So, “Internet Use Disorder” has been added to the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Now I know that we’ve had threads about internet addiction before, but I’m curious as to where people stand on if this is a mental disorder or not.
There is some debate in the literature about whether or not IUD, as it’s called, is in fact a disorder like drug addiction, or whether it’s just due to the omnipresence of the internet, which causes us to feel strange when we aren’t around it.
A quick literature search gave me some interesting results. Most papers appear to be cataloguing and measuring neurochemical and behavioural changes associated with excessive internet uses, as well as some of its underlying causes. One article I read disagreed with the concept of “internet addiction”. The author has a slightly different view:
Today, when patients present with a complaint of Internet addiction, or are presented by someone else, usually a parent or caregiver, the intent is to convey the compulsive/impulsive, self-destructive, and isolative quality of an experience similar to what is assumed to be the abject suffering of a drug addict. Used by patients in this way the term addiction is a largely successful metaphor that conveys the damaging and damaged “out-of-controlness” of the experience. Because the metaphor does work, even clinicians who disagree with the very idea of an Internet addiction would do well not to ignore the term.
But when clinicians use the term in a professional context, we do so diagnostically. We are saying the nature and causes of the problematic behavior, as well as the prognosis and optimal treatment choices, are the same as other problems in the diagnostic category of addiction. It is diagnosis not metaphor; it is not just describing the felt experience but providing an explanation for the experience and behaviors. Such a use of the term would, I have come to believe, prematurely and problematically direct treatment choices in the absence of sufficient data while simultaneously limiting the range of future research.
From: Essig, T. The Addiction Concept and Technology: Diagnosis, Metaphor, or Something Else? A Psychodynamic Point of View J. Clin. Psychol., 2012 doi: 10.1002/jclp.21917
Basically, Essig is saying that IUD looks like an addiction, but only in its effects, and not its causes.
I’m personally inclined to agree with him; I’m certainly not any type of clinical psychologist, but from what I’ve observed online, and specifically within the Brony fandom, I think that people become “addicted” to the internet, i.e. develop IUD, for a large variety of reasons that have a large influence over the nature of their “addiction”. I think that you can’t say the same for, say, drug addiction. No matter what the cause, the addiction itself is the same. But with the internet, people are “addicted” in many different ways, be it through World of Warcraft, like in that paper, or through MLP, or even through KYM.
So to return to my original point in making this thread. What do you guys think? Is “internet addiction” a true addiction, or is it something new and different?