The New York Times - Opinion
Orignally published June 5, 2012
WHEN we say that someone is “addicted” to a behavior like gambling or eating or playing video games, what does that mean? Are such compulsions really akin to dependencies like drug and alcohol addiction — or is that just loose talk?
This question arose recently after the committee writing the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.), the standard reference work for psychiatric illnesses, announced updated definitions of substance abuse and addiction, including a new category of “behavioral addictions.” 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.
Disease definitions change over time because of new scientific evidence. This is what has happened with addiction. We should embrace the new D.S.M. criteria and attack all the substances and behaviors that inspire addiction with effective therapies and support.