Internet addiction center opens in US
Internet addiction is not recognized as a separate disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, and treatment is not generally covered by insurance. But there are many such treatment centers in China, South Korea and Taiwan — where Internet addiction is taken very seriously — and many psychiatric experts say it is clear that Internet addiction is real and harmful.
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According to Dr. Kimberly Young of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery in Bradford, Pa., addiction warning signs are being preoccupied with thoughts of the Internet; using it longer than intended, and for increasing amounts of time; repeatedly making unsuccessful efforts to control use; jeopardizing relationships, school or work to spend time online; lying to cover the extent of Internet use; using the Internet to escape problems or feelings of depression; physical changes to weight, headaches or carpal tunnel syndrome.Skip to next paragraph
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Exactly how to respond is being debated.
For instance, Internet addiction can be a symptom of other mental illness, such as depression, or conditions like autism, experts say.
“From what we know, many so-called `Internet addicts’ are folks who have severe depression, anxiety disorders, or social phobic symptoms that make it hard for them to live a full, balanced life and deal face-to-face with other people,” said Dr. Ronald Pies, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y.
“It may be that unless we treat their underlying problems, some new form of `addiction’ will pop up down the line,” Pies said.
There is debate about whether to include Internet addiction as a separate illness in the next edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” due in 2012, which determines which mental illnesses get covered by insurance.
“Among psychiatrists there is general recognition that many patients have difficulty controlling their impulses to chat online, or play computer games or watch porn,” Block said. “The debate is how to classify that.”
Cash, co-author of the book “Video Games & Your Kids,” first started dealing with Internet addiction in 1994, with a patient who was so consumed by video games that he had lost his marriage and two jobs.
Internet addicts miss out on real conversations and real human development, often see their hygiene, their home and relationships deteriorate, don’t eat or sleep properly and don’t get enough exercise, Rae said.
Alexander is a tall, quiet young man who always got good grades and hopes to become a biologist.
He started playing “World of Warcraft,” a hugely popular online multiplayer role playing game, about a year ago, and got sucked right in.
“At first it was a couple of hours a day,” he said. “By midway through the first semester, I was playing 16 or 17 hours a day.
“School wasn’t interesting,” he said. “It was an easy way to socialize and meet people.”
It was also an easy way to flunk out.
Alexander dropped out in the second semester and went to a traditional substance abuse program, which was not a good fit. He graduated from a 10-week outdoors-based program in southern Utah, but felt he still had little control over his gaming.
So he sought out a specialized program and arrived in Fall City in July. He thinks it was a good choice.
“I don’t think I’ll go back to `World of Warcraft’ anytime soon,” Alexander said.