) with dependence (being abnormally tolerant to and dependent on something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming) The word habit is still out there, and means hat it always did. A Habit is something you do just because you usually do it. An addiction is compulsory, I leave the toilet seat up out of habit, not because I'm addicted to leaving the toilet seat up.
  • by R2.0 (532027) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @03:46PM (#17242482)
    "This is the first time I've ever heard that people can die from alcohol withdrawl."

    Look up "delirium tremens". Never mind, I'll do it for you.

    From Wikipedia:

    "Five percent of acute ethanol withdrawal cases progress to delirium tremens[1]. Unlike the withdrawal syndrome associated with opiate or stimulant addiction, delirium tremens (and alcohol withdrawal in general) can be fatal. Mortality can be up to 35% if untreated, though if treated early, death rates may be as low as 5%."

    It sounds like you abuse alcohol, or are a "problem drinker". You are most likely NOT an alcoholic ,or you wouldn't describe going dry for a few weeks as "no problem". However, since you know so little about the disease from which you profess to suffer, I suggest you increase your alcohol content until you are actually addicted, and THEN do a cold turkey withdrawal - alone. If you survive the DT's, perhaps you will think twice about shooting your mouth off about something about which you obviously have little knowledge. If you die, not only will you add knowledge to your little part of the world (for a short time anyway), you will make the world a better place by removing yourself from it.
  • by udderly (890305) * on Thursday December 14, 2006 @05:07PM (#17244072)
    Probably nitpicking but barbiturate withdrawal can apparently also be fatal.

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