Archive for October 11th, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beijing Seeks Internet Addiction Definition

Internet addiction does not count as an independent mental disorder and wasn’t diagnosed as such, the ministry of health’s deputy secretary for disease control and prevention, Kong Lingzhi (孔灵芝), told a press conference on October 10, the World Mental Health Day (世界精神卫生日). China currently didn’t approve institutions specialized in the treatment of internet addiction. There were no diagnostic criteria for addictions to the internet in particular, she said, neither internationally nor within China.

"Lao Jun", or "Impress the Girl who Refused to go to Bed with you"

"Lao Jun", or "Impress the Girl who Refused to go to Bed with you"

As for 160 million so-called mentally disordered people on the internet, there were three categories: a major category of severe disorders, one of general disorders (一般的精神障碍), and a category of people with psychological problems. Severe disorders, such as schizophrenia, the rate of occurence was around 1% or 16 mn, Kong told the press conference.
[This number doesn’t seem to refer to the share of severe disorders among netizens, but to the general population, with and without regular internet access.]

The rate of severe disorders was unrelated to the social environment, the gap between rich and poor etc., according to experts. The level of 1% was similar within China and internationally, said Kong. It was not the case that there were 160 million mentally ill or insane people. As far as psychological problems were concerned, some were transitional.

The overall number of web users in China is an estimated 300 million people, according to a Time article in February this year.

A survey among students from first-year junior high school to university students in Beijing, Guangdong province and other provinces and cities revealed that children lacking  fatherly love were more prone to internet addiction than others, and boys were more likely to become addicted than girls.

The ministry of health also reacted to media reports of electrical shock treatment in a psychiatric hospital in Linyi City, Shandong Province (山东临沂市). The ministry issued a notice to Shandong’s health department (山东省卫生厅) that electric shock therapies had to be temporarily halted, as the effeciency and the safety of the process was not guaranteed.

Generally, the ministry of health seems to take both domestic and international expertise into consideration. When the American Psychiatric Association debated whether to include Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) in the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2008, Chinese health officials apparently eyed a definition of IAD as a clinical disease even before the US. Apparently, the ministry of health in Beijing has now decided to slam on the brakes and to end the Olympic discipline – at least for now.

But the zeal may not go away at once. The notice to Shandong’s provincial health department seems to be an extra invitation to stop shock therapies – according to the BBC, the ministry banned this method as early in July this year. In August, fifteen- or sixteen-year-old Deng Senshan died after a stay in a “training camp” in Guangxi Province where he had allegedly been beaten to death.

Local officials reacted in their own ways and fired Liu Yuan, an editor who had first reported Deng Senshan’s death.
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China Digital Times has recorded a number of Internet Addiction Stories.

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