Addiction Sameness

Alcohol, Opiates, Fat and Sugar are all Addictive Substances: this blog is about that "addiction sameness".

Monday, November 23, 2015

How to Be a Video Game Athlete on College Scholarship

PHOTO: Students on the eSports team at Robert Morris University in Illinois.

What It's Like to Be a Video Game Athlete on College Scholarship

Courtesy Kurt Melcher
Students on the eSports team at Robert Morris University in Illinois.
Students are getting paid to game at an Illinois university, and the school says 
the first season of its eSports team is such a success that the program will definitely 
continue next year. 

There are 35 students on the eSports team at Robert Morris University in Aurora, 
the first school to categorize playing video games as a varsity sport, even offering 
scholarship funds for the "athletes." The team meets every weekday for practice
between 4 and 9 p.m., with an hour break for dinner, and competitions are every 
Saturday, the school's associate athletic director Kurt Melcher told ABC News. 

"It's going great so far," Melcher said, adding that the team's practices are just 
"like any other sport." 

"The coaches set up different scrimmages, different presentations on tactics," he said. 
"And the same dedication is required."
PHOTO: Robert Morris University Eagles Athletics posted this photo to Twitter, Sept. 22, 2014. 
Robert Morris University Eagles Athletics posted this photo
 to Twitter, Sept. 22, 2014.
The eSports athletes are expected to go to class just like any other student, he said.
"The difference is that when they finish class, they walk fourteen steps over
the arena for practice instead of going to the gym," Melcher said. 

The high-end gaming arena was built specifically for the eSports team, which 
was announced this summer. Melcher said the school got more than 
100 applicationsfor the 35 spots, and players get up to a 50-percent scholarship 
covering tuition and room and board. 

The eSports athletes play "League of Legends" and battle club teams from other universities every Saturday.
PHOTO: Students on the eSports team at Robert Morris University in Illinois. 
Courtesy Kurt Melcher
Students on the eSports team at Robert Morris University in Illinois.
"You play a best-of-three series of the games. It's all obviously done online," 
Melcher said. "You record the game, and send the recordings into the league. 

Each game lasts about 25 to 30 minutes." 

So far, Robert Morris' gamers are undefeated. 

But some critics take issue with the school’s encouraging students to play 
video games.
"We are promoting something that's clinically addictive," said Kimberly 
 Young, a New York psychologist who studies Internet addiction. 
"So I think we need to be very cautious." 

"Korea has over 500 inpatient hospitals in their country dealing with this 
 she added. "They have national screening days for children to look at 
gaming addiction and Internet addiction. There's obviously a problem. 
And here we have American schools that are going to give you money 
to come game?"
PHOTO: Students on the eSports team at Robert Morris University in Illinois. 
Courtesy Kurt Melcher
Students on the eSports team at Robert Morris University in Illinois.
Melcher said he thinks gaming is fine as long as students maintain a "life balance."
"Our coaches will be on them to make sure they go to class and do what they need 
to do to be successful," he said. "I think this gives them purpose, and they're 
doing what they want to do, what they're passionate about. I don't want anyone to 
play fourteen hours of a game. I think finding that balance is important."

Center for Internet Addiction by a pioneer in the field, Dr. Kimberly Young

Center for Internet Addiction

Growing Epidemic

What is Internet addiction and how much time online is too much?

How young is too young for children to go online?

What can you do to better manage your technology use in your daily life? I address these questions and more in my first TED talk.

I launched the first study on Internet addiction in 1995, I wrote “Caught in the Net” in 1998, the first book to treat Internet addiction, and I have worked ever since to develop and discuss research and treatment for this rapidly evolving problem.

Signs of Internet Addiction
Meeting 5 of the criteria of the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ) means you are addicted.
  1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
  2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
  3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
  4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
  5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
  6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
  7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
  8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
Other Symptoms Include:
  • Failed attempts to control behavior
  • Neglecting friends and family
  • Neglecting sleep to stay online
  • Being dishonest with others
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online behavior
  • Weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities
Read about my first novel, The Eighth Wonder
Look at my blog for my novel at

What you need to know about internet addiction 

 Dr. Kimberly Young

Published on Jan 5, 2015
This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. We are all a bit too connected to our smartphones and web-connected devices.

