As Internet access becomes increasingly widespread, so do related psychopathologies such as Internet addiction and delusions related to the technology and to virtual relationships. Computer communications such as Facebook and chat groups are an important part of this story, says Dr. Uri Nitzan of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Shalvata Mental Health Care Center in a new paper published in the Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences.
In his study, the researcher presented three in-depth case studies linking psychotic episodes to Internet communications from his own practice. According to Dr. Nitzan, patients shared some crucial characteristics, including loneliness or vulnerability
due to the loss of or separation from a loved one, relative inexperience with technology, and no prior history of psychosis or substance abuse. In each case, a connection was found between the gradual development and exacerbation of psychotic symptoms, including delusions, anxiety, confusion, and intensified use of computer communications.
From what I can gather from the way this press release is written, these were his patients. They were having a particularly difficult time with life and sought out companionship online. It didn’t work out well. I don’t see how this qualifies as “internet addiction”. Later there is mention that the researchers wish to do more work on Facebook to study “the features and applications that have the potential to harm patients emotionally or permit patients to cause emotional harm to others”. While there is a point to be made that social networking is a new thing, and is potentially dangerous due to the ability to be anonymous and hide information, it’s not some special hazard as portrayed. Anyone who is emotionally vulnerable is prone to be taken in by non-digital relationships as well. The internet issue is not the problem but a means, like a drug, to get into trouble. I do not agree that framing it in this way as “internet addiction” is warranted.