I really don’t want to become “the addiction blog,” but when addiction can be a down-side to gaming and gambling and there’s so much in the news…
The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.), the standard reference work for psychiatric illnesses, updated definitions of substance abuse and addiction, including a new category of “behavioral addictions.” In an op-ed piece at the New York Times, Howard Markel says:
At the moment, the only disorder featured in this new category is pathological gambling, but the suggestion is that other behavioral disorders will be added in due course. Internet addiction, for instance, was initially considered for inclusion but was relegated to an appendix (as was sex addiction) pending further research.
Skeptics worry that such broad criteria for addiction will pathologize normal (if bad) behavior and lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
Great. As if the age of digital communications and it’s many voices giving the volume and appearance of “many,” wasn’t already giving rise to near hysteria on the subject of addictions and behavioral addictions, now there will be the professionals and insurance companies adding to the fray.
However, this doesn’t mean that these addictions aren’t real. While I do question the numbers, and certainly eschew the rush to decry epidemic status and the decline of mankind, I do agree with Markel that “the D.S.M.’s changes accurately reflect our evolving understanding of what it means to be an addict.”
The conclusion to draw here is that though substances like cocaine are very effective at triggering changes in the brain that lead to addictive behavior and urges, they are not the only possible triggers: just about any deeply pleasurable activity — sex, eating, Internet use — has the potential to become addictive and destructive.
But the key word here is “potential.” Things — virtually any thing or activity that gives pleasure — has the potential to become addictive and destructive; they aren’t automatically so.
The bottom line, however, is that if you have a problem, a gambling addiction or other behavior addictions, the D.S.M. now brings you that much closer to help.