Dr. Young helps identify warning signs of Internet addiction and what we can do to manage technology in our daily lives.

She also asks “How young is too young?” for screen time, warning parents about the dangers of technology use in children as young as two.

She offers strategies for how we can build “Screen Smart” schools, and introduces her new 3-6-9-12 Parenting Guidelines for managing tech use at home.

Psychologist Dr. Kimberly Young launched the first study on internet addiction in 1995, wrote "Caught in the Net" in 1998, and has worked ever since to develop and discuss research and treatment for a rapidly evolving problem.

Young is a professor at St. Bonaventure University and founder and director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery in Bradford, Pa.

She founded the first inpatient clinic for Internet addiction recovery in the United States at the Bradford Regional Medical Center.

Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USAToday, CNN, Fox News, Good Morning America, MSNBC News, and The Today Show.


Center for Internet Addiction(Blog)

Your resource for treating Internet addiction since 1995.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

How ISIS uses video games to recruit children

ISIS has been recruiting in new and strategic ways using video games to lure in children and teenagers. Game players in general can utilize ISIS-based games to recruit soldiers.
ISIS supporters are distributing a sickening video game that allows users to play the role of Islamic extremists on a mission to murder Westerners.

Supporters of the terror group, which has brought rape and massacre to vast swathes of Syria and Iraq, have modified the popular video game ARMA III to create characters based on ISIS militants.

Also, thanks to ISIS, the successful video game franchise Grand Theft Auto now has an unauthorized sequel in its series: “Grand Theft Auto: Salil al-Sawarem (Clang of Swords).”

The ISIS bootleg features the same carjacking, pistol-whipping mayhem-entertainment as the original, but now players detonate roadside bombs and execute Iraqi police officers.

Of late, ISIS has combined brutality with social media acumen to become one of the most feared and reviled organizations on earth in recent months, publicly releasing videos of beheadings of American and British hostages in addition to broadcasting other unspeakable acts of violence.

Their latest video isn’t that horrific or extreme, but it is three and a half minutes of Grand Theft Auto 5, cut and edited in a way to try and recruit new, young members into the extremist organization.

The video uses clips from Grand Theft Auto 5 to demonstrate that they “do the things you do in games, in real life on the battlefield,” according to a loose translation of the introductory text.

Children who play violent video games may experience an increase in aggressive thoughts, which in turn, could boost their aggressive behavior.

Studies have shown children who played a lot of violent video games showed an increase in aggressive behavior — such as hitting, shoving and pushing — meanwhile, those who decreased the amount of time they spent playing violent video games saw a decrease violent behavior.
Children and adolescents who play a lot of violent games change over time, they start to see aggressive solutions as being more reasonable.

The games were created to "raise the morale of the Mujahideen, and the training of children and young teenagers to fight the West, and throw terror into the hearts of opponents of the state," according to Egyptian news weekly El Fagr.
According to Arabic journalists, the concern is that these images turn into recruitment propaganda aimed to train children and youth how to battle the West and to strike terror into the hearts of those who oppose the Islamic State. 

The fear is that children are already vulnerable to developing aggressive behaviors after excessive game play and those who suffer from addiction are even more susceptible to developing harmful attitudes and violence against Western cultures.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Should video games be considered a collegiate sport? I say No…

Last week, I was flying home from Germany where I met with my research colleagues at the University of Duisburg-Essen. We held an entire symposium on Internet addiction including cybersex addiction, social media addiction, and Internet gaming addiction – an especially potent addiction in countries such as Korea, China, and Taiwan.

Imagine my surprise when, while waiting at the airport to catch my plane, I saw a story on CNN about Robert Morris University in Aurora, Illinois becoming the first school to categorize playing video games as a varsity sport, even offering scholarship funds for the "athletes."

The team meets every weekday for practice between 4 and 9 p.m., with an hour break for dinner, and competitions are every Saturday, according to Kurt Melcher, the school's associate athletic director.
That day, I was being interviewed by ABC News for a story on Candy Crush Saga, when I told the reporter about my deep concerns over video games being considered an athletic sport, she followed up with a story, What It's Like to Be a Video Game Athlete on College Scholarship.
Given the research on Internet gaming, in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association included Internet Gaming Addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a new condition for further study.

