Internet addiction soon to be classified as a mental illness

Internet addiction soon to be classified as a mental illness
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - 10:23am

The World Wide Web offers a world of opportunity: a place to connect with others on social media; a place to shop, learn and play.

But, for some people, the Internet can also become a web of addiction.

"When we have a hard time setting the internet away, engaging with life, feeding the kids, going out to the park, playing sports and socializing in real life - then it really becomes problematic," said Cesar Gamez, a Phoenix-area licensed professional counselor.

He's talking about Internet-use disorder, which is expected to be included in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.

If research supports its inclusion, Internet addiction would be classified as a mental illness.

But, Gamez insists it's not about having more labels to attach to people.

"When we have clarity, then it really opens the door for more research and ultimately better interventions that help people with these struggles," he said.

Those struggles, which affect both kids and adults, include excessive online gaming, checking email and visiting websites.

"When it becomes an addiction, it becomes very obsessive; it becomes very repetitive and becomes very impulsive," said Gamez.

Mental health experts who've studied Internet-use disorder say when those who suffer from it don't have online access, they tend to show withdrawal symptoms.

They might shut down emotionally or have trouble concentrating.

"Some of these symptoms - low energy, shutting down, and isolating - are symptoms we see with individuals who struggle with depression," said Gamez. "So, again, just because a person might have a condition such as depression, ADHD, anxiety, OCD - it does not mean there is an actual 'Internet addiction' - and that's part of the controversy."

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