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Is Internet Addiction a Medical Condition?

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the depraved-on-accounta-he's-deprived dept.

The Internet 227

PreacherTom writes "Arising from such cases as a recent lawsuit with IBM over employee termination due to online sex chatting at work, recent debate over whether Internet abuse is a legitimate addiction, akin to alcoholism, is heating up. From the article: 'Attorneys say recognition by a court — whether in this or some future litigation — that Internet abuse is an uncontrollable addiction, and not just a bad habit, could redefine the condition as a psychological impairment worthy of protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.' The condition could even make it into the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association's DSM, making it a full-blown neurosis. It wouldn't be a huge surprise, with a recent Stanford study showing that 14% of people state it would be 'hard to stay away from the Net for even a few days in a row."

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Ridiculous, just ridiculous (4, Funny)

udderly (890305) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236328)

Are you joking? A "full-blown neurosis?" That's ridiculous. Nobody is going to get fixated on the internet.

I would expand on my argument but I'm at work and I have to get a lot of stuff done. I'm chatting with s3xygurl15, buying Xmas presents on Amazon and selling my old Xbox on eBay. I also need to email my mom to see if she can bring me some ramen noodles or mac-n-cheese, since I won't have time to eat later 'cause I'm needed on a WoW raid in an hour.

Re:Ridiculous, just ridiculous (2, Interesting)

rwven (663186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236738)

I don't think there's such thing as a specific addiction tot he internet. I think people, through genetics and upbringing, develop addictive personalities. The internet just happens to be what they latch on to. Some people delve into alcohol, some into gambling, some into MMORPG's, or a plethora of other things. Frank may be addicted to WoW, but his twin brother may focus his addiction on gambling. Both can be just as destructive as one another to your personal and professional life...

I think pinning it on the internet is just diagnosing a symptom, not a disease.

Re:Ridiculous, just ridiculous (4, Insightful)

NemosomeN (670035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236990)

I also think people tend to jump on the "let's call it a disease" bandwagon. I, personally, like being drunk. Does that make me an alcoholic?

Re:Ridiculous, just ridiculous (2, Interesting)

ari wins (1016630) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237506)

It may not be a all-out medical condition, but Vasocongestion http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_balls [wikipedia.org] certainly is. That's why I'm on the net constantly looking for ways to prevent it from happening to me.

Re:Ridiculous, just ridiculous (2, Insightful)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237694)

I think they're making a mistake in isolating "internet addiction" as a particular disorder/neurosis/whatever. They need to lump it and a few hundred other "addictions" into one category called "behavioral addiction" or something like that. It's not a dependency on the internet, it's a dependency on the regular behavior, the same as a gambling addiction.

We can call it the Just One More Disorder, because that phrase seems to characterize the behavior pretty well (and yes, I have issues with it myself, I've made myself late for work saying "five more minutes" one time too many)

Well, I had Pac-Man fever in the 80's (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236334)

I still get the chills whenever I walk beside the fruit stand.

-Eric

Re:Well, I had Pac-Man fever in the 80's (2, Funny)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237260)

To quote the hilarious Marcu Brigstocke talking about the effects of video games on today's youth: "If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music."

Re:Well, I had Pac-Man fever in the 80's (1)

DaveCar (189300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237408)

To quote the innimitable Tristan A. Farnon [leisuretown.com] : "My Pac-Man fever is now full-blown Pac-Man AIDS!"

Addicted to talking to your friends (1, Insightful)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236346)

You can be addicted to Internet as much as you can be addicted to paying your bills, talking with your friends, watching tv or playing games, because you can do all this on the Internet. How often do you hear that someone is addicted to talking with his/her friends?

Re:Addicted to talking to your friends (1, Funny)

TodMinuit (1026042) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236390)

How often do you hear that someone is addicted to talking with his/her friends?

I think this is the wrong place to ask such a question.

yes, an addiction (3, Funny)

Gabest (852807) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236354)

... as much as wearing clothes.

Re:yes, an addiction (2, Funny)

ShadoHawk (741112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236588)

... as much as wearing clothes.

I am trying to fight this addiction, but I just can't seem to find the right support groups in the area. Something about it being too cold outside. I guess I should move to where it is a bit warmer.





My karma is bad and no one will see this. *cries* How did it get this way?

That's Easy. (3, Interesting)

mfh (56) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236366)

No. It's just that it's a positive thing and when you remove it, you are left with negative feelings. So it may seem like an addiction but it's actually more like oxygen.

When I can't get online, I am being deprived of stimulus that makes me feel efficient. When I have to thumb through hard paper manuals to get info, it makes me feel sad, aggrivated and annoyed.

I stop looking and wait for it to come back online. I do something else.

Re:That's Easy. (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237928)

When I have to thumb through hard paper manuals to get info, it makes me feel sad, aggrivated and annoyed.

/motions to leather couch, scribbles furiously on notepad

Hmmm, interesting, how long have you had these feelings? What does this inkblot look like?

Bad behavior = disease... why not?? (4, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236370)

Let's just save some time and determine every form of antisocial behavior to be a disease. That way when we fuck up, we don't have to blame it on our character flaws.

It's the disease, ya know. I can't help it.

