When you hear the phrase “Internet addiction,” your first instinct might be to laugh it off as a #firstworldproblem rather than consider it a real psychological issue. I mean, who doesn’t freak out when their Instagram feed won’t load? And we’re all guilty of waving our phones above our heads, frantically searching for a signal, right? But you probably haven’t lost your job, ruined your marriage, and alienated friends and family at the hands of the all-mighty computer screen.
The country’s first hospital-based, inpatient treatment program focused on Internet addiction opens it’s doors today at Bradford Regional Medical Center in Brandford, Pennsylvania. According to an article on CNN, the four-bed, 10-day program begins with a 72-hour “digital detox” where Dr. Kimberly Young, the program’s founder, and Dr. Roger Laroche, the medical director of Bradford Regional’s psychiatry department, expect that their patients will experience similar withdrawal symptoms to those of hardcore drug addicts.
So as you sit there, right now, reading this from your beloved computer screen, are you beginning to wonder if you need treatment? Don’t diagnose yourself quite yet: Studies show that Internet addicts experience the same rush of dopamine when logging on as an alcoholic would experience when downing a glass of whiskey. As Laroche told CNN, “This is a very critical aspect, as far as what separates addiction from just a bad habit. We literally are talking about someone who has jeopardized his life and every aspect of it.” Meaning, there is a difference between watching way too many cat videos online (totally guilty, over here) and having a legitimate Internet addiction.
It should be noted, however, that internet addiction is not, as of yet, classified as a mental illness in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistic Manual. Among other things, that means the cost of the 10-day inpatient treatment—a hefty $14,000—is not covered by insurance.
Here’s some free advice: Remember to unplug every now and then and enjoy the world outside of that 13-inch screen. The latest pictures of the royal baby will still be there when you get back.