Comments on
Create Your Own Mental Disorder

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Unbelievably, we reported earlier this week that 1 in 12 teens may be addicted to video games. I say “unbelievably” because the research that comes to this stunning conclusion lacked a certain… validity.

As Dr. Cheryl Olson noted succinctly on Game Politics:

The concern here …

18 Comments to
Create Your Own Mental Disorder

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. The comments below begin with the oldest comments first. Click on the last comments page to jump to the most recent comments.

  1. Tongue in cheek, yes, but I think you have given some validity that if not specifically calling it internet addiction, you have reinforced my position that the technology of the past 15+ years does have more addiction/dependency risks than other behaviors of our culture in past times to now. I like the post and would like your permission to copy it to use in discussions with colleagues at the community mental health site I work part time. Not a clinical tool, just provider to provider commentary.

    You have to agree Facebook is an addictive risk?

  2. Lol, it’s highlighting the fact that you can’t make everything an addiction… ‘Internet addiction’ is as valid as ‘golf addiction’ (one of the early ones, about 1800s I think)!

  3. @therapfirst… Sure, no problem, be my guest.

    And then I’d ask you, is it the *technology* or what the technology enables — greater social interactions with others? After all, isn’t that was Blackberries, Facebook, Twitter and MMPORGS really offer?

  4. Thank you so much for this post, John! As you have probably gathered from my tweets, I also dislike how quickly people rush to label people’s relationships with technology as addictive.

    Did we have television addiction when T.V. viewing became popular? Telephone addiction when the phone was invented? Stamp collecting addiction? Cooking addiction when you take too many cooking classes and work to perfect recipes? Book addiction when you stay up too late to finish a favorite novel?

    I think that what stays constant is that people can have compulsive habits or tendencies towards many different activities. If their habits become problematic (or lead to lying, cheating, guilt, crime, impaired relationships, covering-up, etc.) then sure, that should be looked at and treated. But I don’t think the answer is the hysteria towards creating new diagnoses or demonizing the technology.

  5. What is it with you people here on the internet who want to so quickly dismiss the role of addiction to technology, like it is no big deal?

    If you are a provider and practicing any form of clinical care, I think you have conflicts of interest to minimize addictive behaviors because it affects your income stream if you also engage in internet revenues. There is no other way to say this: shame on you for trying to have it both ways. Some people use this technology responsibly, and so they are not going to struggle or cause dysfunction in theirs or others’ lives. But, to say that calling certain addictions just labeling and minimizing the consequences if you do not call the individuals who are impaired by meeting the criteria of dependency/addiction is doing a great disservice to those who need to hear it and consider change, which for some will mean not be on the internet.

    Just as an analogy, if a person has the features of watching so much TV and it leads to divorce, job loss, and physical problems like obesity and eye problems, if you are a TV psychologist, you are going to ignore this behavior just because it runs the risk of less viewers?

    Stop minimizing the basic issue of addiction by dismissing there are subsets. People have problems, implore them to seek help, even if it means you have less hits at your site at the end of the month! They might thank you later by encouraging others to visit and learn!!!

  6. I just sent a comment and see it was not accepted. I hope you review your spam mechanism and correct the problem if it can be found.

    therapyfirst

  7. @therapyfirst, I’m not sure if your comment was directed to me or to John’s original article. But I stand by my last paragraph:

    “I think that what stays constant is that people can have compulsive habits or tendencies towards many different activities. If their habits become problematic (or lead to lying, cheating, guilt, crime, impaired relationships, covering-up, etc.) then sure, that should be looked at and treated. But I don’t think the answer is the hysteria towards creating new diagnoses or demonizing the technology.”

    Not wanting to create a new diagnosis is not quite the same thing as refusing to treat disorders of addiction and compulsion or denying that that addictive behaviors exist.

    How do you feel that adding a diagnostic category would be useful if a practitioner already has an established means of diagnosing various addictive and compulsive disorders and an effective treatment protocol?

  8. Dr Kolmes:

    I did not direct my last comment to you, per se, but my interpretation of what Dr Grohol has been saying at his site is he does not believe there is an addiction to the internet or internet/technology related matters, and I think that is wrong. And, you have to wonder since he does make an income from this site, if my assessment has some element of truth to it, does he come across that way to minimize people from coming on in the first place? I do not think he has any evil or nefarious intent, but in the end, as I have said before, does he run the risk of some harm by minimizing internet addiction? I know I have elements of addiction, I am trying to keep it in check, and some days I feel I do better than others.

    Besides, can you treat substance dependence the same way you could treat internet addiction? Not an easy question to answer. There are basic themes that overlap for the two, but each would have individual approaches that would allow people with the specific addiction to gravitate more easily to gain from the interventions.

    Just an opinion.

  9. As that Saturday Night Live shrink said “De nile aint just a river in Egypt”

    video game dependence/addiction/abuse/over-indulgence, what ever you want to call it, has destroyed the personalities of people I know, they seem worse than the alcoholics I know, my guess is academics are too scared to take on the Military Industrial Complex and do any real research on this barbaric decadence.

  10. I love this post!

    I’m going to loose so much respect for the APA if internet addiction ends up in the new DSM

  11. I’d like to apologise for the aggressive tone of the above comment, I do stand by the basic points but wish I’d put more thought into how I’d made them.