Re:Bad behavior = disease... why not?? (1)

spirality (188417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236566)

There's no reason to be responsible for ourselves and our behavior or anything like that. This is just another symptom of how we'll all end up basically enslaved. The less responsibility we take for ourselves the more the government will, until we are all wards of the state. Uggg. It's disgusting really.

Re:Bad behavior = disease... why not?? (2, Funny)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236602)

Let's just save some time and determine every form of antisocial behavior to be a disease. That way when we fuck up, we don't have to blame it on our character flaws.

Sounds like someone didn't get his prozac this morning...

Re:Bad behavior = disease... why not?? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236636)

It's the disease, ya know. I can't help it.

Then you'll be told: Yes you can, here's the address to a rehabilitation service...

Re:Bad behavior = disease... why not?? (4, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236658)

They use a more rigorous standard than that: how many people make how much noise about whether it counts as a disease.

For example, homosexuality was scientifically proven to be a disease before the 70's. Then because of enough protests, it became scientifically disproven. Likewise, fetishism is currently scientifically proven to be a disease, but if enough people raise a stink, that will count as scientific disproof.

It works the other way too. Formerly it was scientfically proven that alcoholism isn't a disease; people just get drunk a lot. Then because of enough protests from people who didn't want to accept that their spouse is a lousy human being who values physical pleasure over their family, it became scientifically proven that it is a disease.

Give 'em some credit.

Re:Bad behavior = disease... why not?? (2, Informative)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236842)

Err, no. None of the things were scientifically proven to be diseases, they were defined that way. Alcoholism is not considered a disease in psychology.

Re:Bad behavior = disease... why not?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17237536)

Alcoholism is not considered a disease in psychology.
The hell. The DSM has diagnostic criteria specifically for alcohol abuse and dependence. Unless you're trying to be cute and play word games, that means it is considered a disease (mental disorder) by mainstream psychology.

Re:Bad behavior = disease... why not?? (2, Funny)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 7 years ago | (#17238082)

"Alcoholism is the only disease you can get yelled at for having. 'Dammit Otto, you're an alcoholic.' 'Dammit Otto, you have Lupus'. One of these just doesn't sound right".

- Mitch Hedberg

Scientifically proven? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237020)

Except that by definition you can't scientifically prove anything. All you can do scientifically is advance a theory and show that is supported by experimental evidence available at the time. That's kinda the point of science: it's only as good as the evidence underlying it, and as new evidence comes to light, theories can and should be revised or dropped if this is what the evidence supports.

Re:Scientifically proven? (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237406)

Irony meter broken?

Re:Scientifically proven? (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17238128)

Sorry, it's been a long day. Not so much broken as out of gas. ;-)

Re:Bad behavior = disease... why not?? (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237606)

Welcome to a world that lacks accountability and responsibility for your actions.

I mean, if you are addicted to something, it is squarely your fault for being in that position (unless someone tied you up and injected you with $substance every other day).

It's like people blaming cigarette companies for their addiction and health problems, when they should have stopped smoking, knowing that it is dangerous and harmful.

I mean, why bother laying off that pack of smokes or that bottle of vodka when it is just easy to give in and not be responsible for your actions. "Hey, it wasn't me! It was that gene that causes addiction. You know? That disease?"

Obviously you can't be held accountable for your actions, for you getting lung cancer -- it is those damn cigarette companies! Because obviously, they tied you up and made you smoke every day.

With rights and freedom comes responsibility. It's about bloody time that people learnt that. If you're "addicted" to the Internet, get off of it. Stay off it for a week, go out fishing or hiking or camping. Go on a holiday somewhere. Or just read a book. Just how hard is that going to be?

And if your job requires you to be on the Internet, just use it for only that and nothing else. If that is hard for you, take a week off from your job and go to a place without a connection.

Moderation, people. Moderation.

This culture of making every habit or behaviour into a disease is just ridiculous. Folks just need to be held accountable and responsible for their actions.

It must be an Addiction (2, Funny)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236372)

And if it wasn't for the addiction, I wouldn't be reading this now to know that.

Now, if it became an ADA issue, how would an employer compensate? By putting them in front of an IBM Selectric instead of an ThinkPad?

Re:It must be an Addiction (1)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236450)

IBM Selectric instead of a ThinkPad?

Sorry about the typo. My Selectric is a little slow to respond.

Re:It must be an Addiction (1)

robot_lords_of_tokyo (911299) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236714)

Now, if it became an ADA issue, how would an employer compensate? by taking the job and quickly moving it to a country that doesn't have a problem with internet addiction

Perhaps (4, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236420)

Let's face it, people get addicted off of all sorts of things: alcohol, drugs, skydiving, mountain climbing, etc. Why should Internet use be any different? Especially if you find it useful to discover information about or talk to people with interests in something you yourself enjoy. And look at MMPORGs -- are you saying WoW doesn't suck large numbers of people in?

But there's being addicted, and then there's it being a "disease." Frankly, I think B. F. Skinner would scoff at the notion. To him, everything was stimulus -> response -> reinforcement, and the more reinforcing an activity was, the more an organism would engage in it. It's not a "disease" as such, but something hard-wired into out neural make-up, and the Internet has the potential to tap into that just like anything else.