Other studies have repeatedly documented that what begins as a recreational activity can easily turn into an addictive problem. For instance, in an effort to curb video game addiction among youth, South Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has implemented a sort of gaming "curfew" that will block underage users from accessing online computer games after midnight.
Studies have shown video games feed the brain’s reward centers in a similar way that drugs or alcohol produce an appealing “high.” Further studies have shown that gamers quickly lose themselves in these virtual worlds and their behavior has serious consequences. This summer I met Valerie Veatch, the producer and director of the HBO documentary “Love Child,” a film about a South Korean couple who had let their 3-month-old daughter starve to death while they spent up to 12 hours a day playing “Prius Online” at a local internet cafe. At a special preview of the documentary that we both attended, she said, “They were unable to distinguish the virtual world from the real world.”
These problems are not only seen in Korea, China was one of the first countries in the world to label overuse of the Internet a clinical condition and in response the Chinese government has created treatment facilities to detox and cure teenagers of their addictions to online life.
So, should American colleges view video games as an eSport? The problem of video game addiction isn’t as simple as playing too much or really enjoying video games. At the Center for Internet Addiction, a U.S. firm, we see addicted gamers who are more than twice as likely to have ADD/ADHD, get into more physical fights, and have health problems caused by long hours of game play (e.g., hand and wrist pain, poor hygiene, irregular eating habits). Many need treatment to improve their academic performance and return to normal functioning.
We find treatment for video game addicts to be very difficult because addicted gamers need to spend more time and money on video games to feel the same “high,” skipping out on responsibilities like household chores or homework to play games, excessive thinking about game play, trying to play less and failing, and stealing games or money to play. In their eyes, they don’t see this behavior as an addiction.

Although the U.S. is lagging behind countries like South Korea, which boasts more than 100 clinics to treat video game addiction, there should great concern about American colleges deeming video games as sport. It is important that we first understand the impact of these games on our youth. While video games can be fun and entertaining, I continue to hear from families who are struggling because of a child's gaming habits. What may seem like a competitive sport could be masking a deeper problem. 
Posted by

Dr. Kimberly Young is a pioneer in the field

Supposedly. Korea is ahead of America in addressing this probem:

South Korea online gaming addiction rehab centers ...
Mar 25, 2015 - Korea's internet addiction crisis is getting worse, as teens spend up to 88 ... When Shea asked him if he had a back-up career plan, the young ...
Aug 1, 2011 - Media captionInternet gaming has gripped South Korea's youth ... camp in the hills is an attempt to prevent internet addiction, rather than cure it.
Jun 10, 2015 - These problems are not only seen in Korea, China was one of the first ... a comprehensive Master Plan to prevent and treat Internet addiction.
You visited this page on 22/11/15.

Internet Addiction Disorder - Learn more about this new ...
Mar 26, 2014 - For instance, in Korea, they are a leader in this field as they are the first to have established a comprehensive Master Plan to prevent and treat ...

Internet Addiction: Neuroscientific Approaches and ...

Christian Montag, ‎Martin Reuter - 2015 - ‎Technology & Engineering
13.4 Internet Addiction Response Program in Korea The Internet addiction ... Third, the plan should extend services to encompass post-treatment outcome ...
Jan 17, 2015 - Internet addiction in South Korea is so severe that state-funded treatment centres are now available. ... While internet addiction treatments in the UK look set to remain in private clinics for .... Rollercoaster landing for UK plane.

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South Korea Expands Aid for Internet Addiction

Internet Addiction
Part of the series Studies in Neuroscience, Psychology and Behavioral Economics 
 pp 219-233

The Korean National Policy for Internet Addiction

  • Young-Sam Koh
The Korean Government was the first in the world to develop a national policy to tackle the problem of Internet addiction. For this reason, it has received global attention. To combat the problem of Internet addiction, Korea has established specific laws and systems; a governance system is administrated in government offices, and a “master plan” (revised at three year intervals) has been developed. In addition to these measures, many practical spheres of counseling and treatment have also been established. Examples of Korea’s efforts to tackle the problem of Internet addiction include the development of the evaluation scale for Internet addiction, an extensive counseling program, and treatment systems linked to hospital care. This study comprehensively outlines Korea’s national policy on Internet addiction.


