have been privy to drafts of the new DSM-VIII-R-II-R, which contains a new
category of disorders specifically dealing with the Internet. Indeed, this
class of disorders would have been included in earlier versions of dsm, but the
writers decided to delay full descriptions of these disorders until they had
finished checking their e-mail. One could argue that such a delay is unconscionable,
as it prolongs the devastating social consequences of the disorders. However,
the people most susceptible to Internet disorders have very little influence on
society in the first place, so their absence has hardly been noticed.
a growing number of people have been falling victim to Internet-related
disorders due to two major factors: (a) the increasing availability of
computers, and (b) the emergence of the Fox TV Network. Here, we present some
of the basics of these dreaded disorders:
132.429.951.342 Internet Abuse
The essential feature of Internet Dependence is a cluster of cognitive,
behavioral, and physiological symptoms indicating that the individual continues
use of the Internet despite significant computer-related problems.
For Internet Dependence
A maladaptive pattern of Internet use, leading to clinically significant
impairment or distress, as manifested by the following, occurring at any time
in the same 12-month period:
3. five or more of the following indicators:
a. Your phone bill comes to your house in a
b. You don't call your mother because she
doesn't have a modem.
c. You tell the cab driver you live at
d. You don't recognize a smile unless
people tilt their head
e. That ringing sound under the papers on
your desk startles you.
f. You have so many mailboxes, you write
and respond to yourself.
g. "http://" starts making sense
h. You think the bottom of Maslow's
hierarchy needs to be
extended to accommodate one more survival
i. You open a tuition trust fund for your
children, but only to
send them to CPU.
two characteristics that distinguish Internet Dependence from Internet Abuse
are tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance refers to the need for increased
exposure to the Internet to produce the desired effects. For example, many
people begin their road to oblivion by using the Internet to produce maps of
cities they will be visiting on business. This produces a pleasant level of
intoxication. However, this pleasant effect wears off; after a while the effect
can only be achieved by using the Internet (at $14 per hour) to order pizza
from the corner restaurant.
is characterized by symptoms that develop when one ceases exposure to the
Internet. The symptoms of withdrawal have been noted in epidemic proportions
following electrical power outages. These symptoms have been mistaken in the
past for PTSD. Many people have been found near exhaustion and in an emaciated
state as they have tried to power their computer by generating electricity. For
example, they have been found on bicycles attached to generators, pedaling
frantically, their fingers desperately caressing their lifeless keyboards.
particularly serious case of withdrawal concerned the victim of Internet
dependence on a two-week camping trip who started catching ground squirrels and
using them to click on some wood to start a fire. When he was found several
weeks later, cold and starving, he was using the same ground squirrels to click
on trees and bushes, hoping that berries and apples would be downloaded to him.
There is no doubt that Internet Disorders run in families. Researchers
investigating these disorders have uncovered a revolutionary finding that has
led to shock waves through the genetics community. Although the mechanism is
yet to be identified, evidence reveals that parents get this disorder from
their more computer-literate children. The heritability for these disorders is
approximately -.60; the negative sign indicates the newly discovered phenomenon
of reverse inheritance.
Clinicians report that there are virtually no cases of Internet Disorders
occurring without the presence of other disorders, especially personality
disorders. Thus, Internet disorders exhibit almost 100% comorbidity. This
phenomenon would complicate treatment, but these individuals rarely seek
treatment. Among the common patterns is Internet Disorder with Antisocial
Personality. These individuals spend most of their day flaming strangers
and charming others into revealing their passwords and credit card numbers. In
some cases such individuals engage in actual flaming, using a blow torch or
gasoline. In cases in which Internet Disorders appear with Dependent
Personality Disorder, the individual is often seated in front of the
computer screen patiently waiting for instructions on how to proceed, what to
say, to whom, and how to say it. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is
also comorbid with Internet Disorders; these individuals send themselves long,
glowing messages that extol their virtues and supposed achievements. The person
with Schizoid Personality Disorder doesn't care if anyone reads
messages; the person with Paranoid Personality Disorder is concerned
that everyone is reading their messages. The person with Avoidant
Personality Disorder does not read any responses for fear that they may
Culture, Age, And Gender Features
It is harder to diagnose Internet Disorders in teenagers because (a) younger
people seem to develop an immunity to the illness, and (b) it is so hard to
tell when adolescents are impaired.
gender distribution is as follows:
=13%Nerds = 65%
Many of the symptoms of Internet Dependence and Abuse are found in E-mail
Abuse. In E-mail Abuse, however, the symptoms occur in a more localized set
of circumstances The differential diagnosis is aided by two new assessment
devices, the Hawaii Test of Text Production--or HTTP--and the E Mail Diagnostic
Routine or EMDR.
Dependence must also be differentiated from the particularly distressing Discussion
List-Induced Dementia, or DL-ID. The major distinguishing sign of DL-ID is
one of three forms of POSTING ENVY: (a) An inability to be satisfied with the
average of 2-3 postings per week. Some people have an insatiable ability to
post, and are able to post multiple times without the usual refractory period
in between. (b) Postings that are too short or too long. Some postings are so
short that their meaning is unclear. Others are so long that they induce sleep.
Professionals should be concerned when patterns develop in posting length,
although the available research suggests that length is not generally
correlated with satisfaction among those who receive postings. (c) A sense of
being cheated when someone else posts the idea that you were going to. Some
people respond with the reaction formation of flaming the poster for an inane
idea. Others use denial: They simply go ahead and post exactly the same idea.
(d) An inordinate sense of pleasure from several postings in the same day.
professors are especially likely to develop work-related DL-ID impairments. For
example, many professors apply prematurely for promotion. They feel their
scholarly productivity is skyrocketing because they consider every post to a
discussion list a publication. Meanwhile, they haven't submitted a research
paper to a journal in eight years.
Web-Induced Delirium can be distinguished from Internet Dependence by
the presence of one or more of the following symptoms:
- You move into a big new home and decide to Netscape
before you landscape.
- Your dog has his own Web page (and it gets more visits
- You get a tattoo that reads, "This body best
viewed with Netscape Navigator 3.0 or higher."
There is no effective treatment for Internet Dependence or Abuse.
Unfortunately, the only psychologists who seem to be offering any treatment for
these disorders are offering their treatments . . . over the Internet.
note. Some of the material we have presented has been lifted
directly from anonymous posts on the Internet, so we cannot give full credit.
The tendency to steal from the Internet is in itself not a symptom of abuse or
dependence, but may be involved in the differential diagnosis of Internet
Disorders and Antisocial Personality Disorder. Some of the ideas were offered
by students in a Perspectives on Humor class taught by Joe Palladino (yes, he
does actually teach a humor course and gets paid for it). Thanks to the
following students: Greg Allen, Debra Forrest, Bob Gustin, and Rick Mark.