Is Internet Addiction a Mental Disorder?

A recent study in Australia revealed that an increasing number of parents are turning to Psychologists for help with their children who are addicted to the internet.  An article discussing this study points out internet addiction has become so strong there is a push to have it added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a condition known as “pathological internet misuse.”  The article found on the Herald Sun news website deals mainly with online games such as World of Warcraft that teens and younger age children end up playing all night, but also refers to teens who become obsessed with Facebook.

There is definitely an addiction to online games or internet in these cases because any attempt to take it away is met with violence and anger.  One mother said in an interview that her son only went to school intermittently over the last two years because any attempt to get him away from the computer resulted in threats, holes being punched in the wall, and throwing things around the room.  While the violent outbursts may seem like the greatest issue, the worldview they develop playing those games and lack of social interaction with other people their age poses a much greater danger in the future which is why this kind of addiction should be dealt with.

Something must be done to help these young people addicted to the internet and groups like the Internet Investigation and Research who did this study in Australia should be applauded for researching this growing problem, but I have to wonder if the problems answer is to create a new mental disorder.  There are some situations where this would be necessary like someone who believes that what happens in the game is reality or an addiction to the internet overlaps with other mental conditions, but in most cases these addictions are issues that would be need counseling instead of being treated as pathological internet misuse.

Someone with a mental disorder (like Attention Deficit Disorder for instance) has little or no control over their actions without medication or professional of some kind so its almost impossible to confront them over their actions.  An addiction would need some professional help from time to time but the big difference is the person does have a choice in the matter.  An alcoholic can choose not drink, a drug addict can choose not to use drugs, and a internet addict can choose not to play games all night.

Yes there needs to be help such as counseling since in many cases teens addicted to the internet are trying to escape something thats painful by playing that game where they are heroes and losing themselves in that reality.  There also needs to be help for parents and strict rules as well as guidelines like only playing a certain amount of time each day.  But the bottom line is almost all of these children do have a choice in the matter which is why internet addiction must be viewed as a learned response instead of a mental problem they have no control over.


Published by

John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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