The Great Internet Addiction Debate

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The Great Internet Addiction Debate

Author: Justin Mckibben

America doesn’t have a internet addiction problem, right? Is that even a thing?

Obviously, I’m being facetious… or am I?

You would think this is a ridiculous question with a resounding answer of DUH! Internet addiction is undoubtedly a real thing, and America certainly has a pretty bad cased of it, right?

Everywhere you go you see digital devices of all shapes and sizes. People everywhere seemed sucked into their screens working, checking social media, or aimlessly surfing the web for cat pictures or awesome blogs like mine. It causes a clutter in the hallway at the office, and even more dangerous it causes accidents in traffic when people can pry themselves away from their tweets long enough to DRIVE THEIR CAR!

Of course everyone loves the convenience of smartphones and our independent access to the internet, but when does it cross the line into becoming a full-fledged addiction, and can we classify Internet Addiction as a stand-alone diagnosis?

Internet Getting Out of Hand?

According to some experts, our Internet addiction is becoming a real problem and psychologists say they’re seeing more patients suffering from internet addiction or digital addiction, which in turn can actually create some very real adverse effects. Karin Kassab, a psychologist at Clarity Counseling Center in Wilmington, described some people experiencing the more severe side of internet addiction recently:

“These are the Facebook moms who forget to put their kids to bed or forget to pick their kids up from school. The online gamers who are spending so much time gaming that they lose their job and move back home. When we are talking Internet addiction, it is important to note, this is excessive Internet use at its extreme. The tokens are excessive Internet use and big problems at work, school or socially.”

Kassab is not the first expert to note the gravity of the growing internet addiction, but other experts don’t see internet addiction as an issue that is as serious as we’re making it out to be.

What’s the Big Deal?

Dr. Mark Griffiths is a professor of gambling studies at the Nottingham Trent University and director of the International Gaming Research Unit. According to Griffith there’s nothing inherently wrong with excessively being on a smartphone or connected to the internet as long as it doesn’t interfere with our lives.

So of course these people who are letting their responsibilities tumble around them are not too concerning, and for those who are truly addicted, Dr. Griffith and other experts insist it usually indicates something more severe is going on with that individual. Dr. Griffiths said,

“Often, the excessive use is symptomatic of other underlying problems in that person’s life. Therapeutically, if you find out what that problem is, then the excessive use can disappear.”

Well, yea! That is typically the case with a lot of substance abuse issues. Usually some underlying pattern or mental health disorder creates self-destructive patterns that lead to excessive abuse of a substance, or in this case a device, which becomes a habitual hindrance.

The Great Debate

Kassab agrees with this mindset, adding that for many experts the debate is about whether or not internet addiction can stand on its own as a diagnosis, or if it is simply a new extension or symptom of another condition such as anxiety disorder or depression. Kassab explained,

“There’s great debate over whether Internet addiction is actually its own stand-alone disorder or if it is a consequence of a co-occurring disorder. So, am I depressed therefore that manifests into me staying in, being isolated on the Internet?”

Though the debate continues, recent information shows the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders currently does NOT classify Internet addiction or smartphone addiction as a diagnosis for addiction or treatment on its own… yet?

What do you think? So far Kassab stands by her own verdict to treat internet addiction as a true addiction, and with the prevalence of the symptoms she sees in her clients, she shows no sign of changing her mind on this side of the spectrum.

So what should we view this as? Should we consider internet addiction to be a completely separate and specific addiction with its own symptoms, or should we treat obsessive and excessive internet and social media use as merely aspects of a more understood and accepted mental health disorder?

While internet addiction may not be an official thing, in a society that thrives on technology and social media it is an issue that is growing as quickly and widely as the social media does. With any powerful addiction, there is always help out there. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135