Re:Perhaps (1)

epiphani (254981) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236982)

I think MMORPGs can be an addiction. I think IRC can be an addiction. I don't think "the internet" can be an addiction.

The internet is only a medium. One can be addicted to certain content it contains, however one cannot be addicted to the medium itself.

I dislike being away from the internet for more than a few days because it feels to me like I have been away from the rest of the world when that happens. When I am away from the internet for a week, its generally because I'm away from -everything- for a week. I love vacations, but you come back from that wondering whether someone has dropped another atomic bomb while you were out, and wondering if society has reverted to cannibalism while you were out.

Re:Perhaps (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237844)

I think MMORPGs can be an addiction. I think IRC can be an addiction. I don't think "the internet" can be an addiction.

Therein lies the crux of the issue: do we blame "The Internet" or do we blame the profusion of activities the Internet allows you to indulge in (email, video, MMORPGs, porn, chat, etc.)? Put another way: who is to blame for an alcoholic's problem -- the alcoholic who buys the liquor or the store that sells the liquor? Blaming the Net for an addiction is blaming the store. Any addiction starts squarely with the addict. If you let anything in your world dominate what you do in your life, whether it be drugs, alcohol, fire, the Internet, it starts and ends with you. I don't tend to think of addictions as a mental illness, a la schizophrenia or bipolar disorder -- they're the simple overloading of a natural mechanism, and there are plenty of remedies available to deal with them.

Turn off Moderation Mails (4, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237970)

But there's being addicted, and then there's it being a "disease." Frankly, I think B. F. Skinner would scoff at the notion. To him, everything was stimulus -> response -> reinforcement, and the more reinforcing an activity was, the more an organism would engage in it. I

Additionally, the less regular the response the more addictive it can be. The old story of the mouse who presses at the lever occasionally when it always dispenses a treat, but feverishly when it randomly dispenses a treat. Slot machines work on the same principle.

In other words, go into your Slashdot preferences and turn off mails about moderation of your comments. Don't go back and look at how your comments were moderated. They're exactly that kind of stimulus.

Hey (-1, Flamebait)

PainBot (844233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236436)

Hey, I once sucked dick for coke and you call that an addiction ?

I've got a fever (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236444)

And the only prescription is more cowbell... websites.

I actually took the time to translate an article (5, Informative)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236452)

on this. I quote myself [paranoidkoala.org] :

The official diagnosis systems ICD and DSM currently have identical criteria for addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs and tobacco. Addiction to gambling, sex, internet etc are not mentioned, but psychologists who care about these addictions obviously use equivalient definitions.
The diagnosis systems mention 6-7 possible symptoms which can be classified into three groups:
- increased tolerance and/or abstinence problems
- signs of loss of control (strong craving/ compulsiveness or drinking more than planned or failed to cut down on use)
- damaging effects (social, health or work-related)
Currently no "symptoms" are mandatory. The addiction diagnosis demands that one has at least 3 of 6 symptoms through the previous year (ICD-10) or 4 of 7 at one point in life (DSM-IV). One does not need to have symptoms from all three groups, for instance is lack of control not a prerequsite.
Compared to regular medical diagnoses, it's remarkable that the important boundary between healthy and ill is set at an arbitrarily chosen number of symptoms (3 out of 6 or 4 out of 7)

Re:I actually took the time to translate an articl (2, Interesting)

cperciva (102828) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236834)

Compared to regular medical diagnoses, it's remarkable that the important boundary between healthy and ill is set at an arbitrarily chosen number of symptoms (3 out of 6 or 4 out of 7)

You seem to be implying that non-psychiatric ailments are clear-cut in their diagnoses; while this is true in some cases (e.g., a viral infection is defined by the presence of the virus), it is not true for all diseases. Type 2 diabetes, for example, is defined as "fasting plasma glucose >= 7.0 mM, OR plasma glucose >= 11 mM two hours after a 75g glucose challenge OR random plasma glucose >= 11.1 mM", while the level of blood pressure which is diagnosed as "high" depends upon the presence of other risk factors for heart disease.

Most psychiatric conditions are just like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol: There's a continuum between very healthy and very sick, and groups of doctors get together to decide how to draw a line.

Another excuse for poor choices (1)

callistra.moonshadow (956717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236978)

What bugs me is that people will use any excuse to get out of their poor decision-making. Oh, I d/l porn at work but it's not my fault. It was my addiction. Uh...I don't think so. I don't care what people do on their own private time, but the reality is that that sort of thing doesn't belong in the workplace along with many other issues. I'm not trying to kick up dust here, it is just frustrating to see that just about anything can end up in the DSM at some point and then potentially used as an excuse for bad behavior.

Cally

If it is, then.. (2, Informative)

s31523 (926314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236502)

... so is masturbation. Seriously, though, come'on!

Re:If it is, then.. (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236768)

Downloading prOn and masturbating several times a day might be a real issue of sexual and internet addiction...

I've been downloading and... oh, wait... it's ok.

Re:If it is, then.. (1)

faridx82 (760501) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237390)

john? Is that you?

