Internet Addiction Gaining Credibility

    March 24, 2008

People who send excessive texts and emails could soon be classified with a disorder known as Internet addiction.

Dr. Jerald BlockDr. Jerald Block
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An editorial in the current issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry addresses the issues of Internet addiction. Dr. Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, said there are symptoms users experience. Dr. Block says symptoms of Internet addiction include, withdrawal feelings when a computer cannot be accessed; an increased need for better equipment; need for more time to use it and users experiencing consequences of their addiction.

Dr. Block said that even though text messaging was not directly tied to the Internet, it was a form of instant messaging and should be included in the criteria.

"The chief reasons I see to consider it are motor vehicle accidents that are caused by cell phone instant messaging, stalking and harassment via instant messaging, and instant messaging at social, educational, (and) work functions where it creates problems," he said.

Dr. Block says that 86 percent of Internet addicts have other forms of mental illness and it is likely to be overlooked unless a therapist is looking for it. Dr. Block supports the idea of putting Internet addition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the official book of mental illness. The new edition will be published in 2012 and a draft will be available for public comment next year.

British psychiatrists, reported last year in the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment that a "significant minority" between five and 10 percent of online users are addicted to the Internet. Early research indicated those addicted to the Internet were highly educated, introverted males and recent studies suggest that middle-aged women on home computers are prone to Internet addiction.