No research, no problem

Time magazine has a remarkably one-sided article on America’s first ‘internet addiction’ clinic. The clinic turns out to be a few rooms in someone’s house, but the article gives away an interesting if not depressing gem about the likely status of the ‘internet addiction’ diagnosis in the DSM-V, the next version of the psychiatrists’ diagnostic manual:

“The central issue is the absence of research literature on this,” says Dr. Charles O’Brien, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Studies in Addiction and the current chair of the DSM-V committee to revise the manual, adding that with the backdrop of the health-care debate, now is a precarious time to introduce new disorders that will require more money to treat.

“At this point I think it’s appropriate that it’s not considered an official disease,” says O’Brien. “We are probably going to mention it in the appendix.”

The appendix refers to Appendix B, which is a list of diagnoses worthy of future study, and yes, that’s the head of the DSM addiction committee saying that an “absence of research literature” makes something worthy of future study.

In which case, I might write to him and ask to have my own diagnosis of “impulsive diagnosis inclusion syndrome” listed on the same basis.

But not only is his reasoning rather odd, he’s also wrong. There’s quite a sizeable literature on the ‘internet addiction’ diagnosis and, as noted by a meta-analysis published last year, it turns out to be rubbish.

If you’re interested in reading something a little more balanced, I get to spar with Kimberley Young, one of the long-standing ‘internet addiction’ promoters, in an article in this month’s Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Link to Time on America’s first ‘internet addiction’ clinic.
Link to ‘internet addiction’ scrap in CMAJ.

5 thoughts on “No research, no problem”

  1. I think it may be more probable that O’Brien’s reasoning isn’t odd but that the piece is poorly written and edited. I agree though: in either case, the article is definitely biased and reads more like an advertisement for the place than anything else. One part I found especially amusing:
    “He is given a regular schedule, with outdoor activities (including carpentry projects or caring for chickens and goats) plotted throughout the day, plus chores and meals. Rae says the program is designed to mimic what life will be like once patients return home”
    Building chicken coops and caring for goats, eh? There aren’t many places in this country where that would be considered a normal routine.

  2. Alcohol addiction does not exist either, if you believe internet addiction doesn’t exist.
    You can manage your drink so you are not an alcoholic, but their are people who can’t stop drinking once they start. The same with the internet.
    What would today youth do without their cell phone, iPod devices and texting ?
    They would go nuts.

  3. I love the comment above where someone noted Alcohol Addiction does not exist if you believe Internet Addiction does not exist. The only thing is Alcohol Addiction will kill you eventually, where Internet Addiction won’t. Addictions in general are bad, but some are much more life threatening than others.

    1. Actually, if there is no problem at all, it is not necessary to conduct research but sadly we are all in problem, what matters maybe we didn’t realize the existence of the problems. Thus, research is needed.

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