In recent months, the awareness about people unable to connect from technology for even a short period of time has gotten a lot of attention.
Last November, The New York Times ran an article on a Korean boot camp to cure kids of their computer addiction. South Korea, a country where 90 percent of homes are connected to the Web, feels that it has a responsibility to deal with the effects of this, holding the first international symposium on Internet addiction in September.
“Korea has been most aggressive in embracing the Internet,” said Koh Young-sam, head of the government-run Internet Addiction Counseling Center told the Times. “Now we have to lead in dealing with its consequences.”
U.S. psychiatrists appear to be taking Internet addiction more seriously as well, proposing that this “compulsive-impulsive” disorder be added to the next release of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-V in 2011.
“Internet addiction appears to be a common disorder that merits inclusion in the DSM-V,” wrote Dr. Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at Oregon Health and Science University in the March issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, agrees.
Block argued that internet addiction shared four components with other compulsive-impulsive disorders, including excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or neglect of basic drives; withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension or depression when away from the computer; tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software and more hours of use; and negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement and social isolation.
Block notes that South Korea already considers this a serious public health issue, as does China, which as of March 13, had surpassed the U.S. in its number of Internet users. In 2007, China began restricting computer game use, discouraging more than 3 hours each day.
A study suggests that the U.S. isn’t very far behind. According to a study by the Solutions Research Group, 68 percent of Americans feel anxious when they’re not connected in one way or another, and this “disconnect anxiety” causes feelings of disorientation and nervousness when a person is deprived of Internet or wireless for a period of time.