Addictive Internet use in South Korea has spawned a new treatment option: rehab.
A new rehab clinic called Save Brain Clinic, which opened in May, is one of several national efforts to combat Internet addiction disorder, which is currently unrecognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a formal diagnosis. Despite ambivalence about Internet addiction’s psychiatric legitimacy, the condition has caused enough alarm in South Korea to prompt widespread efforts for treatment. Among the country’s most extreme cases of Internet addiction is that of a 41 year old man whose baby daughter died of malnutrition while he spent his days at Internet cafes.
At Save Brain Clinic, a part of Gonju National Hospital, patients are treated over the course of five weeks with a variety of psychotherapeutic tools, including neurofeedback (the measurement of brain activity in response to certain stimuli), medicine, and art therapy. The South Korean government estimates that about 2 million of its citizens are addicted to the Internet; however, the clinic’s initial session counted only three patients. Dr. Lee Jaewon, who heads Save Brain Clinic, explains that while Internet addiction is prevalent in South Korea, particularly among adolescents, many parents feel embarrassed by their child’s affliction. This sense of shame ultimately hinders their willingness to seek treatment.