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Check the small print before you slap on a “txt addict” diagnosis

April 3rd, 2008

Dr Petra

Last week I blogged about an editorial in the Journal of American Psychiatry that argued that ‘excessive’ internet usage, gaming and texting were a problem that might require inclusion within the forthcoming DSM-V.

While I appreciate some people may have problems that new technologies exacerbate, my concern with this editorial was the idea of conceptualising and measuring problematic or excessive usage of the internet, games or text – and that practitioners may be keen to slap on a diagnosis rather than accounting for distress caused – or looking at wider social factors.

Predictably the media responded to the editorial as though we were already gripped by an epidemic of internet, text and gaming addiction. But it was Cory Silverberg who spotted the real story here. Which is this. The author of the editorial in the Journal of American Psychiatry may have an opinion they want to share, but they also co-founder and president of SMARTguard – a technology that limits computer access.

Now there’s nothing wrong with having a commercial interest outside of your professional practice, and this potential conflict of interest was declared in the journal. However, this was not made particularly clear by the journal – and it was pretty apparent that journalists covering the story clearly hadn’t read the editorial (that was freely available online).

It’s not just a case of the media missing the news, it’s the problem that we were all led to believe that we’re becoming internet addicts, which may be easier to believe if there was no likelihood people might benefit commercially from making our worries over internet usage into a medical condition.

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