A New Diagnosis: Internet Addiction Disorder

Mental health professionals have identified a new addictive disorder in people they refer to as onlineaholics. According to the estimates of these professionals, “6 percent to 10 percent of the approximately 189 million Internet users in this country have a dependency that can be as destructive as alcoholism and drug addiction” (reported in the New York Times, 12/01/2005.) In response to critics calling this a “fad illness” professionals insist that many online addicts are furthering other addictions to pornography or gambling and have become much more dependent on such addictions due to the presence of the internet. Many people that become addicted to the internet already suffer from another disorder like depression or anxiety, however there are millions of healthy people that get lured in by “the Internet’s omnipresent offer of escape from reality, affordability, accessibility and opportunity for anonymity.” Symptoms of the disorder include cravings for the computer, lying about time spent online, withdrawl from hobbies and social activities, back pain, and weight gain. Withdrawl symptoms are similar to those that are experiences by alcoholics and drug addicts and include abnormal sweating, extreme anxiety and paranoia. Unfortunately, insurance companies do not recognize this as a psychiatric disorder, so people seeking treatment have to pay out of pocket.

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