The Bradford Regional Medical Center (BRMC) in Bradford, PA will be the first US hospital to begin treating internet addiction. Four patients will begin a 10-day inpatient program designed to address severe internet addiction. The beginning of the program is an important step toward recognizing internet addiction as a true addiction and mental illness.
While there are other independent facilities that have programs for treating internet addiction, so far major medical center has offered any options. In part, this is because the American Psychiatric Association does not recognize internet addiction as a formal disorder. The newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – DSM-5 – recognizes “gaming disorder” for the first time, but the Association feels that there isn’t enough research on internet addiction yet to decide whether or not it is a real disorder.
Because the DSM-5 doesn’t recognize internet addiction, health insurance companies do not pay for treatment of internet addiction, leaving patients who want treatment to pay out-of-pocket. The program at BRMC costs $14,000. In some other countries, however, such as Japan and Korea, internet addiction has been treated at hospitals for more than 10 years.
It’s been found that most people who suffer from gaming disorder or internet addiction are young males who are intelligent with low self-esteem. Internet addicts are generally more obsessed with games than things like pornography, which falls under the category of sex addiction. However, addiction to social media is clearly on the rise. In order to be considered addicted, a person must spend so much time on the internet that it negatively interferes with their life, and they continue using the internet despite those consequences.
There is a key difference, however, in how patients will be treated for internet addiction at BRMC compared to people with drug or alcohol addictions. People with substance addictions are expected to stay away from substances completely. Founds of the program at BRMC, on the other hand, believe it’s impractical to expect anyone to remain off the internet entirely. After 72 hours without internet access, patients at BRMC will be gradually allowed back online, and the focus will be on teaching them how to use the internet in a healthy, moderate way.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Internet Addiction Treatment and Recovery Program at BRMC, you can learn more here (link: http://www.brmc.com/programs-services/internet-addiction-bradford-pa.php). If you’re unsure whether or not you or someone you know has an internet or gaming addiction, this website also provides a list of signs to watch for. Most of the signs and symptoms of internet addiction are identical to those for drug or alcohol addiction.
Sober Nation, what do you think about this? Is internet addiction a real disorder? Should there be more treatment options available for it? I’d really like to know what you think about the idea of internet addicts being taught healthy ways to use the internet – do you think that approach is reasonable, or do you think total abstinence is necessary?
By Lisa M. Hann