South Korea Expands Aid for Internet Addiction

SUWON, South Korea — Neither had a job. They were shy and had never dated anyone until they met through an online chat site in 2008. They married, but they knew so little about childbearing that the 25-year-old woman did not know when her baby was due until her water broke.

But in the fantasy world of Internet gaming, they were masters of all they encountered, swashbuckling adventurers exploring mythical lands and slaying monsters. Every evening, the couple, Kim Yun-jeong and her husband, Kim Jae-beom, 41, left their one-room apartment for an all-night Internet cafe where they role-played, often until dawn. Each one raised a virtual daughter, who followed them everywhere, and was fed, dressed and cuddled — all with a few clicks of the mouse.

On the morning of Sept. 24 last year, they returned home after a 12-hour game session to find their actual daughter, a 3-month-old named Sa-rang — love in Korean — dead, shriveled with malnutrition.

In South Korea, one of the world’s most wired societies, addiction to online games has long been treated as a teenage affliction. But the Kims’ case has drawn attention to the growing problem here of Internet game addiction among adults.

Sa-rang, born prematurely and sickly, was fed milk two or three times a day — before and after her parents’ overnight gaming and sometimes when her father woke up during the day, prosecutors said. The baby died “eyes open and her ribs showing,” said the couple’s lawyer, Kim Dong-young.

After six months on the run, they were arrested in March and charged with negligent homicide. On Friday they were sentenced to two years in prison, but the judge suspended Ms. Kim’s sentence because she was seven months pregnant and he said she needed some “mental stability.”
“I am sorry for being such a bad mother to my baby,” Ms. Kim said, sobbing, during the couple’s trial.

Thanks partly to government counseling programs, the estimated number of teenagers with symptoms of Internet addiction has steadily declined, to 938,000 in 2009, from more than a million in 2007, the Ministry of Public Administration and Safety said in April.

But the number of addicts in their 20s and 30s has been increasing, to 975,000 last year. Many of these adult addicts grew up with online games and now resort to them when they are unemployed or feeling alienated from society, said Dr. Ha Jee-hyun, a psychiatrist at Konkuk University Hospital.

This development and a recent string of cases like that of the Kims have prompted the government to announce plans to open rehabilitation centers for adult addicts and expand counseling for students and the unemployed, groups considered the most vulnerable to compulsive gaming.

“Unlike teenagers, these grown-ups don’t have parents who can drag them to counselors,” Dr. Ha said. He treats an average of four adults a month for an addiction to online games, he said. Two years ago, it was one a month.

More than 90 percent of South Korean homes are fitted with high-speed Internet connections. Nearly every street corner has a computer parlor with computers available for a fee. In these dim, 24-hour-a-day establishments, “the line blurs between reality and the virtual world,” said Jung Young-chul, a psychiatrist at Yonsei University.

Especially popular among adult players are large multiplayer online role-playing games.
In these games, players form alliances and wage battles that can last for days, with players operating in shifts to keep the action. The more time a player spends online, the more powerful the game character — and the player’s online status — becomes.

Cyberbattles can spill into the real world. There have been several reports of players tracking down and attacking others for killing the online characters they had identified with for years.

If the games are addictive, they are also highly commercial. “Items” — cyberweapons, outfits and special abilities acquired through gaming that strengthen their owners’ combat prowess — are traded for real money online. Such trades were valued at more than $1.2 billion last year.

Park Ki-hoon and his wife, Choi Jin-hee, both 37, run a swimsuit shop by day and play online games at night. During the winter off-season, Mr. Park said, he has played up to 18 hours a day and won up to $2,400 a month, enough to cover the rent on the couple’s shop.

If Mr. Park knows how to juggle his offline and online lives, many do not.

In February, a 22-year-old man was arrested and accused of killing his mother for nagging him about his obsessive playing. In the same month, a 32-year-old man dropped dead of exhaustion in a computer parlor after playing through the five-day Lunar New Year holiday. “Some jobless men come here in hope of a financial breakthrough,” said Hong Seong-in, the owner of a computer parlor.
South Korea promotes online games, with exports growing by 50 percent, according to the government, to $1.5 billion last year — by far South Korea’s single largest cultural export item. Its games are hugely popular in China and other Asian countries.

Although the country has become one of the first to address Internet addiction, little help is available for adults.

Computer parlor owners and game buffs assert that compulsive playing has actually been decreasing as the prices of items fall.

