Internet Addiction Center Opens in U.S.
Associated Press / AP Online
September 04, 2009
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.
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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.
Pies and Dr. Jerald Block, of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, said there is not enough research yet to justify that.
“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.
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“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.
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