Will Internet Addiction Make It?

By Jed Bickman 08/29/11

We don't know whether Internet addiction will get into the 2013 DSM-5, but treatment centers aren't waiting to find out.

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In the wake of some new assessments of the nature of addiction, we may need to re-evaluate a range of behavioral addictions—such as shopping or sex—that were previously considered "less serious" than those causing physical dependency. Internet addiction is still under consideration to be granted Official Diagnosis status in the 2013 addiction specialists' "bible," DSM-5. Last year, researchers at the University of Maryland found that many students who were asked to give up Internet use for 24 hours exhibited classic signs of withdrawal, including craving and anxiety, particularly in regard to social media. The concept of Internet addiction remains controversial, and there's little consensus on how to diagnose or treat it. Still, Internet addiction treatment is a growing global industry: Centers have sprung up in the US, the government of South Korea has set up over 140 Internet addiction treatment facilities, while in China, intense militaristic boot camps are seen as the answer. But a review of eight Internet addiction treatment centers published last month found that they are plagued by inconsistent diagnostic criteria, methodologies and therapeutic responses. The problem of Internet addiction makes us ask ourselves challenging questions about what addiction is—Addiction therapist and Fix contributor Dr. Paul Hokeymeyer gave one response to such a question earlier this year. While many of us feel an increasing need to stay connected—both for work and to maintain our social lives—how can we tell when the need becomes pathological?

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Jed Bickman is a journalist and copywriter living in the greater New York City area. He is the associate editor at The New Press. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.