Unprofessional Practices
On "Internet Addiction Disorder"

John M. Grohol
August, 1995

        I recently noted that another, unnamed colleague of mine whom I have the greatest respect and admiration for, recently chose to start distributing on a regular basis to the Internet, the symptom list of a "disorder" he made up. This is not how serious mental illnesses should be treated and I am ashamed that this individual chose to utilize his time in such an unworthy effort.

        The creation of new mental disorder diagnoses is the result of careful and time-consuming research and the efforts of dozens -- and sometimes, hundreds -- of professionals working together to find reliable and valid diagnostic criteria. Some disorders that initial research may have supported are even removed from the official diagnostic manual if further research does not support that diagnosis.

        Ethical and caring mental health professionals should not take it upon themselves to create diagnoses from scratch and then go about illustrating support for that diagnosis through a carefully orchestrated publicity campaign online. I would ask that if any of you see this article from this otherwise respected and caring individual to please drop him a note expressing your dissatisfaction with his methods. If he is truly interested in discovering a "new" diagnosis, the methods for establishing such a category are well-known and used. Seeking publicity through massive postings to the Internet or through the media is not scientific nor do these methods respect the seriousness of mental illness.

        Most importantly, do not be taken in by this hoax. Many people already have the unfortunate tendency to pathologize everyday problems, making them out to be more serious than they truly are. Mental disorders are serious and should be taken more seriously by society as a whole. When professionals in the field simply create a diagnosis on the spur of the moment and call it "official", they are doing not only a disservice to themselves and their reputations, but also to the mental health field in general.

This article was originally written regarding the creation of "Internet Addiction Disorder" (IAD), which was done so as a parody. That it was created as a parody was not readily known to most people (myself included) until well after the fact. IAD has since "caught on" as a pseudo-diagnosis and become quite popular, despite the lack of research into it as a distinct diagnostic category. Despite some professionals protestations to the contrary, IAD is not a disorder and IAD does not exist; there is little research to show otherwise (and much of that is poorly done). - JMG (4/98)

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jul 2016
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