Internet addiction now a mental health disorder

Jan 28, 2013 | News


Mental health professionals are paying attention to Internet addiction
CC Courtesy of Alex Proimos on Flickr

By Giulia Frisina

A new disorder will be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) this year, a standard guidebook for diagnosing psychiatric illness across North America.

In this latest addition – due out May 2013 – “Internet Use Disorder,” which means excessive Internet use interfering with daily life, will be recommended as an area requiring further study.

Several programs across North America are now treating Internet addiction, including one at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

According to ComScore, a global Internet use tracker, the average Canadian spends more then 45 hours online each month.

A new nationwide poll conducted by the Toronto Star , found that one-third of wired Canadians use the Internet before getting out of bed in the morning and 50 per cent use it before falling asleep.

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which represents the wireless communication industry in Canada, says the amount of text messages sent per day has grown substantially. In June 2012, Canadians sent nearly 270 million text messages per day. In 2005, the monthly average was 4.1 million.

Some mental health professionals are concerned with how Internet overload affects patients who already suffer from mental illness.

“For some people with social anxiety, the Internet is a blessed relief. They don’t need to deal with people in the real world,” Andrew Tibbetts, a counselor with Humber’s counseling services, told Humber News.

Tibbett’s said this is not new and Internet overuse is definitely delaying the process of helping him treat mental illness. “People have been talking about this for a long time, I’m glad mental health professionals are beginning to take it more seriously,” he said.

Malacki Holdford, first-year accounting student at Humber, said he is shy and being on the Internet gets him out of personal interactions.“If I’m at home, then I’m on it all day,” said Holdford. “I don’t really talk to people that much, I prefer to surf the Internet.”

Some professionals say Internet addiction should be grouped with other addictions.
“Certainly I do think it’s a concern but I would categorize it more like a compulsive behavior,” said psychologist Dr. Miltra Gholamain, who specializes in addiction counseling. “It should be managed like any other form of addiction.”