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"Internet addiction" is a real disease ... according to new inpatient facility

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 4:57pm
Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor

Waste lots of time on the Internet looking at cat pictures and playing Minecraft? You should immediately fork over $14K to an inpatient facility in Pennsylvania — the first of its kind in the US – to treat your chronic internet addiction. Don’t believe that Internet addiction is a real condition? Think it’s all a scam to treat a fake “disease” that isn’t covered by insurance? Shows your ignorance — you obviously don’t have a “Dr.” in front of your name.

The 10-day program is set to open this month at the Behavioral Health Services at Bradford Regional Medical Center in central PA. And the disease it purports to treat is very real.

"[Internet addiction] is a problem in this country that can be more pervasive than alcoholism," said Dr. Kimberly Young, the psychologist who founded the non-profit program. "The Internet is free, legal and fat free."

And the treatment bears this out. The “addicts” are forced to quit cold-turkey — patients undergo a “digital detox”, where they’re cut off from the Internet and computers for 72 hours. Naturally, this sort of “addiction” isn’t an official clinical disorder, because such a diagnosis would require sciencey things like peer review and avoiding malpractice lawsuits.

According to Dr. Roger Laroche, the medical director of the department of psychiatry at Bradford Regional, those suffering from severe Internet addiction have an undiagnosed psychiatric disorder or personality problem – which is handy, because treating those specific conditions would be covered by insurance.

But for some strange reason, not everyone recognizes Internet addiction as a legitimate disorder. In a Huffington Post article, “Internet Addiction: The Next New Fad Diagnosis”, Allen Frances, a professor emeritus at Duke University, noted the following:

“So far, the research on "Internet addiction" is remarkably thin and not very informative. Don't get too excited by pretty pictures showing the same parts of the brain lighting up during Internet use and drug use; they light up non-specifically for any highly valued activity and are not indicative of pathology. The history of psychiatry is filled with fad diagnoses that far overshoot their target, get wildly misapplied, and spawn new "treatments" that are often no more than expensive quackery.”

Professor Frances is obviously deluded (and he probably can’t afford the $14,000 for treatment). Just for kicks, I researched “Internet addiction” on, of all things, the Internet, and I discovered some juicy morsels. Helpguide.org describes “Internet addiction” thusly:

“When you feel more comfortable with your online friends than your real ones, or you can’t stop yourself from playing games, gambling, or compulsively surfing — even when it has negative consequences in your life — then you may be using the Internet too much.”

Risk factors for this serious (and expensive) disease include anxiety, depression, other addictions (like drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex), stress, and the kicker, “an unhappy teenager” (which describes approximately 99.9% of mopey adolescents).

If you feel “a sense of euphoria while involved in Internet activities”, then that could be a sign of addiction. But once again, that rabble-rousing professor from Duke would disagree.

“It should not be counted as a mental disorder and be called an "addiction" just because you really love an activity, get a lot of pleasure from it, and spend a lot of time doing it,” says Professor Frances.

Somebody revoke this guy’s tenure. He’s thinking too logically.

And if you think $14K is a bit steep for treating a symptom of something else (which wouldn’t cost a dime to treat), consider this: In China, the treatment for “Internet addiction” involves shock therapy.

I’m sold. Do they take PayPal?

 

Editor’s note: 99.9% of the sentiment expressed in this article is sarcasm and should not be taken seriously. The treatment facility and the program, however, are very real.

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