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Addicted to the Internet? There's a treatment for that

Next week, the Behavioral Health Services section of the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania will open a treatment center for internet addiction, the first of its kind in the United States. The 10-day outpatient program will specialize in treating Internet compulsion through detox, education, and psychological evaluation.

The treatment center would be the first of its kind to operate out of a hospital in the United States, though there are several treatment programs already available. Internet addiction is a relatively new field of study in the treatment of psychological disorders and defining the problem itself is the first of many obstacles to understanding this new phenomenon. According to ABC News, the program would be focusing on an overuse of the internet rather than the overall amount of time spent online.

The goal of the treatment center would be to help those for whom internet use prevents living a normal life. Part of the program would be a minimum of 72 hours of technology prohibition -- no internet, no computers, no phones -- in order to return the patient to a point where they can control its influence.

While internet addiction is still not recognized as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association, its effects are becoming more apparent around the world, particularly in some Asian countries. A study in South Korea last year found that 160,000 children aged five to nine were addicted to the internet. It's enough of a problem that the South Korean government is already planning programs to educate kids as young as three years old on how to protect themselves from internet overuse.

While the treatment program at the Bradford Regional Medical Center is designed to treat an addiction, internet addiction is being treated separately from similar problems such as addiction to pornography, sex, or online gambling. They found that many affected by internet addiction were typically young, intelligent males who play online games like World of Warcraft to cope with problems like low self-esteem and social awkwardness.

The problem may be apparent, but the American Psychiatric Association is still wary of making it an official addiction, instead calling it a subject in need of further study. But rather than wait for an official classification, the Bradford Regional Medical Center is opening their center now to help people who are already suffering.

Unfortunately, this prevents the program from being covered by medical insurance and the treatment is not going to come cheap, tallying up to a sobering $14,000. But the problem persists and seems to be growing globally as our world becomes increasingly connected. Hopefully treatment centers like this one will be able to train people to maintain balance in their lives, both online and off.

Photo: Johan Viirok