In the popular children's book Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns Too Much of a Good Thing Is Bad, Howard, a cute and mischievous bunny who had a problem with overeating, learns that through discipline and moderation he can regain his sense of personal power. This is the same lesson that psychologist Dr. Kimberly Young hopes internet-addicted patients will learn at the nation's first hospital-based internet addiction program at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Bradford, Pa., scheduled to open on Monday.
There is not yet an singular definition or diagnosis for internet addiction, but it is generally characterized by an intense preoccupation with the internet such that the user feels compelled to use the it for increasing amounts of time and develops feelings of restlessness, depression, irritability, or general moodiness when attempting to cut down on or stop internet use. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), or excessive computer use that interferes with daily life, covers a variety of impulse-control issues including cybersex addiction, cyber-relationship addiction, net compulsions, information overload, and computer addiction.
Internet addiction has been a controversial topic since the term was first coined by Dr. Kimberly Young in 1995 after she watched her friend's marriage disintegrate as her husband spent 50 hours a week in AOL chat rooms. This event spurred Young's curiosity of how the internet affected human interaction, and as a response she founded the Center for Internet Addiction. Her association with the center connected her with individuals around the nation suffering from internet addiction and seeking help that did not exist. Nearly two decades later, Young's frustration with the lack of treatment facilities in the U.S. led her to start the nation's first internet addiction treatment and recovery program.
Treatment at the clinic closely mimics treatment for other physical and mental afflictions such as drug abuse or depression. Even though internet addiction is not yet recognized by the medical profession as a real disorder, doctors in the program can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication to patients just as they would for someone with other psychiatric disorders.
Skeptics claim that recognizing internet addiction as a real disorder would encourage a false perception that anyone working an office job exhibits internet overuse and thus suffers from a disorder. This concern is unwarranted, however, because overuse and addiction are largely different conditions that lead to different consequences.
Internet addiction is a real. It affects real people. Fortunately, there is now a light at the end of the tunnel for addicts looking to recover. For everyone else, don't quit your desk job, but try to get off the computer and go outside once in a while. Too much of a good thing is bad, but with discipline and moderation, we can all maintain our sense of personal power.