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Tuesday, 28 August, 2007

Toronto MD ponders internet addiction

That's what The Globe and Mail today asked Dr Bruce Ballon (right), a youth addictions and gambling specialist from the , in Toronto.

His response? "It isn't a problem unless it's a problem."

Thankfully, he explains himself:

In my experience, problem behaviours centred on the Internet, gaming and online gambling often arise out of a failure to find a coping strategy for underlying mental-health issues.

These issues include Asperger's syndrome (the problem Internet behaviour would be trying to find out everything about a topic by constantly researching it); pathological gambling (getting stuck on the casino sites); social anxiety disorder (chats, role-play gaming worlds); obsessive-compulsive disorder (obsessed with something that keeps them tied to the Internet); substance use disorders (ordering and researching ways to use drugs), and sexual "addiction" (seeking and downloading pornography).

Tumultuous events in a teen's life - loneliness, being bullied or parental divorce - can also be at the root of a problem.

In short, technology is not the sole issue - it's really how Internet use and online habits interact with a person's unique makeup that determine whether there are the seeds of a problem.
But here's something that not everyone knows: Dr Ballon himself is a gaming enthusiast (albeit a more old-fashioned kind of game, without electronics). In 2004, NRM profiled Dr , "Unseen Masters."

In June, the American Medical Association , insisting more research is needed. (Read .)

Despite the decision not to include internet addiction in the ICD-10 or DSM-IV, there's advice available to , published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment earlier this year (subscription required).

Photo of Dr Ballon:
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