Internet Addiction: A New Fad?
Hooked on the Internet
“Internet Addiction” may soon become the next fad diagnosis—made popular by countless newspaper and magazine articles, an abundance of TV exposure, the creation of unproven treatment programs, and millions of potential patients. The DSM-5 has decided not to endorse the fad and has left internet addiction to an obscure appendix, but still the craze is gaining speed. No doubt, most of us are hooked on our electronic devices, and sometimes, yes, it can become and unhealthy and uncontrollable attachment—but not always. Dr. Allen Frances, M.D. explains the fad further in the article “Internet Addiction: The Next New Fad Diagnosis.”1
What is the definition of internet addiction?
The definition of internet addiction is closely related to that of drug addiction, which include the following three features:1
- Tolerance: Needing more of the substance/internet to get the same kick.
- Withdrawal: Feeling terrible when you try to stop using.
- Pattern of Compulsive Use: Continuing to use even if pleasure is now missing and the consequences are high. (i.e. being fired from work, health problems due to addiction, and interpersonal or legal consequences.)
According to Frances, while drug addiction has people enslaved, there is such thing as recreational use (taking drugs because they are fun and accepting the harm because for the short term, it seems worth it).1 While recreational use may lead to bad choices/consequences, it is not a mental disorder.1
However, the DSM-5 has thought about introducing a “Behavioral Addictions” category, with gambling leading the bunch as the first member of the group.1 Frances states that internet addiction could be included here, but then again, so could any other activities people are passionate about: shopping, exercise, sex, work, etc. Because one spends a lot of time doing something they enjoy, does not mean that it should be categorized as a mental disorder.1 For it to be an addiction, it should be a compulsive activity that is no longer fun, feels out of control, and serves no useful purpose—not worth the pain, cost, and harmful effects.1
Lost without Internet Connection
Many of us feel lost without our electronic devices—always checking email, keeping up with our social networks, and spending free time surfing, texting, and playing games. Does this make us all addicts? No. If our attachment was compulsive and without reward, yes, but for the majority, no. According to Frances, for those who are really stuck in the pattern of joyless use, the concept of internet addiction may apply and, one day, diagnosis and treatment may help, but still it is difficult for researchers to define said “internet addiction” in such a way in which it will not mislabel those who are just fine with their attachment to their beloved electronics.1 It is still too early to state that the internet is controlling our lives—the fad is just a fad.1
 Frances, A. (2012, Aug. 14). Internet Addiction: The Next New Fad Diagnosis. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/blog/frances/content/article/10168/2097033. internet.