Back in the day. (5, Interesting)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236512)

I experienced internet withdrawals back in 2002 when my DSL was taken away from me. The first month was hell. After three months i had totally forgotten i ever had the internet. The addiction is real as is an addiction to anything. The reason it's being considered a medical condition is because of the popularity of the addiction. I can honestly say i haven't had my own broadband connection until a month ago and now i feel i dont know how to surf the web, but atleast i dont waste time in front of a computer as much.

Re:Back in the day. (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237154)

After three months i had totally forgotten i ever had the internet

You might want to see a doctor about that. I think you might have had a stroke or something during those three months.

Re:Back in the day. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237294)

Whereas I do spend a signficant amount of time on the Internet, both at home and at work (and usually in connection with my work, in the latter case). But I could stop any time I wanted to. I know I could. I wouldn't even miss it much. Really, I could. Honest.

Seriously, though, despite there being things I do miss when I'm away from the Net for a while, I have plenty of other things I enjoy doing off-line as well. I just spend more time doing those if there's no net connection around. My biggest concern with being off-line for several days is more the amount of spam I have to wade through when I get back, just in case there's something important in there. :o)

Re:Back in the day. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17238002)

but atleast i dont waste time in front of a computer as much.
...and yet here you are, posting on Slashdot. Welcome back from all of your fellow addicts.

Addicts are addicts (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236536)

It is simple, addicts get addicted to things. It might be drugs, it might be alcohol, even the internets. Hell, people even get addicted to working out. Some things are better to be "addicted" to than others.

If the person has an "addictive personality" then they will find something to be addicted to.

The President used to be an alcoholic, but now he is addicted to working out. The former is much worse of an addiction than the latter.

Re:Addicts are addicts (1)

markild (862998) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236716)

Personally, I liked him better when he was drinking.

But hey, that's me.

Re:Addicts are addicts (1)

DaveCar (189300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237552)


The President used to be an alcoholic, but now he is addicted to working out. The former is much worse of an addiction than the latter.

Working out? What, like working out which shoe goes on which foot? Working out how to totally f*ck up international relations?

I have a B.S. in Psychology (5, Interesting)

DJ Jones (997846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236544)

This article further supports my theory that the field of psychology is bunch of bull-shit. Neurology is a science. Psychology is a bunch of philosophers conjuring up imaginary diseases to reinforce everyone's imaginary "problems" I'm writing this Slashdot entry instead of doing office work right now. It doesn't mean I have a problem. I'm just bored.

Re:I have a B.S. in Psychology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236818)

Maybe you should have gotten a BA in psychology instead.

Re:I have a B.S. in Psychology (1)

udderly (890305) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236902)

This article further supports my theory that the field of psychology is bunch of bull-shit. Neurology is a science. Psychology is a bunch of philosophers conjuring up imaginary diseases to reinforce everyone's imaginary "problems"

If by the "field of psychology" you mean the classification and description of "mental disorders" that have no known physical pathologies, I am in complete agreement with you. Many of the things in the DSM cannot be determined by any physical means, including an autopsy. Many are "diagnosed" by a self-report questionnaire, which is well-known to be an extremely flawed proposition. That isn't science, that's voodoo. But hey, at least it sells pharmaceuticals.

However, there is *plenty* of scientifically valid and interesting research in the field. I studied the psychology of motivation (task persistence, incentive vs. punishment, etc) which has a ton of work that is both useful and rigorous.

Re:I have a B.S. in Psychology (2, Funny)

$pearhead (1021201) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236938)

It doesn't mean I have a problem.
Ah, denial... :-) And remember boys and girls; "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt".

the internet is clearly an addiction (1)

CiXeL (56313) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237202)

both my girlfriend and i are internet addicts. it also doesnt help that i work with computers for a living so its like im a dealer as well.

if there is an internet connection in the house i will be on it
there are tons of things i would love to do other than browse the net reading stuff but i can barely tear myself away from it enough to go to the bathroom or eat.

when we moved to our current place we didnt have dsl setup yet and i delayed and delayed and my girlfriend started getting upset and i told her that i liked not having it because i was getting so much stuff done because i couldnt access it and that i knew as soon as i got it back again it would control my life.

sure enough, its back to controlling my life.

Re:I have a B.S. in Psychology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17237812)

so are you a scientologist as well?

the problem isnt with psychology, its with a lack of understanding of a few fundamental ideas, its also alot of idiots with alot of power....

for example, i bet you could not explain with neurology how conditioning works, partly because neurology does not deal with that ascept of an organism, however psychology is readly able to explain the occurance, which cant be simply ignored because it does happen.

also psychology, with the exception of dealing with the study of abnormal behavior, lacks any ability to state morality, just like any other science. which means your ignorant view about what philosophy is, along with psychology, and its purpose kinda makes you look like a total jackass.

jackass

Pornstamps (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236548)

I hope they don't put the clinic next to the Food Stamp office, I have a feeling shit would get ugly if the people in that line saw a gang of people holding PDAs in line to get their internet bill paid.

Attention Deficit Disorder (1)

mulhollandj (807571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236598)

I would put it as part of ADD. That said, my belief is ADD only makes it harder to focus and not impossible. People need to take personal responsibility and either stop the behavior or get the needed help. If not then fire them unless their job is being a web crawler.

