About.com's sexuality editor Cory Silverberg rips into a much-publicized American Journal of Psychiatry editorial from Oregon-based psychiatrist Dr. Jerald Block that calls for a diagnosis of "Internet addiction" to be added to the DSM (the list of mental disorders used by mental health professionals and insurance providers to classify people with diagnosable mental disorders). Silverberg writes…
[Block] argues that that "Internet addiction" is experienced primarily by people engaged in "excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations, and e-mail/text messaging" and that its definition should include:
1) excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives, 2) withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible, 3) tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use, and 4) negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue.
He cites a few studies to support his theory but seems to believe that we're already past the point of debating if such a thing as "Internet addiction" exists. Not to put too fine a point on it, we aren't. Media responses to the editorial were predictable. Newspapers reported on it as if it were a new piece of empirical research, boldly claiming that spending too much time texting or being online was a mental disorder. Bloggers tried their best to mask their understandable anxiety behind defensive jokes about the possibility of being the first to get labeled.
I was particularly surprised by what seemed like a significant omission in the commentary. Of the 103 articles in Nexis and 92 articles linked from Google News that refer to Dr. Block's editorial not one of them reported the fact that Dr. Block is the co-founder and president of SMARTguard, a company which owns a patent on technology that can be used to restrict computer access. It's funny that no one mentioned it, since its right there in the editorial footnote.