Internet Addiction: A Digital Age Mental Illness
"Internet-use disorder" will be added to the list of mental illnesses in the DSM-5, the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders set for release in May 2013. The condition is listed as particularly problematic for children and is "recommended for further study."
The listing brings Internet addiction one step closer to classification as a mental illness. It implies that overusing technology poses risks and that more research is needed before psychologists can make formal diagnoses.
Many psychologists believe Internet addiction is like other addiction disorders because it has similar symptoms, including lack of concentration and even withdrawal.
But they disagree on what Internet-use disorder is exactly and who it affects. Some are pushing to broaden the definition to include more than just video game addictions, which would expand the age group of those afflicted.
"With kids, gaming is an obvious issue. But overall, technology use could be a potential problem," Mike Kyrios, Director of the Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Some of the more extreme cases of online gaming have made international headlines in recent years:
- In 2009, Daniel Petric, 17, of Ohio shot his mother and injured his father after they confiscated one of his video games.
- In 2010, a Korean couple was arrested following the death of their infant daughter, who starved while the two of them played an online game for hours—a game that involved raising a virtual baby.
- In 2011, 20-year-old Chris Staniforth died while playing his Xbox for upwards of 12 hours after suffering a blockage to his lungs.
- Earlier this year, a gamer died after playing for 40 hours straight at an Internet café in Taiwan.