News

Clinics treat Internet addicts

Clinics treat Internet addicts

Justice Department employees hold up cameras and cell phones to take a picture of first lady Michelle Obama and Attorney Gen. Eric Holder in 2010. Photo: Associated Press/Susan Walsh

By Elizabeth Daley

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – Smartphones are getting smarter, laptops are becoming increasingly portable – and people who just cannot put them down are finding more remedies.

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 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.

With about 75 percent of U.S. 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 recognize 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 centers 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 said.

Out-of-pocket costs for Internet addiction treatment can range from upwards of $8,000 for outpatient services and more than $14,000 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.

Recent Headlines

in Music

This week’s top rock tracks

Zac Brown as Zac Brown Band performs during Music Midtown 2014 at Piedmont Park on Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014, in Atlanta.

LISTEN: This week's top rock songs, according to the latest Billboard chart.

in Entertainment, Sports, Viral Videos

WATCH: Getting married by The Rock

19-overlay7

It's normal to cry at weddings, but you'll laugh at this one too.

in Weird

Foiled by a hat

Police

A man evading police almost got away - if it wasn't for his lost hat.

in Trending, Viral Videos

TODAY’S MUST SEE: ‘Game of Thrones: The Musical’

15-overlay6

Coldplay teams up with the cast of "Game of Thrones" for a hilarious musical version of the hit HBO show to help raise money for Red Nose Day.

in Viral Videos

Mom shames daughter for inappropriate Facebook profile

16-overlay5

After Val Starks found her 13-year-old daughter's secret profile - posing in her bra and claiming to be 19 - she set the record straight and the video has gone viral.