By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
I remember when my family first got internet access at home. However, it wasn’t the remarkably fast 4G network so many devices are connected to today. Instead, we used a type of internet called dial-up. On a good day, it would only take about 5 whole minutes to open up the AOL browser, and maybe 2 minutes to surf from one webpage to the other. If someone called on our home phone, the internet service was disrupted, and I had to start all over again.
Well, that was back in the 90s (I’m not as old as you think, I promise!). Nowadays, there’s insanely fast internet everywhere. Literally everywhere. Right at this moment, I have a smartphone, a laptop, an iPad, and a wifi box that I can carry with me anywhere I please. Sadly, this access is both a blessing and a curse. It’s very helpful when I want to research information for projects, but it’s also very distracting when I’m trying to focus, and I’m not the only one. According to several reports, internet addiction is on the rise.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, a professor at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom, says there are five signs of internet addiction: salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and relapse. Salience is just a fancy-shmancy word that means giving something the utmost importance. A person will do anything and everything they can to get online. Once they do get on the internet, they will feel a slight mood modifying “buzz” – a stimulating emotional response. The buzz doesn’t come easy, however. The more time they spend on the internet, the more tolerance a person builds, and the more time they need to get the buzz! And if they don’t get their fill of web surfing, or it’s taken away from them, an addicted person will feel a severe distress known as withdrawal. If they make an oath to themselves not to go on the internet for a long period of time but cheat, they have just relapsed.
However, not many people like to think of internet addiction as a real thing. Not even the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) recognizes it as a real problem, although they came close to listing it as a mental disorder. “I’ve been studying Internet addiction since 1994,” says Dr. Kimberly Young, a professor at St. Bonaventure University. “When you talk about the controversy behind it, laughing it off, that’s often been the case with my work.” Young took matters into her own hands and founded the nation’s first inpatient internet addiction program at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania.
The center will treat 4 patients at a time for 10 days. The first three days will be spent “digitally detoxing,” or cutting off all access to the web. For the final 7 days, patients will be evaluated by psychologists. However, since internet addiction is not considered a medical condition, the treatment center will not be covered by health insurance.
“We’re really behind other countries in treating this problem,” says Young. “China, Korea and Taiwan all have treatment centers. Here in the United States, people who need treatment don’t have anywhere to go. Now, we finally have something to offer people.”