Internet Addiction: Escapism or Psychological Disorder?

On September 17, a man died of exhaustion in a cybercafé in Guangzhou, China, after playing online video games for three consecutive days. He’s not the first Chinese man to die from what his countrymen call “game fatigue system.” Earlier this year a teacher from Jinzhou in Liaoning province collapsed after playing for fifteen days.

China, which has more than 140 million Internet users, is cracking down on abuse with new rules that restrict the opening of new cybercafés and limit young people under 18 years of age to three hours of gaming at a stretch. Several cities now offer Internet addiction counseling centers.

Academics in China, Taiwan and other parts of the world study “Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)” as a psychological disorder that requires medical intervention. Some foreign doctors are prescribing drugs like Prozac as a treatment for IAD.

The Chinese profile of an Internet addict is similar to the one that American scholars have drawn: he tends to be a young male who goes online at night. He is also more likely to have attention deficit disorder (ADD) and to suffer from personality problems such as hostility, social phobia or shyness, social isolation, dependency, low self-esteem, and loneliness. He may be using the Internet as an escape for his problems and his inability to cope in social situations. Chinese professors link IAD to not having a good sense of time and the inability to value one’s time, and to having parents with negative styles, usually overly strict and authoritarian.

Internet Addiction Disorder is common among young people ages 12 to 18 years old. In one study of 1708 Chinese high school students, about 13.8% had IAD; in another among college students, the rate was 12.5% for males and 6.35% for females. The rate in the United States is probably similar. An American study of online gambling among 1356 undergraduates turned up 6.3% who gamble at least once a week, with 61% of those were “pathologically compulsive” gamblers.

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Caught up in the California Wildfires? Don’t Forget Teens Are Hurting Too

(October 29, 2007) – This week several thousand families in California lost everything they own in a series of fires that ravaged 850,000 acres near San Diego. Almost a million people had only a few hours to decide which few possessions to take with them when they evacuated their homes. America watched as ten thousand families with shell-shocked children and traumatized pets huddled together in Qualcomm Stadium. As of this writing, about two thousand houses have burned to the ground; another 20,000 are still at risk. Entire neighborhoods lay in ashes.

Today the most fortunate have already returned to their homes and to the beginning of normal routines. Schools are reopening. People are making plans to rebuild. The Chargers are playing in Qualcomm Stadium again.

During times of natural disasters such as the California fires, parents soothe small children but often ignore their teens. Adults become caught up in the practicalities of finding shelter, contacting insurance companies, making temporary plans, and other details of the crisis. They expect teens to get by on their own.

Nevertheless, residential fires can be particularly difficult situations for children and teenagers because they threaten two areas of basic security, according to Dr. Robert Butterworth, a Los Angeles psychologist. He said that for any dependent child, the “predictability of the physical environment and the security of one’s parents” are the basis of security. Young people will naturally react whenever their basic security is threatened.

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