Smartphones are getting smarter, laptops are becoming
increasingly portable – and people who just cannot put them down are finding
more remedies for their addiction.
The latest clinic treating the growing number of Americans
addicted to the internet will open next week in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Dr
Kimberly Young, a psychologist who heads the new program at Bradford Regional
Medical Center, a public hospital about 160 miles (257 km) north of Pittsburgh,
said that since 1994 she has privately treated thousands of people who cannot
control their online activity.
"A lot of countries do prevention and education
surrounding the issue, and we Americans are just starting to think in those
terms," Young said. South Korea and China are leaders in this treatment
field, she said.
New outlet for addictions
With about 75% of US adults online, Young called the internet a "new outlet for traditional addictions," including
pornography, shopping and gambling.
At the same time, she said, the Web allows for new and
unique behaviors, such as compulsive use of social media.
Although "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders" from the American Psychiatric Association does not
formally recognise internet addiction as an illness, the most recent volume
listed "Internet Use Disorder" as a subject worthy of further study.
The Pennsylvania program joins inpatient treatment offered
in Illinois since the mid 1990s as well as internet detox centres like
Washington State’s restart, which opened in 2009 and gives patients the chance
to abstain from technology use for a period of time.
In Connecticut, Dr David Greenfield, a psychiatrist who
founded the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and teaches at the
University of Connecticut School of Medicine, prescribes installation of
website blocking and monitoring software for his patients'
computers. "Patients' social skills atrophy, and they don't know how to
live in a real time world," said Greenfield.
He asks his patients
to list 100 things they can do in the "real world" rather than
reading their Facebook feeds, fussing with their Apple iPhones or escaping into
their Microsoft Xbox games. Among the physical threats posed by internet
addiction are obesity, carpal tunnel syndrome and deep vein thrombosis, he
Out-of-pocket costs for internet addiction treatment can
range from upwards of R82 000 for outpatient services and more than R14 000
for inpatient options, Greenfield said. Young said there was not yet a standard
treatment protocol, but hopes her new program can offer data to lead doctors in
the right direction.