Enterprising players in South Korea and China have been running “item factories,” where hundreds of computers are programmed to play the games without human users for the sole purpose of generating items for cash.

“Online games are a culture,” Mr. Park said. “To me, people who hike or fish are as crazy as they think I am.”

Technology addiction - how should it be treated?


CrackBerry is a nickname for the BlackBerry handheld device. The nickname reflects the compelling nature of the BlackBerry, which allows the user to get and send email messages anywhere with wireless coverage. (The "Crack" part of the nickname is a reference to the highly-addictive street drug.)
  Webster's New World College Dictionary selected "CrackBerry" as its New Word of the Year for 2006.

MNT - Hourly Medical News Since 2003
Technology addiction - how should it be treated?

Last updated: Tuesday 1 September 2015

To what extent technology addiction or Internet addiction can be considered a genuine medical disorder is contentious. The term has been in popular use since the mid-1990s but is still not fully recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Now, as technology addiction clinics open across many countries in an attempt to ween citizens off their smartphones and computers, we look at some of the arguments surrounding this most modern of addictions.

Earlier this month, India became the latest country to sign up to what some concerned nations are depicting as a war on an addiction that has their youth in its grip. In Bangalore, India's "silicon capital," the country's premier mental health hospital has opened its first "technology de-addiction clinic."

In doing so, India has joined South Korea, China, Taiwan and Singapore in using dedicated technology addiction clinics to confront what many Asian-Pacific cultures consider to be a growing public health problem.

This picture is becoming a sign of the times. But, is addiction to technology becoming a genuine problem?

Doctors at the Bangalore clinic, run by the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (Nimhans), told The Indian Express that, typically, the patients being referred are children whose parents are concerned either by a sharp academic decline or their child withdrawing from family interactions.

"Parents lament that their son or daughter is spending far too much time on the smartphone, or posting numerous photos on Facebook, or complaining of anxiety, loneliness and boredom when denied use of the device," Dr. Manoj Kumar Sharma, one of the doctors running the Nimhans clinic, told the paper.

The symptoms and nature of this perceived addiction vary from case to case but hinge around a perceived excessive engagement with a user's smartphone, the Internet or social networking sites that comes at the expense of their mental well-being. Persistent checking of instant messaging apps and frequent changing of status updates - as well as the notorious uploading of "selfies" - are linked in addiction cases to insomnia, depression and social withdrawal.

As these kind of treatment centers are yet to reach many Western countries, the act of admitting a child to a clinic for spending too much time on Facebook or playing with their smartphone may sound excessive.

However, in India, the launch of the clinic appeared timely - in the same week the Nimhans center opened, Indian newspapers were reporting a case of a 13-year-old who hanged herself after her mother asked her to delete her Facebook account.

Schools concerned about the popularity of texting, selfies and multi-player online games have also been seeking help from the clinic. Some have asked for Nimhans staff to train their student counsellors, or hold awareness camps and screening and rehabilitation programs for addicted students.

A year-long study by the Indian Council for Medical Research published in 2013 corroborates the parental and educational concerns, claiming that among its 2,750 participants there was an "alarming" rate of technology dependence.

Technology addiction 'epidemic' in Asia-Pacific and the treatment response

The Asia-Pacific region - home to the what are considered the "gold star" Internet de-addiction centers and treatment programs - is said to boast the world's highest level of smartphone penetration, with Singapore and Hong Kong at the top, according to media monitoring firm Nielsen's 2013 report.

In Singapore, 87% of a population of 5.4 million own smartphones. By contrast, the US has a smartphone prevalence of 65% - which is considered low by the Asia-Pacific standard. Citizens of Singapore are also more indulgent users of social media, spending an average of 38 minutes per session on Facebook - about twice as long as the average American session.

Singapore has been the site of some of the world's most pro-active technology addiction campaigns. A major "cyber wellness" education program targeting pre-school children is about to be launched, and the "Put it on friend mode" campaign from Nanyang Technological University - which encouraged smartphone users to put their phones away while with loved ones - apparently drew major support.

Medical News Today asked Dr. Adrian Wang, a psychiatrist at the Gleneagles Medical Centre in Singapore, why he believes social media use has twice the impact in that country compared with the US. He considers the problem to be largely one of access to technology from an increasingly young age.

