December 1, 2005

"Internet addiction disorder."

There are therapists who diagnose and treat Internet addiction disorder.
[A] leading expert in the field is Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack, the director of the Computer Addiction Study Center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. She opened a clinic for Internet addicts at the hospital in 1996, when, she said, "everybody thought I was crazy."

Dr. Orzack said she got the idea after she discovered she had become addicted to computer solitaire, procrastinating and losing sleep and time with her family.
Well, playing computer solitaire obsessively really is a problem. But just strip it out of your computer and move on. You won't get the shakes or anything. If you're at the point of spending a lot of money or checking into an institution to cure your problem, step back and reason it through. You could simply get rid of your internet connection or your computer and eliminate the problem. The same applies to the "addiction" to watching television. You always have the option to remove the TVs from your house. Then you'll need to find something else to do. Don't plunge into indulgent notions of yourself as weak and diseased.
"I think using the Internet in certain ways can be quite absorbing, but I don't know that it's any different from an addiction to playing the violin and bowling," said Sara Kiesler, professor of computer science and human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. "There is absolutely no evidence that spending time online, exchanging e-mail with family and friends, is the least bit harmful. We know that people who are depressed or anxious are likely to go online for escape and that doing so helps them."

It was Professor Kiesler who called Internet addiction a fad illness. In her view, she said, television addiction is worse. She added that she was completing a study of heavy Internet users, which showed the majority had sharply reduced their time on the computer over the course of a year, indicating that even problematic use was self-corrective.

She said calling it an addiction "demeans really serious illnesses, which are things like addiction to gambling, where you steal your family's money to pay for your gambling debts, drug addictions, cigarette addictions." She added, "These are physiological addictions."
Yeah, I agree with Kiesler. Or maybe you just think I just haven't gotten to the first step of admitting I have a problem. I think if you find yourself passionately absorbed in something, the question should be whether it is a good thing, not whether you are passionately absorbed.


SippicanCottage said...

Be wise and shun the quack.

Jonathan said...

. . . the question should be whether it is a good thing, not whether you are passionately absorbed.

I think that's right. What makes a behavior bad or benign is the cost relative to the benefit. For many people heavy indulgence in alcohol or narcotics is terribly costly relative to the benefits. This is hardly the case for solitaire, blogging and some of the other activities that therapy hustlers try to gin up public concern about.

If the destructive consequences of a common activity are so obscure as to require explanation by experts, perhaps there is no problem.

chuck b. said...

But you can't necessarily remove the internet from your desk at work. I think that's where the real problem is for some people.

Ron said...

Oh all this blogging a cry for help? Will it come down to your last post being, "Stop me before I post again!"

I agree with the "passionately absorbed" remark. Isn't it odd there's a element of culture that's deeply suspicious of being passionate about anything? Before the suspicion was moral; not it's "scientific."

AnechoicRoom said...

The behavioral problem of addiction isn't necessarily related to the fix.

Real addiction is a truly freakin nasty biz. While it may seem simple and worthy of mocking, "internet addiction" could just as easily be supplanted in an individual by gambling, sex, drugs, or alcohol.

While some may dawdle too much at the keyboard, there are seriously sick individuals who need heavy weight help with whatever their specific dysfunction.

And no, please do not consider this as an endorsement of a medical/institutional approach. So, while tuning the frequency or osmoting the matrix can be an engaging pastime. For however many/few (?) It can be debilitating in those predisposed/vulnerable to the breakdown in functioning that is addiction.

Ross said...

She calls gambling a physiological addiction. I am dubious.

PatCA said...

I spend the time on the internet that I used to spend reading the daily newspaper--I'm sure this is true for lots of folks--which is why the NYT is so eager to call it an illness, I would guess. :)

Bruce Hayden said...

Work usage is a problem for many. I think cruising the Web is more of a problem though than playing solitaire (or, in my case, FreeCell).

For me, the "addiction" is the Web, and, in particular, what is going on in the world. And then commenting on it - I find what I am doing right now more addicting than almost anything.

