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The Internet

Is Internet Addiction a Medical Condition? 227

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 dvice_null ( 981029 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @10:51AM (#17236346)
    You can be addicted to Internet as much as you can be addicted to paying your bills, talking with your friends, watching tv or playing games, because you can do all this on the Internet. How often do you hear that someone is addicted to talking with his/her friends?
  • by goldspider ( 445116 ) <ardrake79@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday December 14, 2006 @10:52AM (#17236370) Homepage
    Let's just save some time and determine every form of antisocial behavior to be a disease. That way when we fuck up, we don't have to blame it on our character flaws.

    It's the disease, ya know. I can't help it.
  • Perhaps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrother.optonline@net> on Thursday December 14, 2006 @10:55AM (#17236420) Journal

    Let's face it, people get addicted off of all sorts of things: alcohol, drugs, skydiving, mountain climbing, etc. Why should Internet use be any different? Especially if you find it useful to discover information about or talk to people with interests in something you yourself enjoy. And look at MMPORGs -- are you saying WoW doesn't suck large numbers of people in?

    But there's being addicted, and then there's it being a "disease." Frankly, I think B. F. Skinner would scoff at the notion. To him, everything was stimulus -> response -> reinforcement, and the more reinforcing an activity was, the more an organism would engage in it. It's not a "disease" as such, but something hard-wired into out neural make-up, and the Internet has the potential to tap into that just like anything else.

  • by bihoy ( 100694 ) * on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:04AM (#17236612)
    Obsessive Compulsive behavior can be exhibited for any activity. Even just tapping your foot.

  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:05AM (#17236628) Homepage
    Now really. Of course I wouldn't like being without internet access for several days, for the simple reason that a large part of my life is related to it somehow. With no internet I'd lose contact with many people, would find it much harder to find documentation for some of the work I do, etc.

    But isn't every specialist that way? I bet that my father would also feel uncomfortable if he couldn't play the viola for a few days. For me, the main theme in my life is internet and computers. For others it's a musical instrument, drawing, playing soccer, etc. Everybody feels uncomfortable when they're unable to do their favourite activity for a while.

    Even for "normal" people with no obsession with anything in particular it still works that way. When somebody's car breaks they're often grumpy while it's being fixed, as all of a sudden their freedom of movement got drastically reduced.

    There probably are people with serious problems, but I think most of the people don't have any addiction of any sort, they simply became dependent on it, like many people depend on their car or telephone. For them it just became an indispensable tool.
  • by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) * on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:07AM (#17236658) Journal
    They use a more rigorous standard than that: how many people make how much noise about whether it counts as a disease.

    For example, homosexuality was scientifically proven to be a disease before the 70's. Then because of enough protests, it became scientifically disproven. Likewise, fetishism is currently scientifically proven to be a disease, but if enough people raise a stink, that will count as scientific disproof.

    It works the other way too. Formerly it was scientfically proven that alcoholism isn't a disease; people just get drunk a lot. Then because of enough protests from people who didn't want to accept that their spouse is a lousy human being who values physical pleasure over their family, it became scientifically proven that it is a disease.

    Give 'em some credit.
  • comon... seriously (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SuperStretchy ( 1018064 ) <acatzr800&gmail,com> on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:15AM (#17236800)
    I think a lot of these addictions are not rather addictions, but a lack of self-control and discipline. While I'm not debating whether or not there exists such a thing or not, a lot of people claiming internet addiction do so for an excuse- for pills, for pity, for disability compensation.. etc.

    Time for all the "I DISAGREE!!!" replies!
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:22AM (#17236912) Homepage
    I was travelling in Japan for about a week of my three-week stay. The schedule was created by my Japanese host who failed to schedule any time for rest. I was unable to check my email. As I was separated not only from my laptop but from the internet at large, I found myself becoming quite edgy until finally, she brought me to a media cafe allowing me to check emails, browse a few sites and finally restore peace and balance to myself.

    While I am not sure I can fully understand the nature of addiction, I fear it. If by some chance, this was the sign of actual addiction, then I'm not sure what to do about it since it's an integral part of my work and my play. Many addictions stem, at least initially, from some sort of pleasure-rewarding recreational activity. In this case, it was more of a feeling of being cut off from a world or a life from which I get a certain level of comfort.

    As to internet "behavior"? I have a hard time seeing that as being anything other than actionable by an employer. An employer can refuse to hire or may fire someone for being addicted to drugs or anything else that may be deemed as objectionable in the workplace. I'd say porn is right up there on the list.

    The "medium" is one thing and the behavior is another. I think it's important to make that distinction.

    Adults are SUPPOSED to be accountable for their actions and inactions. This means that if they find themselves dangerously addicted to something, they are supposed to do something to remedy the condition. You don't just stop at labeling something as a disease and throw your hands in the air. In a previous posting, I discussed a time when I found myself missing work so that I could play a video game. (XWing vs. Tie Fighter in that instance.) When I realized what I was doing, I made changes. It's what adults are supposed to do and what we are supposed to be teaching our children so that they become good adults.

