history, people have struggled with addiction – to alcohol, drugs and
compulsive behaviors, such as gambling. Now, as Rose Hoban reports,
psychologists in many countries have noted the emergence of a new kind of
obsession: Internet addiction.
Louise Nadeau heads a new institute for the study of dependencies at the
University of Montreal in Canada. She says addiction is marked by two
first is that a person has a behavior he or she can't control. "You would
want to drink less, but you drink much more than you want," Nadeau
suggests. "You would like to gamble less… in spite of the fact that it
doesn't necessarily give you the pleasure it should, or you feel bad about
other key is that the behavior causes a series of problems in many spheres of
your life. "You're having problems with your work, you're having problems
with your social network, you're having problems also with your mental
health," Nadeau explains.
study Internet addiction, Nadeau asked mental health clinics in her province of
Quebec to report on cases of Internet addiction they had seen. She says that
over a several year period, some dramatic cases emerged.
we're dealing with here are people who stop eating, who don't sleep, who work
until the early hours of the day, have a complete unbalanced schedule and that
goes on, and on, and on for months," Nadeau reports. Many of the people
suffering from Internet addiction had other problems – either psychological, or
with their families.
says this new addiction is difficult to treat. She recounts how psychologists
worked with a young man who spent two years in his room playing games on his
computer. "When he emerged to go to the treatment center he literally had
been out of the world for two years," she says. "So in fact, it was
slowly working on a process of A, reintroducing him to real life, and B, trying
to find alternative activities to being on the screen."
tells the story of another man who was finally induced to go on vacation after
being treated for several months. But when he got to the airport, he got online
in the airport's Internet café. He spent the next two weeks at the airport and
never went on his vacation.
says there's no standard of treatment for Internet addiction. But over the next
few years, she will be gathering information and ideas from therapists all
around Quebec. She says her goal is to create treatment guidelines and examples
of best practices that other psychologists can follow to treat people with this