Thursday, June 26, 2008

Internet Addiction is a Disease. No, Really.

Apparently, internet addiction has been nominated for entry into DSM V:
First, we all had mild Asperger's. Now, Internet addiction disorder? Give a geek a break. In the March issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, Jerald Block proposed that Web abuse be added to his field's bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Block cites research from South Korea, where, he says, the affliction is considered a serious public health problem, and the government estimates that 168,000 children may require psychotropic medications. In China, the Beijing Military Region Central Hospital puts the number of teenage pathological computer users at 10 million.
I have mixed feelings about psychiatry. On the one hand, it was a generally chill rotation and I had a pretty good time. However, the field itself seems to be just barely scratching the surface of truly treating patients. Compared to say, oncology, psychiatry seems to lump people together and treat symptoms in a broad way, without truly addressing the underlying problems. Sure, there is the biopsychosocial formulation, but in reality, only the 'bio' gets treated while the social problems generally tend to fester. I certainly do not have any solutions, but the whole situation just strikes me as sad. I think over-medicating is a significant problem, and one that psychiatry does little to address given its own dependency on pharmaceuticals, relative to other fields.

This dependency leads to ridiculousness as described above. Why categorize this as a separate addiction? The goal here is to be able to get reimbursements from insurance companies for treating this as well as specific indications for certain drugs to treat this as well. If one thinks about it, there really shouldn't be any underlying distinction between Internet addiction vs. other forms of socially-derived addictions. What next, Dungeons&Dragons addiction? Unlike addiction to a substance, which does induce actual biological changes, it's not clear to me how the internet differs from an addiction to gambling, shopping, or other self-destructive behavior.

Psychiatrists! What'll they think of next? =)


  1. Brilliant post!

    Your classmate

  2. Thanks! I try =)

    DSM V seems it will have a lot of changes to it already, including some kind of combination of anxiety d/o and mood d/o.

  3. Isn't psychiatry more remote to medicine than dentistry? Why keep psychiatry in medicine and detach dentistry? :D

  4. I don't know about banishing psychiatry from medicine. I think with further research, if anything, psychiatry will come more into the mainstream of medicine. For example, my med school already has a "computational psychiatry" department, whatever that means.

    However, I have never understood why podiatry and dentistry are separate from medicine. My understanding is that they receive much the same basic training on the general physiology of the body and mechanisms of disease. It's not like our body makes such an arbitrary distinction. Sometimes, I feel the U.S. healthcare industry is too beholden to tradition to make obvious, common-sense changes.



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