Psychiatrist pushes for internet mental illness recognition

By Mark O’Neill

Bad news geeks. A psychiatrist is pushing for internet addiction – “excessive gaming, sexual pre-occupations and e-mail/text messaging” – to be classified as a mental illness which means the most serious cases could warrant medication or even a stay in a hospital, like all those gamers in China.   Do you get broadband in hospital?

“Like other addicts, users experience cravings, urges, withdrawal and tolerance, requiring more and better equipment and software, or more and more hours online”, according to Dr. Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. Dr. Block says people can lose all track of time or neglect “basic drives,” like eating or sleeping. “Relapse rates are high”, he writes, “and some people may need psychoactive medications or hospitalization”.

With China and South Korea already doing something about their internet addicts, Dr Block wonders if it is about time that the rest of the world starts doing something too. But colleagues are deeply sceptical, wondering if internet addiction is still in its early stages to be called a mental condition and they argue that it is extremely difficult for a doctor to determine when someone’s internet addiction has crossed over from being normal to being unhealthy.

If internet addiction is an illness, I’m a terminal case!

But don’t worry boys and girls. The next edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” isn’t due out until 2012. Until then, I think we’re safe. In the meantime, you can go back to your World of Warcraft. Play on.

Geeks are Sexy needs YOUR help. Learn more about how YOU can support us here.