In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, a 31-year-old U.S. man has been treated “Internet addiction disorder” triggered at least in part by Google Glass.
The patient, who was checked into the U.S. Navy’s Substance Abuse program and whose case appeared in the journal Addictive Behaviours, reportedly “exhibited problematic use of Google Glass,” wearing the device for up to 18 hours a day.
The man reported feeling irritable and aggressive when stripped of Google Glass’s help and told doctors that even in his dreams he looked out on the world through the small screen of the device.
Doctors also observed a "notable, nearly involuntary movement of the right hand up to [the patient’s] temple area and tapping it with his forefinger,” which was believed to be mimicking the gesture used to activate the display of Google Glass.
Dr Andrew Doan, co-author of the paper and head of the U.S. Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Programme (Sarp), said the patient was clearly “going through withdrawal from his Google Glass,” the Guardian reported.
Doctors reported that the man also had a "history of mood disorder [...] overlaying a depressive disorder, anxiety disorder [and] severe alcohol and tobacco use disorders."
The navy serviceman used the wearable computer in his work to quickly inventory convoy vehicles, with Dr Doan explaining that the constant presence of the device had created an association between its use and a neurological reward.
“There’s nothing inherently bad about Google Glass,” said Doan. “It’s just that there is very little time between these rushes. So for an individual who’s looking to escape, for an individual who has underlying mental dysregulation, for people with a predisposition for addiction, technology provides a very convenient way to access these rushes.
“And the danger with wearable technology is that you’re allowed to be almost constantly in the closet, while appearing like you’re present in the moment.”
Psychiatrists however are still debating whether or not ‘internet addiction’ via smartphones and computers exists as a clinical disorder, with the classification omitted from the 2013 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – often referred to as the ‘psychiatrist’s Bible’.
“People used to believe alcoholism wasn’t a problem – they blamed the person or the people around them,” said Dr Doan. “It’s just going to take a while for us to realise that this is real.”
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