Children addicted to the internet could soon be classed as having a serious mental illness, it has been claimed. ‘Internet-use disorder’ will be included in the DSM-IV – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the international mental health encyclopedia – from May next year.
The diagnosis will include those who are addicted to their smartphones as well as using tablet computers or desktop machines. Australian experts joined the Australian Psychological Society in submitting the classification to the international manual, and added an inclusion of internet gaming addiction.
Psychologists believe that Internet addiction should be categorized like other addiction disorders as it has similar symptoms, including emotional shutdown, lack of concentration and withdrawal.
Parents have noted their children becoming angry and violent when their electronic gadgets are taken away from them, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. In other instances, kids preferred to play a video game over eating or social interaction.
The listing is another step towards classifying Internet addiction as a mental illness: The DSM-IV’s new inclusion demonstrates that there are risks posed by overusing technology and that more research is required, which could lead to formal diagnoses of the disorder in the future. Psychologists are pushing to broaden the diagnoses of Internet-use disorder to include more than just gaming addictions, which could expand the age group of those affected by the illness. Director of the Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre Mike Kyrios told the Sydney Morning Herald:
“With kids, gaming is an obvious issue. But overall, technology use could be a potential problem.”
Australia was one of the first countries to recognize the problem and offer public treatment, and established clinics to treat video game addiction. That such widely used technologies can cause deep harm to children has led to further examinations of adults habits surrounding devices used 24/7 for reading, gaming, and social interactions.