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MD says Net addiction really is a mental illness

All the symptoms of an official brain disorder are there, including withdrawal, growing tolerance for endless gaming and texting, and gadget craving, psychiatrist says.

Just like it's taken us a while to reckon with the fact that texting or yakking on the phone while driving can be seriously unsafe, it is taking a while to figure out what to make of our sometimes heedless obsession with all things online.

At least one psychiatrist says that, for some of us, online fixation can be serious a problem--a compulsive-impulsive disorder whose sufferers endure gadget cravings, broadband-deprivation withdrawal, increasing tolerance for spending extraordinary amounts of time online, and no apparent embarrassment when they wake up in the morning with a keyboard imprint on their face.

An article in The Ottawa Citizen cites an editorial on the subject in the March issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry by Dr. Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at Oregon Health and Science University.

Another set of symptoms typically accompanying online addiction, Block writes, includes argumentative behavior, lying, social isolation, and fatigue. He also notes that Internet addiction typically accompanies other types of mental illness, argues that it should be included in psychiatry's official dictionary of mental illnesses, and points out that it already is considered a serious public health issue in South Korea and China.

Look around you. You probably see at least a few people in need of Net-addiction therapy. Assuming you're not holed up at home, staring for hours at your computer screen.