That said, I think the real indication of a harmful addiction is that it adversely impacts your ability to carry on with the rest of your life. I would worry if I couldn't put it aside when I had pressing work.

I watch my daughter jump back and forth from TV to the Internet, and I think she finds them both equally mesmerizing. But I mostly let her do it, as long as she keeps her grades up, as she does exceptionally well.

Which brings me to the third part of the addictive electronic trilogy - video games. They appear to be even more addictive for esp. young males than either the Internet or TV.

Bruce Hayden said...

I do see the connection between some types of gambling and both computer and video gaming. If you have ever walked through a casino, you will probably have noted the mesmerized look on many of those playing the slots. I think there is some connection there. That said, at least with computer games, you don't lose your paycheck, as you ultimately will with the slots.

Henry said...

I remember reading some computer game designer saying all computer games fall into two categories: Addictive. Or boring.

ca said...

I was once seriously, seriously addicted to a computer game, in a rather destructive sense. In the sense that one day my boyfriend went off to work while I was playing this game. He came back many hours later (he works fairly long hours; might have been 11 or 12) and I was still playing the game; scarily, I had not stopped to EAT, much less to work or surf the internet or anything else. It was seriously, as you can tell, interfering with my work (fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, my work was very flexible at the time, so I got away with it). And then the health problems: My hands were falling apart from the abuse they were taking (I have long-standing chronic RSI problems if I'm bad about computer usage) and even that could not stop me from playing this game. So yeah, it was a Bad Thing.

So one day I uninstalled it from my computer. This stopped the problem.(I should imagine this is fairly parallel to moving away from Vegas for a gambler, but I don't know much about gambling addictions; is that enough to stop someone from gambling?) I would love to play it again, but I'm afraid of what might happen...

Charles said...

I can quit any time... really I can...

But meanwhile, if you can separate some suckers from their money, and it's not illegal, then it's just business. No worse than "grief counselors" who descend on and prey on every event (elections on down) that happens in the country.

I will quit as soon as I figure out if Ann is Debbie Harry's sister, I take one of her classes, or win dinner with her.... maybe....

AJ Lynch said...

So this is the longest(five hours?) you have gone without posting to your blog in my memory....does that mean you have taken the article to heart and are in therapy?

vbspurs said...

first step of admitting I have a problem. I think if you find yourself passionately absorbed in something, the question should be whether it is a good thing, not whether you are passionately absorbed.

What addiction?


Anyway, 4 AM is perfect to be commenting on Althouse.

All the trolls are online betting on the Raiders to win by 20 over Miami. Heh. Losers.


vbspurs said...

Be wise and shun the quack.

I heard that, Sippican.

'Sides, it's no improvement on Ben Franklin's elegant:

An apple a day, keeps the doctor away

I wonder which fruit reduces internet-addiction?

Is the answer, kumquat?


me said...

I confess I am an internet addict, though not a blackberry addict, thank God!

Meade said...

My name is Meade and I'm an Althouseaholic. Can't stay away from it. Even when she pisses me off. In fact, that only makes it worse. Haunts my dreams. Creeps into my every waking hour.

There. I admit I have a problem. Now what?

XWL said...

I was going to try for something funny but I'm out.

Sounds like more NYT sourgrapes to me.

Maybe I'm a comment addict.

I comment even when I have nothing to say.

I can quit anytime I want, I just choose not to.

See I could even delete this comment without posting it, but since I'm so sure that I'm not an addict I will go ahead and post this anyway.

(new line of thought, I am a self-refrencing addict, I can end my solipsistic musings anytime. . . . .)

Meade said...

By the way, it all started with Halloween candy. Then I moved on to harder stuff. My wife left me. My kids never call and I now have delusions of being Rocky, the flying squirrel.

tefta said...

I'm spend all my time sitting in a circle with all my rainbow hued comrades singing kumbaya in Swahili. Is that okay? Do I need therapy to cure me of my addiction. No.

Thank G-d!

Joe Baby said...

Great, one more "affliction" that will cause my premiums to rise.