Re:Attention Deficit Disorder (1)

JeremyBanks (1036532) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236860)

ADD is one of the most overdiagnosed conditions I can think of. Most people with it are just lazy undisiplined fools. Not all, there are some people who actually have real problems, but most of them just use it as an excuse, and it pisses me off to no end.

Are you an Obsessive Compulsive? (4, Insightful)

bihoy (100694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236612)

Obsessive Compulsive behavior can be exhibited for any activity. Even just tapping your foot.

I'll have you know... (1)

Non-CleverNickName (1027234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236624)

I'm not addicted to the internet, and I can stop anytime I want. ...I'm just trying to beat the end boss...

Right. And my father is a viola addict. (5, Insightful)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236628)

Now really. Of course I wouldn't like being without internet access for several days, for the simple reason that a large part of my life is related to it somehow. With no internet I'd lose contact with many people, would find it much harder to find documentation for some of the work I do, etc.

But isn't every specialist that way? I bet that my father would also feel uncomfortable if he couldn't play the viola for a few days. For me, the main theme in my life is internet and computers. For others it's a musical instrument, drawing, playing soccer, etc. Everybody feels uncomfortable when they're unable to do their favourite activity for a while.

Even for "normal" people with no obsession with anything in particular it still works that way. When somebody's car breaks they're often grumpy while it's being fixed, as all of a sudden their freedom of movement got drastically reduced.

There probably are people with serious problems, but I think most of the people don't have any addiction of any sort, they simply became dependent on it, like many people depend on their car or telephone. For them it just became an indispensable tool.

What defines an addiction? (1)

Archtype (914099) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236634)

How do you know if you are addicted? If it starts to mess with your everyday life. It is just like an addiction to gambling or pornography. Is it a medical condition? Now thats a different question. I don't think you could call in to work sick because you are having "internet withdrawal." I would put this kind of addiction into the category of a "psychological condition," as there are no physical symptoms. As for all who would say that this isn't actually an issue, I have three word...World of Warcraft. And yes, I used to play myself. Been clean for almost 6 months now.

i am addicted to oxygen (1)

sking (42926) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237106)

if i stop breathing, i will likely experience withdrawal symptoms so severe that i will die. i keep working on the first step, though...

i admit i am powerless over oxygen--that my breathing has become unmanageable.

Re:i am addicted to oxygen (1)

Archtype (914099) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237576)

you should try the Oxygen Addicts Anonymous. Their twelve step program will surely help you out.

The boundary between bad habit and addiction.... (1)

GnomeChompsky (950296) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236640)

lies, I think, in whether or not you can still perform day-to-day tasks while still performing the compulsive behaviour.

For instance, people find it difficult to stop, say, biting their fingernails. It probably releases the same sort of dopamine response in the brain that playing PacMan, gambling or surfing the 'net does. But few people recognize fingernail-nibbling as an addiction; it's a bad habit, but it doesn't have the stigma of an addiction, or it doesn't have the excuse of being an addiction. You can, while still nibbling away all the while, accomplish almost anything else.

On the other hand, internet addiction is not a prime candidate for multitasking. If you're reading slashdot, you're not writing the Jenkins report. If you're playing a flash game, you're not reading those articles from Science that you should be for your dissertation.

I'd say that any repetitive pattern of behaviour can become impossible to stop -- but we only rationalize it as an addiction when it interferes with other normative/positive/goal-directed behaviours.

In related news (4, Interesting)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236660)


Cleveland Browns fans who attend every game are also claiming their rights as an addicted minority. "Its horrible" said one fan "year after year we suck and I keep going just waiting for that one big 'hit'"

Celeb Rags also applied for registration under the disability act on the basis that they have "an unreasonable compulsion to print any old crappy photo of anyone who has even been seen with someone who has been on TV", this compulsion is so bad that they are forced to produce glossy magazines every single week.

But if the Internet is an addiction ala heroin, does that make AOL methadone?

Um, like being addicted to electricity or water? (1)

QuasiEvil (74356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236672)

The internet has become a utility these days - like electrical power, phone, natural gas, tv, water, or garbage pickup. You could use the same logic to argue I'm addicted to all of the above. I can't imagine going more than a week without any of them except maybe tv. The loss of any of the others would start to make my life suck more. (On the other hand, I have a DVR, so it's watching, even if I'm not.)

WTF ... NoReally ... Dang, I'm scared (1)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236692)

Dang, I'm scared

There are more idiot dogmatist lurking at /. then ever before, someone should have saved this DullShit for 2007/04/01, maybe this DS illness is a Pharma/AMA lobbyist creation for parent/drug/religious intervention businesses.

These no-brainer-stories should be filtered as offensive stinking DS. I always wanted a NetNanney app that would filter out dogmatist StupidShit (SS nazi-like) religious, corporatist, and political crap for my browser and cable/sat/broadcast TV at home.

Is there an OSS project for this? Are Firefox folks looking into this as a good plugin? Has the W3C ... decided on metadata flags to block different kinds of objectionalvble material from wasting my time like this has done?

So what if it is an addiction (1)

jimbolaya (526861) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236734)

Even if it is an addiction, so what? If he were drunk on the job, he'd still be fired.

