Is Internet Addiction A Mental Illness Or A Social Problem? By Kritika Pramod Kulshrestha
A disease called Internet• A 3-month old child died in South Korea in 2010 when her parents, obsessed with marathon online gaming sessions, fed her only once a day leaving her to die a slow death. • This incident is only one of the many negative consequences of internet addiction.• This isn’t the story of just one child. There are many such cases all around the world.
Not just a disorder, Experts say• The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-IV have decided that internet addiction needs to be designated as a serious mental illness in its May 2013 edition.• While researchers state the need for more research into the ways and means of accurately diagnosing internet addiction, the American Psychiatric Association is already comparing the symptoms of Internet Use Disorder (IUD) to substance abuse. • Psychologists are also pushing for broadening the diagnosis of IUD to include much more than online gaming addictions.
Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones speaks• Web addiction, indeed, affects the white matter of the brain that contains nerve fibres.• Researchers have found that excessive internet use does affect the fibres impacting a person’s emotions, self-control, and decision-making abilities.• As told to BBC by Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, “white matter abnormalities in the orbito-frontal cortex and other truly significant brain areas are present not only in addictions where substances are involved but also in behavioral ones such as internet addiction”.
Internet, as harmful as substance usage• World over, kids obsessed with internet games and social media are slowly and steadily distancing themselves from the real world.• Without access to their emails even for a few minutes these children experience frustration, anxiety, depression and irritability.• According to psychologists, these are deemed as withdrawal symptoms; the same as those observed in substance abuse.• Nearly 70 % of the kids being treated at addiction-treatment clinics in Sydney are unable to focus without their smart phones.• They struggle to pry themselves away from their IPads and their tablet computers.
UIS is a mental illness and here is why!• For children in South Korea, sleeping with a smart phone instead of a teddy bear is not a new phenomenon.• Nearly 160,000 children between the ages of five and nine are addicted to the internet.• In the race to be constantly ‘wired in’, children forget to eat lunch, ignore sports and other physical activities, forgo going to the toilet and end up being nervous and distracted when their smart devices are taken away from them.• Nearly 2.55 million people in South Korea are affected.• With children as young as the age of 3 being addicted to the internet and technology, the inclusion of IUD in the DSM – V is justified.
Who is guilty?• Internet use needs to be monitored and the youth must learn to balance technology with other activities.• When the darker side of internet addiction is exposed through display of violence, tantrums, and outrage then it becomes a serious problem; it can even be termed as a mental illness.• In the last couple of years, we have been exposed to situations where the line between addiction and insanity has been blurred.
How often is too often?• The inclusion of internet-addiction in the DSM-V could actually be misused.• To avoid this, there will need to be reforms and amendments to the existing laws of a country.• Only then is it feasible to classify internet addiction as a mental illness.• Many of us use the internet, especially social media, to stay updated on current news and world stories. Often, we check our emails more than 30 times per hour.• Are all of us affected with IUD?
ASAP! That’s what is needed• As the debate rages on among researchers, medical practitioners, health officials and the millions of users; we need to understand that only classifying IUD as a mental illness is not enough.• We need to amend laws and conduct in-depth research into the symptoms and extent of IUD.• Once research shows that IUD can indeed be classified as a mental illness and laws are amended to incorporate IUD and its consequences, we must take steps to include IUD in the DSM – V.• Technology and the internet is taking over our lives rapidly and we need to control them before everything is destroyed – humanity, emotions, and societal structure.
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