First Internet Addiction Center Opens

internet use

The signs:

  • being preoccupied with thoughts about it;
  • doing it longer than intended, and for increasing amounts of time;
  • repeatedly making unsuccessful efforts to limit or stop doing it;
  • jeopardizing relationships, school, or work to spend time doing it;
  • lying to cover having used it;
  • using it to escape problems or feelings of depression.

These may sound like signs of drug or alcohol addition, maybe even sex addiction. But in our modern technological era, they are actually signs of Internet addiction. They sound as addicted as the addicts we’ve come to be more familiar with:

“Internet addicts miss out on real conversations and real human development, often see their hygiene, their home, and relationships deteriorate, don’t eat or sleep properly, and don’t get enough exercise.”

The same symptoms and effects of addictions to drugs, alcohol, and other dangerous substances and behaviors has now hit the world wide web. So now for the first time, a center has opened in a suburb of Seattle, Washington, which is, ironically, the home of Microsoft!

It’s the first but probably won’t be the last: an addiction center. It’s not just any addiction center; it’s a reflection of the latest addiction in our society: the Internet. Who are some of the people who have walked through the doors of this first center of its kind in the United States?

Ben Alexander is only 19 years old but claims that he used to spend almost all day, literally, playing a game called “World of Warcraft.” He spent so much time doing this that he dropped out from the University of Iowa. Although Ben is currently their only patient, the center has room and staff for six addicts at a time.

How does Ben spend his days at the center? He attends counseling and psychotherapy sessions; he does domestic chores, including baking cookies; he works outdoors and goes on outings, since getting out is part of the strategy; and he works out.

There is some debate over the causes of Internet addiction. Some experts believe that the addiction can be caused by other problems, such as mental issues, like depression, or even autism. Dr. Ronald Pies, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y. believes this is the case:

“From what we know, many so-called ‘Internet addicts’ are folks who have severe depression, anxiety disorders, or social phobic symptoms that make it hard for them to live a full, balanced life and deal face-to-face with other people.”

There’s actually even debate surrounding the issue of including internet addition in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Dr. Dr. Jerald Block, of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portlandgoes on to say this about the inclusion of this new addiction:

“Among psychiatrists there is general recognition that many patients have difficulty controlling their impulses to chat online, or play computer games or watch porn. The debate is how to classify that.”

What matters most to people like Ben is:

“I don’t think I’ll go back to ‘World of Warcraft’ anytime soon.”

And, at the end of the day, regardless of whether psychologists can dissect all the causes and place it in the the latest version of the DSM, Ben is getting a life again. And that’s what matters.

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