Information addict (4, Interesting)

DaoudaW (533025) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236770)

When I was in 4th grade, I got in trouble by reading the encyclopedia before I had my homework done. Now I'm 50, have been a teacher for years, and tend to scan my live bookmarks, the make blog, and slashdot before I grade tests or make lesson plans. Does it affect my work? Probably. Does it make me a better teacher? Arguably. Could I stop if I chose to? Probably not?

About 15 years ago I lived in an African village for 3 years. What did I miss most? My morning newspaper and public library! I know people who would say the same thing about the NY Times Crossword Puzzle. I don't see any difference between these examples and so-called internet addiction. Maybe psychologists should include these in the DSM too!

comon... seriously (2, Insightful)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236800)

I think a lot of these addictions are not rather addictions, but a lack of self-control and discipline. While I'm not debating whether or not there exists such a thing or not, a lot of people claiming internet addiction do so for an excuse- for pills, for pity, for disability compensation.. etc.

Time for all the "I DISAGREE!!!" replies!

Re:come on... seriously (1)

DaoudaW (533025) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237444)

I think a lot of these addictions are not addictions, but rather a lack of self-control and discipline.

Fair enough... if you're a judge, but scientists aren't really interested in judgments. Science asks why. If you choose to reframe the situation as a lack of self-control and discipline fine. The question becomes why do some people lack self-control and discipline. If you can answer that one in a rigorous way you'll probably win a Nobel prize.

Re:come on... seriously (1)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237600)

Well selfishness comes to mind. Man's natural tendency to fulfill his desires. Or lack of desire (laziness)

Alcoholism isn't legit either (0)

El_Smack (267329) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236852)

It's entirely under your control whether you become an alcoholic. Any condition that you can 100% control entry into isn't a disease, it's a lifestyle choice.

Re:Alcoholism isn't legit either (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237132)

It's entirely under your control whether you become an alcoholic. Any condition that you can 100% control entry into isn't a disease, it's a lifestyle choice.

All you're doing is shifting the uncertainty from the word 'addiction' to the word 'choice' (or 'control'). We are left still needing to explain why some people make repeated choices that damage their well-being.

To see for yourself how vacuous your usage of the word 'choice' is, consider: why would anyone choose such a lifestyle?

Free-will may be axiomatic but that doesn't mean we understand it. We don't, nobody does yet . . . and as long as choice is a mystery, so also is dyschoice (addiction et. al.).

Re:Alcoholism isn't legit either (1)

abaddononion (1004472) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237594)

They say alcoholism is a disease, but its the only disease you can get yelled at for having. "Dammit Otto, you're an alcoholic!" "Dammit Otto, you have lupus!" One of those two doesn't sound right.

Old gem from Mitch Hedberg. Dammit Otto, you're addicted to the internet!

Why shouldn't I fire Addicts? (1)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236864)

Couldn't I fire an alcoholic who drinks on the job? Or a cokehead who snorts at work? Why couldn't I fire a sex chat addict who is chatting up "girls" instead of working? (Of course, this is coming from someone posting on /. instead of working... hmm... )

Look at who really wants this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17236904)


Lawyers want this so they can rack up billable hours prosecuting and defending against this.
Various health practicioners want this so they can treat and BILL for it.
Nairdowells want this so they can sue for money and have some excuse for their stupid or bad behavior.
Many of the rest of us don't see our internet use as an addiction as it allows us to do useful things and interact with others whilst removing the sensory pain (stinky or smelly or visuall unappealing aspect) of being in close proximity with those who would serve us. We CHOOSE to be connected and we like it.

F5, F5, F5, F5... (1)

Rastignac (1014569) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236910)

I don't want to read about this so-called "Internet Addiction".
F5, F5, F5, F5...
That's not stuff that matters.
F5, F5, F5, F5...
I want another Slashdot history, NOW !
F5, F5, F5, F5...
Now, please !
F5, F5, F5, F5...

My addiction story: (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236912)

I was travelling in Japan for about a week of my three-week stay. The schedule was created by my Japanese host who failed to schedule any time for rest. I was unable to check my email. As I was separated not only from my laptop but from the internet at large, I found myself becoming quite edgy until finally, she brought me to a media cafe allowing me to check emails, browse a few sites and finally restore peace and balance to myself.

While I am not sure I can fully understand the nature of addiction, I fear it. If by some chance, this was the sign of actual addiction, then I'm not sure what to do about it since it's an integral part of my work and my play. Many addictions stem, at least initially, from some sort of pleasure-rewarding recreational activity. In this case, it was more of a feeling of being cut off from a world or a life from which I get a certain level of comfort.

As to internet "behavior"? I have a hard time seeing that as being anything other than actionable by an employer. An employer can refuse to hire or may fire someone for being addicted to drugs or anything else that may be deemed as objectionable in the workplace. I'd say porn is right up there on the list.

The "medium" is one thing and the behavior is another. I think it's important to make that distinction.

