Friday, March 28, 2008

My Name is ... and I am a TXT Addict

I saw a little Internet squabble a-brewin' and I couldn't help but put my two cents in, obscure though it may be.

Recently, in The American Journal of Psychiatry there was an editorial piece called "Issues for DSM-V: Internet Addiction." I will admit that momentarily I was afraid. I started thinking of the budding carpal tunnel in my left wrist, the appointment to the eye doctor I need to schedule and the semi permanent slouch I've developed. I was like great now I am not only a nerd but I have a mental illness.

The diagnosis "Internet Addict" is defined (in this editorial) as "a compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder that involves online and/or offline computer usage and consists of at least three subtypes: excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations, and e-mail/text messaging. All of the variants share the following four components: 1) excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives, 2) withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible, 3) tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use, and 4) negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue."

And this is where the squabble begins. Dr Petra (whose blog I <3 )is quick to take up arms and defend us technophiles and computer nerds. Her response was "My problem with measuring concepts like this are they are often too vague to give us helpful insights into behaviours. For example someone might use a game or email excessively because they have some spare time, or because they’ve just got a new piece of technology, or because they’re involved in a long distance relationship."

Dr Petra seems to be forgetting one important thing - which is in order for something to qualify as a mental illness and thereby make it into the DSM it has to cause significant functional impairment in one's everyday life. This is like someone that drops out of school to play World of Warcraft or gets fired for looking at porn while working or like the editorial mentioned murders someone. Not at all someone who is repeatedly checking e-mail to hear about a new job or a sick relative (Dr Petra's examples)

So, Dr Petra, I love you but I have to disagree. The DSM has had a problematic history demonizing certain sub-groups (re: homosexuality)but in this instance Jerald J. Block, M.D., author of the contentious article does not appear to be doing so. The editorial doesn't seem to point fingers at we endearing little internet trolls that can mange 15 simultaneous chats and a text message but at those whose functionality is harmed by obsessive interaction with tech stuff. Long story short-- I'm not crazy, just a nerd.

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