A Pennsylvania hospital is opening the country’s first inpatient treatment program for people struggling with “severe internet addiction.”

From FOX News:

Treatment facilities have sprung up in recent years, but a psychiatric hospital in central Pennsylvania is now set to become the country’s first facility of its kind to offer an inpatient treatment program for people it diagnoses with severe Internet addiction.

The voluntary, 10-day program is set to open on Sept. 9 at the Behavioral Health Services at Bradford Regional Medical Center. The program was organized by experts in the field and cognitive specialists with backgrounds in treating more familiar addictions like drug and alcohol abuse.

“[Internet addiction] is a problem in this country that can be more pervasive than alcoholism,” said Dr. Kimberly Young, the psychologist who founded the non-profit program. “The Internet is free, legal and fat free.”

Similar programs on an outpatient basis have launched in other areas of the country.  The Restart Addiction Center in Redmond, Washington functions as a retreat program “to assist participants with an Internet and/or computer based behavioral addiction to break the cycle of dependency.”  As Crosscut.com notes in its coverage of Restart, the US isn’t the only country concerned about the issue, though many professionals remain skeptical about whether or not internet addiction is an actual condition, so to speak.

When I arrive at Restart, a delegation from the Chinese government has just left. Hilarie Cash, psychotherapist and Restart co-founder, explains that Internet addiction is a growing problem for China. The delegation came on a fact-finding mission. “They’re very worried right now,” says Cash. “Whatever they’re doing isn’t working, and the situation is getting worse.”

And Japan recently made news with its plan to introduce internet fasting camps, where they aim to encourage youth to spend less time in the virtual world and to communicate with people in the real world.

If this video below is indicative of anything you’ve ever experienced (I know I’ve been there), maybe forcing ourselves to think about how much time we spend with the internet and our gadgets really isn’t such a bad idea.

smartphone-video

Have things really gotten this bad?

For many, the term “internet addiction” seems more an excuse for one’s inability to practice self-control, regulate time and tend to real life responsibilities and relationships. I’m not going to argue that here, I’ll leave that to the professionals.

But maybe the fact that internet addiction centers are popping up across the country doesn’t have to be only about whether or not internet addiction is real. Maybe this is also an opportunity to realize that internet and smart phone use has had a significant impact on the behavior of society as a whole. There are numerous positive benefits, but like anything, moderation is key.