Adults are SUPPOSED to be accountable for their actions and inactions. This means that if they find themselves dangerously addicted to something, they are supposed to do something to remedy the condition. You don't just stop at labeling something as a disease and throw your hands in the air. In a previous posting, I discussed a time when I found myself missing work so that I could play a video game. (XWing vs. Tie Fighter in that instance.) When I realized what I was doing, I made changes. It's what adults are supposed to do and what we are supposed to be teaching our children so that they become good adults.

So if someone is fired from their job for being addicted to drugs or alcohol, for being obese, for watching porn or chatting online at the office, then I think it's perfectly acceptable. I say this even though I am guilty of two of these offenses myself. I'm not willing to defend my own behavior by calling it a disease.

Alcoholism (1)

SageLikeFool (547462) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236914)

Internet addiction is just as much a medical condition as alcoholism is. Or heroin Addiction. Or prescription pill addiction. And so on.

I don't know if I completely agree with alcoholism being a medical condition, but I think at the base there is something about addiction in general that sometimes can be explained by biological makeup.

Has anyone considered... (1)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236936)

That the guy might've been addicted because he was chatting about sex, rather than because he was "on the internet"? I thought sex was supposed to be a far bigger compulsion towards addiction than using the internet

I find it all to worrying nowadays that people come up with stupid liberal, pseudo-sciences to determine that you're doing too much/too little of something. Bloody hell, so some peopel like spending time playing games and using the internet - so what! Computers can be used for many different things - like cars. You don't hear about people being addicted to cars or roads do you? And adrenaline - well you're average adrenaline junkie doesn't get as much stick as people who are "computer addicts".

It sucks that we now live in a society where having a hobby or interest is now considered a problem - maybe we should all be bored shitless and hanging around outside malls... or just sit around and come up with meaningless generalisations about who does and who doesn't match up to the modern social norm...

My way of handling the Net addiction (2, Interesting)

NotAHappyCoder (223421) | more than 7 years ago | (#17236946)

When ever I'm on a vacation, I try to stay away from computers as much as possible. For example I had a five week vacation this year and I used the Net only three times. And on each time it was about checking my email. (Yes, I checked my email only three times in five weeks! There were quite many unread messages waiting for me each time :-) )

At work I have to stare the screen 8 hours per day. I don't want to do that when I'm on vacation. It is not good for your physical well being to sit all day long.

14% ???? A Few DAYS????? (1)

nickname225 (840560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237036)

I can't believe that only 14% of users said it would be difficult to be without internet for a few days. The internet has been out at my girlfriend's place for 2 days now and ... Time to find another GF. Of course, I still have internet at work and at my place...

Not to worry (1)

flaknugget (938238) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237060)

I've got a sure-fire cure for internet addiction... heroin.

Addiction my ass (1)

Grand Facade (35180) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237064)

There is no physical connection. It is purely psychological.

A friggin obsession, a weakness, a character flaw.

I would compare it to chronic masturbation.

Oh! Wait...

Nevermind.

Listen up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17237094)

The Internet is not a thing to which you can become addicted. It is a channel for activities, to which you can become addicted. MMORPGs are the classic example, but there are plenty of people who are addicted to pr0n, various blogs and forums, or even just surfing. But it's not the Internet to which they're addicted, it's that particular activity.

The Internet is a communication medium. It can be used for helpful purposes, or for harmful ones.

Why the hell can't people figure this out? Nobody called it telephone addiction when people got hooked on 1-900 numbers. In the days before telephones, there were compulsive letter-writers.

Who cares! (2, Informative)

balsy2001 (941953) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237096)

So what if it is an addiction. If you are addicted to drugs you get fired from your job. If you can't keep yourself from surfing the net the whole day you get fired. End of story.

follow the money (1)

LM741N (258038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237136)

I bet if you look carefully at the psychologists promoting excessive internet use as an addiction, you will find ties to drug companies. Anything to increase sales and generate more profits. At best case its a jobs program for third rate psychologists and addictions counselors.

Addiction (1)

KenshoDude (1001993) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237150)

In regards to addiction, basically, there are two types of reinforcements for behaviors, namely:

  1. Positive reinforcement (induction of pleasant feelings - you feel better)
  2. Negative reinforcement (cessation of negative feelings - you feel better)

When engaged in any behavior, if a person is reinforced through either mechanism, they are more likely to continue to perform that behavior. However, most addictions arise out of behaviors that initially promote negative reinforcement but are eventually linked to the surfacing of negative affects (feelings).

To use alcohol as an example, drinking may reduce stresses, inhibitions, and anxieties (negative reinforcement), but if consumed in excess, will lead to negative results such as a hang over or in extreme cases, the shakes. In the case of alcohol, we have the cliché "You just need a little of the hair of the dog that bit you." Basically, consuming more alcohol will postpone or temporarily alleviate the negative consequences of drinking too much alcohol, which is itself more negative reinforcement. Now we are able to appreciate the cyclical nature of addiction.

With this understanding, its possible to see how something like the internet can become addicting. We need to look no further than MMORPGs to illustrate the point. In SOME cases, people who are unsatisfied with ther "real" social life will engage in online play. This has the effect of removing their feelings of dissatisfaction (negative reinforcement) while quite possibly harming their "real life" social life. Thus, the player must lean even more heavily on gaming to alleviate the feelings of dissatisfaction with his/her "real life".

