North Texas Daily

Manual includes Internet Use Disorder for the first time

Manual includes Internet Use Disorder for the first time

October 17
23:03 2012

Marlene Gonzalez / Senior Staff Writer

In a technology-driven society that constantly browses Facebook and updates Twitter, being hooked on the Internet may seem normal.

However, for the first time, psychiatrists are listing Internet Use Disorder (IUD) in the 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

The manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides criteria for diagnosing mental disorders.

According to the American Psychiatric Association website, IUD symptoms include an addiction to Internet gaming, growing anxiety and irritation when people are offline and hindering social or career relationships because of extensive Internet use.

It hasn’t been classified as an illness requiring treatment yet, but it is being studied further.

Educational psychology professor Wendy Middlemiss said it’s important to examine and study the overuse of the Internet.

She said the DSM adding it to the list of possible mental illnesses gives it a higher level of consideration and understanding.

“It’s a very dangerous situation for us to be in,” Middlemiss said. “To have to begin as a society and a community that has to deal with how to use technology in the ways that are beneficial and to balance it with the continuing need to be social and interactive. We are social creatures.”

Middlemiss said she explains the urge addicts feel by comparing the situation to a student being late for class on the day of a test and not being able to find his or her keys.

The test determines if the student passes or fails, and a friend is trying to talk to them at that precise moment. The student would ignore and explode on the friend, Middlemiss said.

“That’s the same thing with an addiction,” she said. “Attaining whatever it is that you’re addicted to is kind of that same thing physiologically as finding those keys, because at that moment and time, everything else is secondary.”

Middlemiss said two hours is a normal amount of time spent on the Internet.

Psychology professor Thomas Parsons said there is a controversy whether Internet addiction exists or if it is some underlying disorder such as a manifestation of depression, anxiety or impulse control.

“They become so absorbed in it they lose themselves,” Parsons said.

He said instead of calling it Internet addiction, it is more accurately described as problematic Internet use. However, when there is excessive use of the Internet and it interferes with people’s daily lives, it becomes an issue, he said.

“Students use the Internet as a form of self-medication for their depression or anxiety,” Parsons said. “They use the Internet to feel better about themselves.”

Parsons said there are two different types of people who deal with this issue.

The first level of people knows that they already have a neuropsychological issue and should be careful of how they use the Internet because it could exasperate their symptoms.

The second level is a group of people who have no history of depression or anxiety, but the unlimited use of Internet may cause some of these problems to arise for the first time.

English sophomore Timothy Lang said he spends about four hours a day on the Internet speaking with friends across the country.

However, he said he has spent up to eight hours a day playing the online role-playing game “World of Warcraft.” He said he would get up only to eat microwavable food or chips.

“I look back now and all the time that I spent, and I can see how they would call that a mental illness,” Lang said. “Because you don’t realize how much time you’re spending when you’re there.”

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