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China could become first nation to make Internet addiction a medical disorder

China is expected to become the first country in the world to officially classify internet addiction as a mental disorder.  Chinese government officials would be required to register the term with the World Health Organization, which has seen an increased interest in internet- and game-related addiction.

Around 253 million of China's 1.2 billion population use the internet, with the number expected to grow as remote parts of the country build necessary infrastructure to support the internet.

Dr. Tao Ran studied at least 3,000 patients over a four-year period to help him classify internet addiction, which will be a condition similar to alcoholism or compulsive gambling.  

A person who spends at least 6.13 hours online each day can be considered an addict.  InterActiveCorp research indicates 42 percent of young internet users feel they are addicted to the internet, while only 18 percent of American youth feel they are addicted.

Around 50 percent of internet users in China are between the ages of 18 and 30.

Due to the exploding popularity of online video games, the government has urged game makers to create safeguards to better protect gamers.

"We took symptoms that appeared at the same time in more than 50 percent of patients and then we noted how frequently these same symptoms were repeated," he told the Times Online.  "China finds itself at the forefront of this research because we were among the earliest to set up clinics ... we had a sufficient sample of patients so that we could carry out proper scientific analysis.

Special psychiatric units could be created in Chinese hospitals to help people who are said to be internet addicts.

Even if internet addiction does not become an official disorder, psychologists are expected to continue researching possible addicts, and how to treat it.





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