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April 11, 2015
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This online news article reports that psychiatrists are "studying" whether
excessive use of the Internet may qualify as an (activity) "addiction." See
my comments after the article. - Peter
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Internet use disorder will be listed in the
new edition of the DSM
It's official. After months of debate and
study, the next edition of the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual for Mental
Disorders (DSM) will include "internet use
disorder" as an area "recommended for
further study." The fifth edition of the
DSM, the standard for classifying and
diagnosing mental illness, is due out in May
2013, and the consideration of including
internet addiction has raised many eyebrows.
This doesn't mean you'll be sent to a
psychologist's couch if you spend a couple
hours online every day. However, it does
there will likely be more investigations
into why and how people spend so much time
on the internet. It is possible that
it will become classified as a diagnosable
mental illness in the future.
There is research showing that
the internet can indeed act like a drug,
and use of social networks
has been linked with depression.
Even the leaders of many popular online
games and networks have recognized the
unplugging on occasion. But the
idea of a professional organization
attempting to codify and criticize something
that feels so personal as time spent surfing
the web has understandably given some folks
the creeps. We'd recommend that you take
honest stock of your online time. If it's
not interfering with your work or personal
life, you're probably not going to be
diagnosed as an addict any time soon.
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Several things about this article are worth noting:
First, it is another example of the popular media's widespread use of the
obsolete, misleading term "mental illness."
Second, this report promotes the traditional misconception that "addiction"
is a "mental illness." It is a psychological condition,
not an illness or "character flaw." Compulsive toxic
behaviors like the
are unconscious attempts to mute and/or distract from chronic inner pain:
e.g. significant shame, guilt, hurt, confusion, and despair.
In my clinical opinion, typical "mental-health" professionals and the media
are unaware of this, and continue to see
addictions (toxic compulsions) as "an illness." This promotes
anxiety ("I'm sick - I have a disease.") and shame ("addicts are bad!")
- which increase inner pain.
After three decades of clinical research, I now believe that
chronic inner pain is a symptom
of early-childhood neglect, abandonment, and abuse ("trauma"). These
occur because even well-educated parents inherit toxic [psychological
from their ancestors, and unintentionally
to their kids.
Third, this report illustrates how slowly psychiatric knowledge is codified
and published to the public. It also implies the difficulty in
professionals' agreeing on meaningful criteria to judge how much use of the
Internet is significantly harmful to
question has already been answered by psychiatrists in diagnosing other
activity addictions like workaholism and compulsive gambling.
Fourth, it's outside the scope of this brief Tecca report to include any lay
and professional opinions on what to do about preventing or
reducing (a) inner pain, and (b) excessive dependency on Internet usage (or
any toxic compulsion).
A useful extension of this article would be to survey how average "Web
addicts" rationalize their dependency and how they may attempt to
self-regulate it. It would also be useful to study how typical Web-addiction
affects typical marriages and family functioning.
Peter Gerlach, MSW
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