Monday, December 05, 2005

Creations of the "Therapy Industry"

I expressed a bit of cynicism recently about the Priory Group's discovery of huge amounts of undiscovered psychiatric illness in the under-5s. I was interested, therefore, to find that the Therapy Industry had created yet another addiction that they can charge "sufferers" large amounts of money to "treat". This New York Times article recounts the trials and tribulations of the poor souls afflicted by "Internet Addiction Disorder".

There is no doubt that, especially with the availability of broadband, use of the internet is becoming much more extensive and prolonged. A study has, in fact, shown that the average American now spends more time watching TV and browsing the internet than he does sleeping. This is a pretty mind-boggling statistic, and I'm not saying that I think it represents a healthy trend, but I would take some convincing that large numbers of people can become addicted to the internet----at least in the sense that I understand the term addiction.

Addiction to heroin
carries the risk of fatal overdose as well as exposure (in intravenous users) to various nasty blood-borne viruses. Addiction to alcohol carries the risk of damage to the brain and the peripheral nervous system as well as life-threatening diseases of the liver and the pancreas. Like both of these, Addiction to gambling can cause terrible damage to relationships and marriages. Addiction to nicotine in cigarettes causes stroke, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer etc., etc. It is difficult to imagine that Internet addiction would have any serious physical effects, unless you include an increased risk of haemorrhoids or obesity! Since, with a broadband connection, the Internet addict won't be spending any more money on his "habit" than his well neighbour it's difficult to envisage dire financial consequences of Internet addiction.

Anyway, it's a relief to read that "A crucial difference between treating alcoholics and drug addicts, however, is that total abstinence is usually recommended for recovery from substance abuse, whereas moderate and manageable use is the goal for behavioural addictions." (including Internet addiction). Maybe there is hope for me yet: I'll still be able to write more of the tripe you've just finished reading!