  12. While internet addiction does have validity, some people have no social life due to disabilities that limit them from getting out of their homes and can only connect with the outside world through the internet. Of course, the internet does not replace the outside world. I am almost completely deaf. I have a very hard time understanding what other people are saying. I was taught how to speak without being taught any sign language. I can lip-read up to a point and it is very difficult to do. I don’t know much sign language and not very many people know much sign, either. While hearing aids do not help me and I ama perfect candidate for cochlear implants, it is too risky and too expensive for me. While I do have insurance and am married, I do not qualify for disability benefits. I can not work due to my disabilities – my deafness and mental illness. I fall through the cracks, so the only connection to the world I have is through the internet. Do I have internet addiction? Whatever. I don’t even care because I’ve made great friends through the internet, friends I would otherwise not be able to lip-read or understand what they are saying if I had met them in the real world. I have only two friends in the real world, my husband and my neighbor friend. Of course, I have a few family members. But, that’s it. It’s all I have. I have animal companions, but they have short lives and it is so very painful to lose them.

  13. ZOMG, I’m addicted to writing! I’ll call my therapist right away! I spend a lot of time planning what to write and what to write about, even how to word my phrases. I use it sometimes as an means of escape or to help a dysphoric mood. I even “chase”! If I have a non-productive day writing, I make an even greater effort the next day. (That’s the only way to meet deadlines, after all.)

    @therapyfirst, shame on you for the ad hominem attack on Dr. Grohol. To suggest he cares more about his Internet income than about the well-being of his audience makes me think you are not a regular reader of his blog. Besides, he has never said (to my knowledge) that Internet addiction doesn’t exist, let alone that compulsive Internet or video game use can’t destroy relationships. His point, if I understand it, is that defining a mental disorder requires statistical norming to make sure that it is a valid discrete disorder.

  14. I read Ginkgo100′s above comment this morning and thought about it a bit as I was getting ready for work, and now that I have some time as a patient canceled, I’ll respond. I will only say if I am wrong, then Dr Grohol will more than adequately put me in my place by stating here at this posting that he in fact does ackowledge that there is a dysfunction that involved using the internet that equates with addiction/dependency. I think at a prior post he and I seemed to agree we both do not want to see 250 listings for separate addiction disorders fill up 50 pages of the pending DSM V, but at least acknowledge that people exhibit addictive behaviors using the internet. Last I remember him saying, he did not agree with that perspective. So, if I am wrong in that impression, I await correction.

    By the way, your end comment, to me, seems to contradict your prior comment he never said it (internet addiction) doesn’t exist, but yet we need statistical norming to make sure it is a valid disorder? Seems to say that since there is no defineable evidence, there is no disorder. Is that what you are saying?

    If a person is exhibiting all the signs of dependency by collecting square pegs, I am going to approach the situation as I am dealing with a dependency problem and not wait for statistical norming to tell me there is a problem here.

    therapyfirst

  15. Do people engage in problematic behaviors in their lives that are connected to the Internet? Sure. Do those behaviors need a new diagnostic category singling out the medium, rather than the target, of the addiction? No, they do not.

    People become addicted to cocaine, they do not become addicted to the crack pipe or spoon or needle. People become addicted to the Pavlovian reward cycle that gambling reinforces (the strongest reward cycle possible — intermittent, random wins), not to a pair of dice or a deck of cards.

    I hope folks understand the distinction here, because it explains why we don’t have TV addiction, book addiction, or Blackberry addiction disorders. People do not become addicted to the delivery device (e.g., “the Internet”), they engage in potentially compulsive behavior connected to the reward.

    In the case of the Internet, the reward is often plain old social interaction, which no psychologist in their right minds would consider a dysfunctional behavior to be labeled.

  16. I appreciate the reply, Dr Grohol, but I think you are “splitting hairs” here in your premise. Ok, so the cocaine addict is not addicted to the paraphenalia, but, would you recommend that someone in recovery from cocaine abuse handle crack pipes, or be around needles?

    How about the gambling example, I would hope you agree the recovering gambler should NEVER walk into a casino or sit down at a poker table, even under the premise just to chat with the players.

    So, if those premises are acceptable to you, what do you suggest a person who meets a criteria for dependency by involvement in the internet do? Just go on to sites they do not engage in dependent behaviors? Sounds dicey to me, maybe someone in longer term recovery could handle that choice, but when is it longer term?

    We agree to disagree, and I am glad you made your point again, so Ginkgo100 can decide what to infer from you and I.

    People can be addicted to the internet. My wife is becoming a Facebook junkie, and it is concerning! You can split the hair it is Facebook, but, it is an internet phenomenon and that is what drives it as much as the intricacies of Facebook.

    Just my opinion.

  17. I have the view that depression is a disease which comes from total identification with one’s thoughts and emotions and have found teachings like that of Eckhart Tolle to help me recover. What do you think?

  18. Nice post! GA is also my biggest earning. However, it’s not a much.:)

Join the Conversation!

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines.

Post a Comment:


(Required, will be published)

(Required, but will not be published)

(Optional)

Recent Comments
  • Pam: I disagree that it’s ok to have a crummy holiday experience. I lived in a small town after a divorce and...
  • Ann: I lose everything! I know the joy of finding things. However, I am tired, very tired. I wish I was not what I...
  • Josh: Great article, I could really use active conditioning on learning to control my emotions (I am known as a...
  • brokeandblue: I am someone that prides myself on being non-judgemental. At all. In fact I get complimented on this,...
  • Cathy Taughinbaugh: This is a wonderful list of blogs, which are so helpful to those suffering from anxiety. I wanted...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code



Users Online: 15740
Join Us Now!