"Many young Singaporean kids already have access to a smartphone or device," Dr. Wang says. "The habit grows from there."

"Many Singaporean kids - from as young as 7 or 8 - already have access to a smartphone or device," he says. "The habit grows from there. By their teens, most kids are pretty tech-savvy, and a combination of peer influence (everybody's on Facebook or Whatsapp) and ease of access (cheap mobile devices) means everyone's glued to their smartphone at some point of the day."

A standard treatment program at one of the dedicated technology addiction clinics in Singapore is based around cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Dr. Wang explains that the first step is to identify triggers for excessive Internet, social media or technology use - such as boredom or stress. Next, learned automatic responses - such as using the smartphone to relieve anxiety - are challenged and reversed.

"At a deeper level, exploring their thoughts and beliefs about anxiety and how they handle it is crucial," he says. "Like dealing with an addictive behavior, it's a long process and there may be ups and downs before long-term improvements are achieved. Medications are rarely used."


 The US and the origins of 'Internet addiction disorder'

CBT is also the cornerstone of the therapy offered by Dr. Kimberley Young, the leading Internet addiction therapist and author in the US. Dr. Young founded the website in 1995 - the same year that the phrase "Internet addiction disorder" was coined in an essay by the New York-based psychiatrist Dr. Ivan Goldberg.

Dr. Goldberg's "Internet addiction disorder" was actually a hoax - he was attempting to satirize the the Amerlcan Psychiatric Association's psychiatry textbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), by applying criteria from DSM's gambling addiction to the Internet - which was something of a novelty in 1995.

But many readers of Goldberg's essay took the proposition seriously, with some Internet early adopters posting serious accounts of their own perceived addiction online and informal Internet addiction groups springing up on university campuses.

Dr. Young was arguably the first psychiatrist to take Goldberg's premise of Internet addiction seriously and mounted a campaign for the disorder to be included in the next edition of the DSM.

It took until 2013 and the publication of DSM-5 before an Internet-related disorder - "Internet gaming addiction" - was included. "Which is a major achievement," Dr. Young told us.

"We also don't have government-based health care, so in the US any new disorder is more of a grass roots effort to get it established," Dr. Young says.

"I see this as the normal development for the DSM," she reasons. "It takes years of research to establish new disorders. Just look how long substance dependence - such as alcoholism - or pathological gambling or eating disorders took to get in the DSM. Plus all the research done on Internet addiction used a variety of methods and measurements, so it was unclear if we were all studying the same phenomenon."

The inclusion of an Internet-related addiction in the DSM may encourage psychiatrists to diagnose patients with a form of "Internet addiction" - a labeling that is still regarded as contentious by some Western mental health professionals.

"We have been lagging behind other countries," Dr. Young told us. "I think US culture is conservative. The answer is that simple. It is more of a cultural issue than a clinical issue. The problem is real but how countries choose to address it will vary."

However, she also describes resistance toward the labeling of new disorders from US health insurance companies, who are keen to limit the number of conditions that they have to reimburse.

"We also don't have government-based health care, so in the US any new disorder is more of a grass roots effort to get it established," she adds.

Dr. Young believes that what is known as the South Korean "Master Plan" is the global leader for prevention and treatment of Internet addiction. "They have by far the most comprehensive plan," she gushes, "even over China, it was quite impressive."

Technology addiction diagnosis

China itself has over 300 Internet addiction centers. In 2007, concern from China over a report stating that 13.7% of its youth (about 10 million teenagers) met the criteria for Internet addiction disorder led to the implementation of laws discouraging more than 3 hours of daily online gaming.

However, in February of this year, the state broadcaster CCTV claimed that 24 million young Chinese people are "addicted" to the Internet.

This raises the question of whether Chinese attempts to control the epidemic via treatment centers and regulations have failed to the extent that the problem has more than doubled in 7 years, or if there is a political motivation for China's mass diagnosis of net addiction. China, after all, is a state with a notoriously censorial approach to the Internet, whose citizens have largely been banned from accessing social media since activists used Facebook to co-ordinate protests against the republic in 2009.

Other professionals have suggested, however, that prevalence of Internet addiction is simply harder to measure in Western states than in Asian countries, and so is less visible.