    So if someone is fired from their job for being addicted to drugs or alcohol, for being obese, for watching porn or chatting online at the office, then I think it's perfectly acceptable. I say this even though I am guilty of two of these offenses myself. I'm not willing to defend my own behavior by calling it a disease.
  • by NemosomeN ( 670035 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:25AM (#17236990) Journal
    I also think people tend to jump on the "let's call it a disease" bandwagon. I, personally, like being drunk. Does that make me an alcoholic?
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:38AM (#17237294)

    Whereas I do spend a signficant amount of time on the Internet, both at home and at work (and usually in connection with my work, in the latter case). But I could stop any time I wanted to. I know I could. I wouldn't even miss it much. Really, I could. Honest.

    Seriously, though, despite there being things I do miss when I'm away from the Net for a while, I have plenty of other things I enjoy doing off-line as well. I just spend more time doing those if there's no net connection around. My biggest concern with being off-line for several days is more the amount of spam I have to wade through when I get back, just in case there's something important in there. :o)

  • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:39AM (#17237334) Journal

    Yes, I find it hard to go without the internet for a few days. In fact, it was just about as bad as going without my eyes for a few days after surgery and, I imagine (though I've never had this happen) going without my ears. Of course, going without my eyes wasn't as bad as it might have been, because I had use of the internet before hand, and was thus able to gather a fair number of useful coping tips from other people who had had the same operation.

    The internet is "addicting" in the same way any other sense organ or sense-enhancing tool is addicting--once you are aware that there is a way to find out useful things about the world around you it can be very frustrating to have to live without it. For people who don't get it, I suggest removing all the mirrors from their cars for a few days to see how they like having to twist themselves into knots just to find out what's going on around them.


  • by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @11:59AM (#17237694) Journal
    I think they're making a mistake in isolating "internet addiction" as a particular disorder/neurosis/whatever. They need to lump it and a few hundred other "addictions" into one category called "behavioral addiction" or something like that. It's not a dependency on the internet, it's a dependency on the regular behavior, the same as a gambling addiction.

    We can call it the Just One More Disorder, because that phrase seems to characterize the behavior pretty well (and yes, I have issues with it myself, I've made myself late for work saying "five more minutes" one time too many)
  • by jadavis ( 473492 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:23PM (#17238192)
    The internet just happens to be what they latch on to. Some people delve into alcohol, some into gambling,

    Comparing internet and gambling addiction to alcohol addictions destroys the meaning of the word "addiction". If someone is "addicted" to the internet, or gambling, and you lock them in a room, they may get bored, anxious, etc.

    However, do the same thing to someone addicted to alcohol, and they might die. That's real addiction.

    These new kinds of "addictions" are really just habits, and not much more. "Habit" used to be a word, and the word was even applied to users of hard drugs in some cases, but now it's disappeared because it's not scary enough to get attention. Every habit has been elevated to the same level as addiction to attract research funds, shift blame away from people who make poor choices, and make better headlines.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:25PM (#17238240)
    I enjoy how psychology is one of the few fields that individuals without qualifications feel compelled to claim expertise. How often do we hear someone say, "I took Physics 101 and because of that, i have the qualifications to completely discredit the entire study of Physics"?

    People who only take Intro to Psych need to realize that a lot of Intro material is outdated and being taught for historical perspective. Study up on some people doing actual work in Psychology and you will realize that is more than a "bunch of philosophers"
  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:39PM (#17238506) Journal
    They were never scientifically proven to be anything. The definition of what was considered a disease was set and then things were checked against it. The definitions are what changed, not the scientific process. Being a drunk was considered normal and only the lower classes got drunk a lot so it wasn't worth analyzing. Then when they did start analyzing it they found physical effects, withdrawl and mental addiction.

    Look at what happened with Pluto, it was a planet, now it isn't. Did Pluto change? Of course not, it is the definition of what a planet is that has changed.
  • by SaberTaylor ( 150915 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:40PM (#17241058) Homepage Journal
    seriously. All those World of Warcraft addicts are on unsupervised computers at home. Tell me they aren't multitasking their online gaming addiction with masturbation at the computer? Sexual release is a very powerful drug: []
  • by BakaHoushi ( 786009 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .naeS.ssoG.> on Thursday December 14, 2006 @03:18PM (#17241924) Homepage
    Well, this is probably why I'm not going to be a psychology major.

    I do think my point stands, though. The Internet is not a physical addiction, and it's not all bad. The only harm from overuse of the Internet, for the most part, is the opportunity cost of what else you could be doing with that time (for example, exercise, socializing in person, working on a cure for cancer, etc.) And some time spent on the net has its benefits. Just as alcohol in small doses can have its benefits (IIRC).

    I think the key difference is all in substitutions. The Internet can be substituted. The Internet is merely a delivery system. Information, shopping, socializing, and, of course, pornography, are all available in other sources. With an addiction to nicotine and alcohol, there is no substitute. Going without these causes the person to go into withdrawal. So behavioral training vs. medication is probably a good place to start in defining something as a habit (bad or not) vs. an addiction.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost