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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Women prefer Internet over Sex

Nearly half of the women questioned by Harris Interactive said they'd be willing to forgo sex for two weeks, rather than give up their Internet access, according to a study released Monday by Intel, which commissioned the survey.

While 46 percent of the women surveyed were willing to engage in abstinence versus losing their Internet, only 30 percent of the men surveyed were willing to do likewise.

The U.S. survey, which queried 2,119 adults last month, found that the gap grew even wider for both men and woman who were 18 to 34 years old. For woman, the percentage of those willing to skip the sheets in favor of the Web rose to 49 percent, while it climbed to 39 percent for men.

This says so much about our dependency upon the Internet. Beyond addiction, we are focused on creating a connected world. Asking people to give up email, Facebook, or MySpace would mean giving up social relationships. The Internet is a large part of how we relate.

Being online also is more than information searching. We NEED the Internet to do research, book hotels, make airline reservations, or trade stocks. It is a tool that goes beyond anything we first imagined. Forget addiction - giving up the Internet for average people would be difficult for anyone! It is our reality, which makes diagnosis of addiction tricky when we have come to rely upon online use in our daily lives.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Porn in Libraries

The debate of unrestricted access to porn in public libraries is back in the news. Some say that librarians should not be censors to public content available online. On the same side of this argument are those who say the library's so-called, "shoulder tap" policy that allows patrons to object to what others may be watching is also too restrictive. "Is there a problem here or do we have people who want to engage in censorship?" said American Civil Liberties Union.

Early in my career, I spoke at the American Library Association regarding this issue, hearing from many librarians who had to deal with men coming to the library to view porn offending other patrons. They also complained of not feeling comfortable in the role of censor. Feeling that this was not part of their job description.

The debate will surely continue. Not one ounce of doubt about that. The Internet is publicly accessible at a library, and should libraries be censoring any objectionable materials. It isn't just porn but hate sites or access to violent games, for example, may not be something that parents want their children to view. Given these issues, do you believe libraries should censor porn at public computers?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pathological Computer Use

Pathological Computer Use (PCU) is a proprosed diagnosis for the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). PCU consists of excessive computer use, withdrawal, tolerance, and serious negative repercussions due to excessive computer use. The debate, to some extent, is in the term. Research has used Internet addiction, Problem Internet use, Pathological Internet use, heavy Internet use to describe the same behavior. As another opinion question, what term do you think best describes the problem?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Should Internet Addiction be in DSM?

In the American Journal of Psychiatry for March, an editorial offers the opinion that Internet addiction is a 'compulsive-impulsive' disorder, and should be added to the official DSM guidebook of disorders. The editorial characterizes net addiction as including 'excessive gaming, online sexual pre-occupations and e-mail/text messaging'. From the article: 'Like other addicts, users experience cravings, urges, withdrawal and tolerance, requiring more and better equipment and software, or more and more hours online, according to Dr. Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. Dr. Block says people can lose all track of time or neglect "basic drives," like eating or sleeping. Relapse rates are high, he writes, and some people may need psychoactive medications or hospitalization."

Going back to 1994, when I started to study Internet addiction, many did question its validity. Today, documented cases in Italy, Germany, China, Taiwan, and Korea as well as the US, support that Internet addiction is a serious condition.

Last summer, doctors from the Internet Addiction Recovery Center in Beijing had visited with me to personally discuss my work on Internet addiction. They had repeatedly asked me why in America we didn't have more treatment centers for Internet addiction. In China, the government had funded their clinic and were considering opening several more. They were surprised that Internet addiction was being debated as a disorder. To a large extent, in the US, accurate estimates of the prevalence of the disorder are lacking. Unlike in Asia, where Internet cafés are frequently used, in the US, computers are mainly accessed from home. Further, attempts to measure the phenomenon are clouded by shame, denial, and minimization.

Internet addicts often suffer from other psychological problems such as depression or anxiety, masking signs of Internet problems, especially if therapists do not routinely screen for it.

As the psychiatry field gains a deeper understanding, Internet addiction may very well appear in the next DSM. The movement towards its inclusion grows as more professionals are urging a closer examination of the problem. As an opinion question, do you think Internet addiction be included in the next DSM?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Impact on marriage

I received an emaiil today made me want to share this. Repeatedly, studies find that Internet use has a negative impact on marriages. In my first study on Internet addiction, over 50% of respondents said that they suffered marital problems because of their Internet use. It is how I first got involved with this study, as a friend of mine's husband became addicted to chat rooms, which led to their divorce.

