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Rome Hospital Starts Treatment for `Booming’ Internet-Addiction Disorder

Rome Hospital Starts Treatment for `Booming’ Internet-Addiction Disorder

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Rome Hospital Starts Treating ‘Booming’ Web-Addiction Disorder

Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) — Rome’s Policlinico Gemelli hospital, whose former patients include Pope John Paul II, has opened a clinic to treat Internet Addiction Disorder, a pathology linked to the obsessive need to be online.

The center, which opened yesterday, is a unit of the psychiatric department and has received its first patients, according to a statement on the hospital’s Web site. The Gemelli is one of the Italian capital’s biggest medical centers.

“The disorder is linked to the booming use of the Internet, especially among the younger generation,” Lucio D’Alessandris, a psychologist at the center, said in an interview. “Many of the patients have interpersonal problems: They don’t talk to their neighbors and hardly go out, but are online all night to chat with someone in, say, Nepal.”

The clinic’s treatment mirrors similar help offered in Japan, China and in the U.S. recently with the opening in August of the reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Program in Fall City, Washington, near the headquarters of Microsoft Corp. About 10 percent of the users of Facebook Inc., operator of the world’s most popular social-networking site, may develop a dependency, according to the Rome hospital’s release.

Internet dependency can be linked to cyber-sex addiction and cyber-relational addiction, the statement said. It could also be a net compulsion related to online shopping and gambling, information overload, computer addiction with an excessive involvement in virtual and role-playing games, according to the hospital.

A wikiHow page on the Web offers help on “How to Break a World of Warcraft Addition” linked to the online game from Vivendi SA-controlled Activision Blizzard Inc.

Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms for the disorder, first described by psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg in 1995, include the need to spend more time on the Internet, anxiety and depression when not online, being incapable of controlling the time spent on the Web and giving up social and recreational activities because of the excessive Web use.

“The pathological use of the Internet causes physical symptoms very similar to those shown by drug addicts in abstinence crisis,” Federico Tonioni, the psychiatrist who heads the unit, said in the release.

The disorder becomes evident when “the virtual world becomes more important than reality,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chiara Remondini in Milan at cremondini@bloomberg.net

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