If you literally cannot live without all-night sessions burrowing through the Wikipedia rabbit hole or the constant influx of content on your Twitter feed, a U.S. hospital is offering some respite—as long as you have $14,000 to spare.
Starting next Monday, the voluntary inpatient program at the Bradford Regional Medical Center, in Bradford, Pa., promises to treat those who are addicted to the Internet. Addiction experts will treat patients at the hospital's behavioral health services department, the wing that also treats substance addiction.
The psychologist who created the program, Dr. Kimberly Young, told Fox News that Internet addiction may be more prevalent than substance addiction since it is "free, legal, and fat-free." Young, Motherboard notes, wrote a book on Internet addiction as early as 1996 and is an expert in the field. She founded the Center for Internet Addiction at the Bradford hospital in 1995, though this is apparently her first inpatient program for Internet addiction.
The hospital will treat four patients at a time, with each class starting the 10-day program together. At the outset, patients are cut off from the Internet for 72 hours, a period in which they may show withdrawal symptoms. Patients will also take part in group therapy, undergo psychological evaluations, and learn how to safely use the Internet without getting hooked.
Internet addiction is not officially recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—the American Psychiatric Association's handbook for classifying mental illnesses. Critics suggest researchers have not established the difference between using the Internet as a pastime and using it out of compulsion.
That said, "Gaming Disorder" appears in the most recent version of the manual, though requires further research before it is formally added to the list of disorders. The manual noted young men in Asia, in particular, get hooked on online games in a way that triggers brain pathways in a similar way to substance addictions. A number of people died after gaming marathons spanning several days. But this doesn't mean they are addicted, per se.
Since Internet addiction is not officially recognized as a mental disorder, insurance companies do not cover the costs of Young's program. Those hoping to kick the Internet habit through the program have to shell out the $14,000 fee themselves.
To weed out those using "addiction" as hyperbole, Young created a quiz to determine whether potential patients are truly obsessed with the Internet to the detriment of their health. She asks candidates if their relationship with the Internet is harming their offline relationships. Young also wants to know if patients feel moody or depressed when they stop using the Internet, or if they use it to escape their problems.
While Young's is apparently the first Internet addiction program at a U.S. hospital, a number of digital detox camps and retreats have sprung up in recent years to help people escape the Web. In Japan, for instance, parents are turfing their kids with Internet-addled minds to "fasting" camps where they are forced to live offline.
Photo via cipherswarm/Flickr