It’s official – internet addiction looks to be making its way to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders as a fully recognized mental health condition. While the authors agree that extensive further study is needed before the decision can be finalized, Internet Use Disorder is considered to be a growing problem across the Western World and considerable more harmful than it is given credit for.
As such, mental health specialists and campaigners for safe use of the internet are calling for renewed vigilance and awareness of the symptoms of IUD, along with advice for those concerned about their own online habits.
In general, IUD shares several key characteristics with all other common addictions plaguing society. Speaking on the subject of IUD, the American Psychiatric Association have stated that the condition is characterized by a strong and insatiable “preoccupation” with the internet or with online activities, negative effects and symptoms when the internet cannot be accessed, the need to spend greater and more intensive time online to enjoy any real satisfaction, failed attempts to cut down internet use, loss of existing interest, detrimental effects on social or family relationships and a generally withdrawn mood when offline.
Scientific research into IUD has been furthered extensively over recent years, as the world in large becomes more and more dependent on the internet as an expected daily standard. Studies have shown that some of those with seemingly advanced cases of IUD have actual changes noticeable in their brains – specifically the areas responsible for the processing of emotions and attention maintenance.
Intriguingly and rather worrying at the same time, these kinds of changes are exactly the same as detectable in individuals with addictions to certain drugs, including heroin and cocaine.
Separate studies into the brain’s dopamine system have also highlighted a potential link between internet addiction and the number of dopamine receptors found in certain areas of the brain – receptors credited with feelings of reward and pleasure.
Perhaps the biggest question of all arising from these and several other studies is that of should IUD be accepted as a genuine mental health condition and one of significant threat to the public, how exactly should it be treated? And what’s more, where should the line be drawn to allow a person to monitor his or her own safe internet use, or that of their family?
The latter of the two may be unanswerable, as while certain horror-stories of parental neglect and socially maladjusted children arising from internet overuse may be rife, most agree that tolerance levels will differ exponentially between individuals. What’s more, some have also suggested that certain people in the corporate world are able to function and perform on an entirely higher plain by making concerted efforts to spend 90% of their lives glued to their screens – all of their own accord.
Sadly, the idea of potential treatment methods is no less complicated as in most circles of life it has become 100% mandatory to use the internet several times a day simply to get by. This isn’t the kind of addiction where a person could co “cold turkey” and cut themselves off in a heartbeat, nor in a realistic sense could they be expected to wean themselves off the web while surrounded by access portals at every turn.
It will of course depend on whether or not IUD becomes a recognized mental health disorder as to whether or not sufficient time and money is pumped into research for its treatment and ultimate cure. The matter is still therefore at this juncture wide open to debate.