Parents whose children make a habit of checking their emails every 20 minutes, or fly into a rage upon being told to put down the video game they’re playing, need to be concerned. According to a new study, kids that are addicted to the internet could well be suffering from mental illness.
It was probably always only a matter of time, but it now looks as if internet addiction will be officially classified as a mental illness. As of May next year, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will list “Internet-use Disorder” as a condition that merits ‘further study’ by psychologists.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “The listing is another step towards classifying internet addiction as a mental illness: The DSM-IV’s new inclusion demonstrates that there are risks posed by overusing technology and that more research is required, which could lead to formal diagnoses of the disorder in the future.”
Among the highest-risk groups for Internet-use disorder are children and young adults, SMH continues.
Psychologists want Internet addiction to be categorized in the same way as other disorders that display similar symptoms, like emotional shutdown, anger, and a lack of concentration. However, some experts are not satisfied with the current definition of Internet-use disorder, and would like to expand it to include more conditions such as addiction to social media websites. Doing so would mean that other age groups may also be classified as being at ‘high-risk’ of the disorder.
Mike Kyrios, Director of the Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre in Sydney, Australia, told the SMH that technology use could be a problem for all age groups, not just kids and young adults. Kyrios is calling for more research to be done, so that health professionals are better qualified to diagnose people suffering from ‘technology addiction’ and ensure they receive the most appropriate treatment.
The usual remedy for such conditions involves psychological strategies that attempt to change a person’s obsessive reliance on staying connected all the time, something that Australia is a world-leader in, having become one of the first countries in the world to recognize technology addiction and establish clinics to treat it.
And there’s good reason to want to treat the condition as soon as possible too, as a number of extreme cases over the years have proved. Back in 2009, 17-year old Daniel Petric of Ohio shot and killed his mother for confiscating his Halo 3 game, after she thought he was playing it too much.
In Asia meanwhile, a Taiwanese gaming addict hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after he dropped dead in an internet café from playing online games for 40 hours straight. Even more sinister was the case of the Korean couple, arrested in 2010, after they allowed their infant daughter to starve to death while raising a ‘virtual baby’ online instead.