Internet Addiction is the New Mental Health Disorder


By Dr. Mercola

The next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) – often referred to as the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) diagnostic “bible” – is due out in May 2013.

In this latest edition, DSM-5, “Internet use disorder” will be recommended as an area that needs further study.

While you won’t be able to be diagnosed with Internet use disorder just yet, recommending it for further study puts it squarely on the psychiatric radar, which means it’s likely to be bumped up to an actual mental health disorder very soon.

What is Internet Use Disorder?

As defined by the APA, Internet use disorder includes many characteristics of any addiction, such as experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the object of addiction is taken away, an inability to control its use, developing a tolerance to it, deceiving family members about its use, and losing interests in other hobbies. In this case, of course, the object of abuse is the Internet.

According to the APA, you might have a problem if you display these symptoms:1

Preoccupation with Internet gaming Withdrawal symptoms when Internet is taken away Tolerance: the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in Internet gaming
Unsuccessful attempts to control Internet gaming use Continued excessive Internet use despite knowledge of negative psychosocial problems Loss of interests, previous hobbies, entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of Internet gaming use
Use of the Internet gaming to escape or relieve a dysphoric mood Has deceived family members, therapists, or others regarding the amount of Internet gaming Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of Internet gaming use


Certainly, some may have a legitimate problem with spending too much time online, in the same way that people become addicted to gambling, television, pornography… the list is endless. It’s quite possible to become addicted to virtually anything if it is used to the point where it interferes with other aspects of your life and puts your health, financial stability or relationships at risk…

But by making Internet addiction a certifiable mental illness, it then becomes treatable by drugs and billable through insurance companies – and morphs into a “disorder” that is likely something that will stigmatize your health records for the rest of your life. Not to mention, over-treatment is a very real risk… as has occurred with depression, ADHD, insomnia, and countless other conditions, many people with only “mild” cases may be diagnosed, and given drugs, when they are not at all necessary.

It is often the case that the newest mental health disorders are also those that happen to create the largest new drug markets. Millions of Americans, including me, use the Internet on a daily basis, many for hours on end, so the potential treatment market for “Internet use disorder” is huge.

Grief: Another “Disorder” Being Added to DSM-5

Grief is a highly individual experience, but for most people it takes two to six months to “run its course” – and sometimes much longer, all of which is normal and to be expected in the face of a significant loss. But according to DSM-5, you may actually have an “Adjustment Disorder” related to bereavement if:2

“Following the death of a close family member or close friend, the individual experiences on more days than not intense yearning or longing for the deceased, intense sorrow and emotional pain, or preoccupation with the deceased or the circumstances of the death for at least 12 months (or 6 months for children). The person may also display difficulty accepting the death, intense anger over the loss, a diminished sense of self, a feeling that life is empty, or difficulty planning for the future or engaging in activities or relationships.”

These all sound like normal reactions following the death of a loved one, but the DSM-5 also proposes further study for Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder, with the purpose being to “develop the best empirically-based set of symptoms to characterize individuals with bereavement-related disorders.”

Close to 2.5 million Americans die each year, and the number of those experiencing grief as a result is far higher. This is the market the pharmaceutical industry stands to gain, thanks to the APA’s trigger-happy attitude when it comes to labeling normal human emotions as psychiatric “disorders.”

Who Really Needs Their Heads Examined?

The APA works in tandem with the drug industry, “creating” more and more “psychiatric diseases,” which are appearing in the literature all the time:

  • Do you shop too much? You might have Compulsive Shopping Disorder.
  • Do you have a difficult time with multiplication? You could be suffering from Dyscalculia.
  • Spending too much time at the gym? You’d better see someone for your Bigorexia or Muscle Dysmorphia.
  • And my favorite – are your terrified by the number 13? You could have Triskaidekaphobia!

Each of these new “diseases” gets added to the next edition of the DSM if enough people show up with those traits. And increasingly, the criteria for inclusion involves whether or not the disorder responds to a category of drugs. If it does, the phenomenon is dubbed a disease.

Of the 297 mental disorders described in the DSM, none can be objectively measured by empirical test.3 In other words, they’re completely subjective! Mental illness symptoms within this manual are arbitrarily assigned by a subjective voting system by a psychiatric panel. So, they’re essentially making up diseases to fit the drugs – not the other way around.

According to marketing professional Vince Parry in a commentary called “The Art of Branding a Condition”:4

“‘Watching the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) balloon in size over the decades to its current phonebook dimensions would have us believe that the world is a more unstable place today than ever.’ …Not surprisingly, many of these newly coined conditions were brought to light through direct funding by pharmaceutical companies, in research, in publicity or both.”

A former chief of the American Psychiatric Association even admitted that some of the “mistakes” the APA made in its diagnostic manual have had “terrible consequences,” which have mislabeled millions of children and adults, and facilitated epidemics of mental illness that don’t exist.5

It’s almost impossible to see a psychiatrist today without being diagnosed with a mental disorder because so many behavior variations are described as pathology. And you have very high chance – approaching 100% – of emerging from your psychiatrist’s office with a prescription in hand. Writing a prescription is, of course, much faster than engaging in behavioral or lifestyle strategies, but it’s also a far more lucrative approach for the conventional model. Additionally, most practitioners have yet to accept the far more effective energetic psychological approaches, like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

Do You Suspect You’re Spending Too Much Time Online?

Getting back to the topic of Internet addiction, it’s quite possible to overdo your time spent online. But psychotropic drugs are not likely to give you the solution you’re after. For starters, they have no known measurable biological imbalances to correct – unlike other drugs that can measurably alter levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and so on.

How can you medicate something that is not physically there? The answer is, of course, you can’t – and doing so is a dangerous game. In other words, drugs are probably not the answer to solving your Internet addiction.

What, then, is?

First of all, I want to point out that it absolutely is detrimental to your physical and emotional health to spend too much time in front of a computer. For one thing, it’s way too much sitting. “Screen time” – more than two hours a day in particular – is associated with increased physical, emotional and behavioral difficulties, regardless of the time spent exercising. Research has shown:

  • A study of more than 17,000 Canadians found that the mortality risk from all causes was 1.54 times higher among people who spent most of their day sitting compared to those who sat infrequently.6
  • Sitting time is a predictor of weight gain, even after accounting for calories consumed and leisure time physical activity, such as exercise time.7
  • The risk of metabolic syndrome rises in a dose-dependent manner depending on your “screen time” (the amount of time you spend watching TV or using a computer). Physical activity had only a minimal impact on the relationship between screen time and metabolic syndrome.8
  • Children who spent more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer were 61 and 59 percent more likely to experience high levels of psychological difficulties, respectively.9

If online gaming or gambling is involved, the problem could seriously escalate, as well as if you’re neglecting your other responsibilities in order to participate in online gaming or other online activities.

If you suspect you have a problem, I suggest giving EFT a try. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over 5,000 years, but without the invasiveness of needles. Instead, simple tapping with the fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on the head and chest while you think about your specific problem – whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. – and voice positive affirmations.

This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the “short-circuit” – the emotional block – from your body’s bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body’s balance, which is essential for optimal health and the healing of physical and emotional disease.

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