Now, whether "Internet Addiction" could ever qualify as a medical condition... I have little to say there. I am ever suspicious toward the practice of "medicine", I believe they call it a "practice" for a reason.

If the Internet is addictive, what else? (1)

yancey (136972) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237278)

If we define Internet addiction as a "real" disease, then what else might be considered so? For example: Let's say you are about to terminate an office worker for using the phone for personal business too often. Can this office worker then claim a medical issue in that they are addicted to talking on the phone and then request treatment? I think that is going too far. If anything, we are simply talking about general obsessive-compulsive behavior. Of course, those people might spend less time on the Internet if society placed much more value upon getting out of the house or office to enjoy other people's company in person... perhaps a shorter work week?

Of course not, but it can have medical consequence (1)

Oz0ne (13272) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237282)

No. It's no more a medical condition than football fanaticism or religion. It's just one of many things people go fanatical over.

When people can't maintain their normal balance they latch on to some activity or item that they derive pleasure from and it can begin to consume them. All the behaviors associated with their psychological addiction can influence their health, but that's not necessarily always the case. Sure there's the guy that sits refreshing blogs all day, straining his eyes, developing blood clots in his legs, eating badly and not getting exercise but it's caused by his lack of balance, or will power. It's entirely a matter of choice.

As long as freedom of choice exists many people will make bad choices, but I much prefer that to the alternatives.

Try closing your eyes for a few days (4, Insightful)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237334)

Yes, I find it hard to go without the internet for a few days. In fact, it was just about as bad as going without my eyes for a few days after surgery and, I imagine (though I've never had this happen) going without my ears. Of course, going without my eyes wasn't as bad as it might have been, because I had use of the internet before hand, and was thus able to gather a fair number of useful coping tips from other people who had had the same operation.

The internet is "addicting" in the same way any other sense organ or sense-enhancing tool is addicting--once you are aware that there is a way to find out useful things about the world around you it can be very frustrating to have to live without it. For people who don't get it, I suggest removing all the mirrors from their cars for a few days to see how they like having to twist themselves into knots just to find out what's going on around them.

--MarkusQ

WTF?! (1)

faqmaster (172770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237394)

Well, I must be addicted to hot water 'cause I find it hard to stay away from a hot shower for more than a couple of days. Come to think of it, I can't leave the telephone alone for more than a few days in a row either! Using electricity, driving a car, microwaving food, the list is endless. My god! What have I become?!?!?!

pseudo science (0)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237474)

you do know that psychology is a pseudo science and "American Psychiatric Association's DSM" is a load of shit. Take pshyce 101 and you will see how often things are added and removed from that guide simply for political reasons. So, last year you were sick, this year you aren't next year, who knows. Its a game more fun than any ARG i have ever seen.

Condition (1)

Bongo Bill (853669) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237492)

Everything is a mental condition, and by certain arguments nobody has control over any of it. The important question is not whether a person is psychologically dependent on Internet use, but whether they're using it in ways that are unhealthy or damaging, which is something that can only be known in individual cases.

Then again, maybe Slashdot isn't the best crowd to be asking about this.

I got fired (1)

LifeWithJustin (969206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237628)

I had also been fired for being in the online sex chat rooms. Though I think my case maybe a little different... my pants were down when I got caught.

--
Alanna: Saying that Java is nice because it works on all OS's is like saying that anal sex is nice because it works on all genders

Addiction? Bah. (1)

rdforsyth (1039844) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237678)

I'm no more addicted to the internet than I am to drinking coffee. Or Cigarettes.

Depends on how much money is in it. (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237706)

Sorry but every behavioral issue is going to be "Medical Condition" if there is enough money in it. Its one of the reason why so many private employers are having trouble with their health care costs. One of the announcments in our end of year benefits meetings was that costs were going up (duh!) but look at all the new things we can do for you (meaning we have been told this has to be covered)

At least most private insurers will stand up and fight new things being classified as medical when they are not but governments probably won't. It will just lead to even more classes of people who don't work because of "medical reasons" that live off the public.

Look at it this way, if the issues are so dangerous that they become medical problems why allow them to persist? Probably because they are not medical issues

I remember (1)

Centurix (249778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237924)

Logging onto the local BBS, trading stuff using my C64 and other non-computer friends not understanding, not wanting to understand and making fun of the general nerdish nature of the whole thing. I was hooked then, I think the whole connectiveness and interactivity thing wore off after a while. The BBS's changed into free university net access, more FTP than anything else, exchanging copies of the latest Mosaic. Still nerdy to every non-computer person I knew.

Now they have paid internet accounts, and they're checking their mail every 30 seconds and chatting to 50 people simultaneously on MSN.

I've been without internet access for a couple of months at a time and during that time never felt the urge to sneak on to check mail or read a site for news. Maybe this addiction doesn't suit me.

Reading (1)

bkg_cjb (952573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17237980)

Is reading an addiction? Most people do it alot, and have for many years. It can be for practical uses, or for pleasure. Actually, most of my time on the Internet is spent reading. If I wasn't allowed to read anything for a week, I would feel deprived. Finding stuff online to read just happens to be more convenient for me. Same with the phone vs. IM. Does that mean I'm addicted? Now games are a different matter...
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