Is Internet Rehab a Real Need?

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Not all psychiatrists are ready to call it an addiction, but for people who feel they can’t live offline, Pennsylvania now has help: the country’s first hospital-based rehab center for Internet addiction.

Psychologist Kimberly Young runs the new program at the Bradford Regional Medical Center, where Internet addiction is treated as a physical and mental problem and treated similarly to substance abuse addictions.

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Young says that the patients who will be admitted for a 10-day detox truly need it, and that Internet addiction may be more pervasive than alcoholism.

“It’s like if you were to think of a heroin addict,” she told Salon. “They are gaunt and sick almost.”

Others disagree. The authority of the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM 5, doesn’t include Internet addiction as a disorder.

“If the profession hasn’t agreed upon it to the point where it’s not in the book yet, how can you go about treating it in an in-patient setting? It’s ridiculous,” John M. Grohol, a psychologist and cofounder of Mental Health Net, told Salon. “If you find the right marketing methods, you’re going to appeal to people’s fears and find patients for your program.”

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Young, in the meantime, says this is just the beginning of the problem.

“Mobile devices make this especially hard to treat. I had one woman who was in a car accident five times because she was texting while driving and completely addicted,” Young told MSN News. “It is all about access, not the Internet — it is the escape and experience and the high that someone gets when they are online.”

Kevin Roberts says it took years of therapy to start the recovery process from his video game addiction, which he detailed in “Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap.”

“Yes, there are people for whom excessive screen-oriented behaviors rise to the level of an addiction,” Roberts told MSN News.

Image: iStockphoto

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