‘Internet Use Disorder’ to be added to American Psychiatric Association manual

If you feel as if you spend too much time online than is strictly healthy, then you might be right – And, even better, the American Psychiatric Association is now ready to recognize your condition. Although there have been studies into the concept of Internet addiction for quite some time – almost since the dawn of the Internet as a mass-medium, in fact – only now has the APA deigned to add it to their books, with the news that “Internet Use Disorder” is likely to be admitted to the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

To be fair, it’s not as if the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is something that’s updated very often. Originally published in 1952, there have only been five updates since that edition, with the most recent being released twelve years ago. The DSM acts as essentially an encyclopedia of known mental conditions, acting in tandem with the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems to catalog and classify conditions and provide reference material to help with diagnosis and treatment.

The news that Internet Use Disorder may make an appearance in the next edition of the DSM – due May 2013, currently – came from the New York Post of all places, which reported that the disorder is likely to include the following recognizable symptoms:

* Preoccupation with online gambling and a need to spend more time wagering via the Internet.

* Withdrawal symptoms when computer use is denied.

* Continued excessive Internet use by an individual, even if he or she knows how dangerous the problem has become.

* Lying to shrinks and loved ones about excessive Internet use and online gambling.

* Losing interest in other forms of entertainment and hobbies.

You may notice a recurring “gambling” theme in there – It appears as if a large part of being addicted to the Internet from that description has to do with being addicted to gambling, which feels like an odd crossing of the streams, somewhat. However, some of the other definitions may sound somewhat familiar to many Internet users, especially “losing interest in other forms of entertainment and hobbies.”

The addition of the disorder, should it happen, will legitimize the idea of Internet addition in the eyes of many, including organizations and establishments that tend to rely on the DSM for guidance on what is and isn’t a “real” psychological condition. Whether it will result in any changes in the amount of time workers have to spend on computers and online for work remains to be seen, but may be interesting to track.

Final word on the condition’s inclusion or lack thereof may not come until the next edition is published next year.

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