Internet addiction, a possible new medical disorder

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Logging in to check email or the latest tweets several times a day is behavior that would likely never be classed as a disorder of any kind by most people, but that might all change soon enough.

In a recent decision, the American Psychiatric Association listed Internet Usage Disorder as a condition requiring further study in deciding if it shall be classed as a mental disorder for future diagnosis, according to the APA’s site.

“Everywhere you go, you see people on the phone or Internet,” said 19-year-old economics major Justin Vang. “Even at home with their family they’re on the phone.”

The APA lists possible IUD symptoms as: preoccupation with Internet gaming, withdrawal symptoms when Internet is taken away, increased time online as tolerance builds, continued use when knowing the negative effects, loss of interests outside of the Internet and using the Internet to escape.

Another possible symptom provided by the APA includes lying to family or friends about the amount of time on the Internet. Also losing or jeopardizing a relationship or career for the Internet is included.

IUD would be classified under drug and substance abuse and addictions, cementing it as an addiction should the APA research prove it to be a diagnosable disorder.

“I think it could be a disorder if people aren’t social and on Facebook all the time,” said Khrystina Defazio, a 21-year-old anthropology major. “But mainly it’s just part of our society.”

Defazio also said that classing it as an addiction or disorder should be based on or determined on a person’s personality.

“I think it is an addiction,” said 27-year-old biology major Monica Benegas. “They [excessive Internet users] are not fully using their brains. They’re just going the easy way and getting addicted.”

Mike Kyrios, a professor at Swinburne University of Technology and one of the authors behind the inclusion of the IUD amendment, told the Sydney Morning Herald that he is formally pushing for the expanding of IUD beyond just gaming.

“With kids, gaming is an obvious issue,” Kyrios said to the SMH. “But overall, technology use could be a potential problem.”

In a world that has seen an increase in technology use and options, a distinction between addiction and common everyday use is not as cut and dry to some.

“I don’t know so much a disorder but you could say it’s an addiction,” Vang said. “I think
now it’s just a way of life.”

Psychiatrist Rhoshel Lenroot, the child psychiatry chairman at the University of New South Wales, told the SMH that it’s too early to know the detrimental effects of technology overuse.

“I think [it] can be dangerous in not learning how to pay attention in a focused way,” Lenroot said in the SMH article. “But in balance there is nothing wrong with technology.”

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