Across the United States, more and more mental health centers are offering programs to people who might be suffering from "internet addiction."
Internet Addiction As A Mental Health Issue
The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize internet addiction as a disorder, but a growing number of medical experts has begun taking the condition seriously.
According to psychiatrists, internet addiction is characterized by the person's loss of control over their use of the internet and their electronic devices, including smartphones. An estimated 8 percent of people are believed to be affected by it.
The Lindner Center for Hope in Mason, Ohio has started offering an inpatient treatment called "Reboot." The program specifically targets internet addiction in children from 11 to 17 years old.
According to Reuters, patients who are enrolled in "Reboot" spend 28 days in the facility where they undergo diagnostic testing and psychotherapy and also learn how to moderately use the internet. The program helps those who have addictions that include online gaming, online gambling, social media, pornography, and sexting — often to escape the symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression.
Chris Tuell, the clinical director of the center's addiction services, said that he started the program after he had seen an increasing number of young people who were using the internet to "self-medicate" from their mental illnesses.
"The brain really doesn't care what it is, whether I pour it down my throat or put it in my nose or see it with my eyes or do it with my hands," explained Tuell to Reuters. "A lot of the same neurochemicals in the brain are occurring."
In 2017, researchers revealed that Americans spend an average of 4 hours of their day staring at their mobile phones.
Internet Overuse: A Mental Illness?
In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized video game addiction as a mental health disorder after years of research from China, South Korea, and Taiwan. It is characterized by impaired control over gaming, increased priority for gaming over other interests and activities, and disregard for negative consequences that come with gaming.
However, for internet addiction to receive the same classification, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasaveric said that the subject still needs intensive research.