In the email, Maggie has been married for 3 years and they do not have children. She writes, "We are both 28 and I thought we had a strong, open and honest relationship; other than the normal marital issues. He started playing World of Warcraft and finds playing this game takes his mind off his concerns, but it has become a problem, he plays all the time. Everything we had together seems to be slipping away."

"I mentioned to my husband that I didn't want to be replaced by a cybergame, and I think that is finally penetrating. After I mentioned that I felt intimacy between us was difficult (to put it mildly) with a computer in the way, he seemed to realize that I was seriously feeling pushed aside. For the past few weeks he hasn't been spending as much time on it. Now I hope this continues, but it is early to tell! I don't want his GRUDGING attention, so I guess I will have to be patient and persistent. I know our relationship IS first for him, so I think he will fight this "addiction." I will suggest we play together - in real time, not online! I do have a backgammon board somewhere (now why didn't I think of that myself...)"

Even if online relationships aren't sexual or involve cybersex, they can still lead to marital problems. Just the basic neglect of the marriage can impede intimacy and trust for a couple. Maggie feels confused yet hopeful that she can regain his attention in a meaningful way.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

One Mother's Story

Looking at my last post, asking for your opinions on Internet addiction, I heard from one mother today. She worked in Public Health and had gone to three different psychologists to get her son help for his addiction to World of Warcraft. Known to players as WoW, she compared his addiction to heroin and described her son's state when he came home from college in vivid detail. “He came home from his first year of college. He was thin, emaciated, like a stick, like he hadn’t eaten in months. His skin was pasty and white. He was hairy, hadn’t had a hair cut in forever. His eyes were blood shot from lack of sleep. Our son was a good-looking, muscular guy who used to like being active. Now he is this zombie doing nothing else by staring at the computer. Now he wants to quit school. His father and I just don’t know what to do.”

Parents are looking for help for online gaming addiction. The Online Gamers Anonymous site was started by a mother whose son became addicted to EverQuest, subsequently committing suicide in front of the computer.

Managing online gaming for a son or daughter is difficult. Parents need to watch for signs. Much of my posting focuses on the person dealing with the addiction but we see that not only do the addicts suffer but so do family members.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Is Internet addiction real? Your Opinion

I enclosed an article published in 2000 entitled, "Is Internet Addiction Real?" Some of the point is that it shows where we as a mental health field were at that point in time. We were asking the question as this concept was so new and still evolving. Today, we do have more research, more findings, and more clinical treatment settings devoted to Internet addiction recovery. I thought it would be interesting to ask the same question today to see what online users thought.

One of the true signs of addiction is that a person experiences negative consequences as a result of something, whatever it may be - alcohol, drugs, or sex. With alcohol and drugs, a few common consequences are DUIs, jail time, and the loss of a job and/or relationship. A natural consequence for sex addicts is catching STDs. What are the consequences of Internet addiction?

In August 2005, a 28-year-old South Korean man died – not by committing suicide, but after playing the game Starcraft at an Internet café for 50 hours straight. By all reports, the man had not slept properly and had eaten very little in that time. While no autopsy was performed, he was believed to have died from heart failure stemming from exhaustion. A 13-year-old Chinese boy died falling from a building. His parents are suing Blizzard Entertainment, makers of World of Warcraft. The boy was allegedly re-enacting a scene from the game. In the Nevada, a couple ignored their two toddlers to the point of neglect due to their gaming addiction.

The children of Michael and Iana Straw, a boy age 22 months and a girl age 11 months, were severely malnourished and near death last month when doctors saw them after social workers took them to a hospital, authorities said. Both children are doing well and gaining weight in foster care.

Police said hospital staff had to shave the head of the girl because her hair was matted with cat urine. The 10-pound girl also had a mouth infection, dry skin and severe dehydration. Her brother had to be treated for starvation and a genital infection. His lack of muscle development caused him difficulty in walking, investigators said. The prosecutor said, “They had food; they just chose not to give it to their kids because they were too busy playing video games.”

Attorneys said the Reno couple was too distracted by online video games, mainly the fantasy role-playing “Dungeons & Dragons” series, to give their children proper care.

Studies from China, Germany, Italy, Iran, Pakistan, and India have also documented cases of Internet addiction. Given the dramatic effects reported and studies on the consequences of compulsive use of the Internet, the question is "Do you think Internet addiction should be given the same status as other addictions?"