For example, Dr. Jerald J. Block, who campaigned for Internet addiction to be included in DSM-5, wrote in the American Journal of Psychiatry that, "unlike in Asia, where Internet cafes are frequently used, in the United States games and virtual sex are accessed from the home. Attempts to measure the phenomenon are clouded by shame, denial and minimization."

In the second part of this article we look at why a standalone diagnosis of 'Internet addiction' or 'technology addiction' may be unhelpful.

Why a standalone diagnosis of 'Internet addiction' may be unhelpful

In November 2012, a study into Internet addiction among European youths from researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE) in the UK proposed a different take on the concept of "Internet addiction." Rather than view problems related to Internet use as "addiction," the researchers employed the term "excessive use" to describe patterns of "repetitive, compulsive and uncontrolled" use.
The authors reasoned that where Internet use is blamed for declining school results in children or increased family tension, "it is not at all clear whether excessive Internet use is the cause of these problems - it could be a symptom or a consequence of these or other underlying troubles."

Facebook screenshot
 LSE researchers suggest that a specific "addiction" to the Internet is less prevalent than is generally feared.
The LSE team applied the five basic components of Internet addiction, as defined by the British psychologist Dr. Mark Griffiths, to the participants in their study. They asked the children how often they experienced the following:
  1. '"I have gone without eating or sleeping because of the Internet"
  2. "I have felt bothered when I cannot be on the Internet"
  3. "I have caught myself surfing when I am not really interested"
  4. "I have spent less time than I should with either family, friends or doing schoolwork because of the time I spent on the Internet"
  5. "I have tried unsuccessfully to spend less time on the Internet."
They found that very few participants experienced all five components, which suggested to the researchers that a specific "addiction" to the Internet is less prevalent than is generally feared.
However, the researchers did find a relationship between excessive Internet use and problematic online and offline behavior. These include psychological and emotional difficulties, drinking alcohol and substance abuse.
The LSE researchers argue that rather than pinning an "addict" label to children who use the Internet excessively, children's engagement with technology should be understood within the wider context of their everyday life.
They write:
"Psychological approaches suggest that people use the Internet excessively to compensate for social or psychological difficulties, and deficits in personal well-being in terms of their everyday offline life. Studies have linked sensation-seeking (a tendency to pursue excitement and sensory pleasure), loneliness and emotional problems (such as depression and low self-confidence) to excessive Internet use."
Therefore, children who are psychologically vulnerable are more likely to engage in excessive Internet use because they are trying to compensate for problems in their offline lives. This is relevant to how psychologists or counsellors approach treatment, because "the child may not see their Internet use as a problem but as a positive, coping response to other social, emotional and psychological challenges in the child's life."

We put this to Dr. Wang, who broadly agreed with the LSE's findings. He told us:
"I am generally not in favor of a standalone 'Internet addiction' diagnosis, and I agree that it is more a symptom of a larger problem - anxiety, depression, boredom, self-esteem issues to name a few - than an illness itself. Making it a DSM diagnosis 'medicalizes' the problem."
"However," he adds, "there are individuals with addictive personalities who may be more vulnerable to developing such an addiction. It's a combination of factors - an addictive personality plus a trigger (e.g., anxiety or depression) snowballing to full-blown addiction symptoms."

Although we are now nearing a 20th anniversary of Dr. Goldberg's Internet addiction disorder hoax, it seems that clinicians are still largely divided on the validity of such a disorder, and, if it does exist, what the best way of approaching it might be.

But it is not without some irony we note that, at the time of writing, a temporary Facebook outage lasting just 20 minutes has plunged users of social media into turmoil, with broadsheet newspapers going as far as to live-blog the downtime.

"If anything," writes the technology website Ubergizmo, "this incident only highlights our addiction to the social network."

Medical News Today recently reported on a study that suggested cell phone addiction is becoming an increasing concern in high school and college students.

Written by David McNamee

Technology addiction - how should it be treated?

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Additional information

First tech de-addiction clinic opens; experts see ‘tip of iceberg’, Saritha Rai, The Indian Express, accessed 20 June 2014.

Excessive internet use among European children, David Smahel, et al., London School of Economics, accessed 20 June 2014.

Singapore grapples with internet addiction, Dunya News, accessed 20 June 2014.

Issues for DSM-V: internet addiction, Jerald J. Block, Am J Psychiatry, accessed 20 June 2014.

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