The first known case of the unofficial medical diagnosis of Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) was developed by an enlisted member of the United States Navy due to his excessive use of the Optical Head-Mounted Display known as Google Glass. The 31-year-old serviceman was treated by doctors at the U.S. Navy’s alcohol abuse program, which he entered last September.
“Severe emotional, social and mental dysfunction” characterizes IAD. It is generally known to develop from the overuse of technologies like computers, video games and mobile devices.
The 35-day residential treatment program confiscates electronic devices upon check-in, including the patient in question’s Google Glass. It did not take long for doctors and staff to observe the man involuntarily and often committing a motion used to activate Google Glass: lifting his right hand and tapping his temple area.
Dr. Andre Doan, who coauthored a study on the subject in the medical journal Addictive Behavior, wrote that the singular patient reported his withdrawal experience “from Google Glass was greater than the alcohol withdrawal he was experiencing.” Doan reports that the patient exhibited classic withdrawal symptoms linked to Google Glass. He showed “significant frustration and irritability” and would become argumentative during treatment because he was not able to use the wearable apparatus. He also experienced short-term memory problems.
In what may have been the first sign of addiction, the serviceman usually wore his Google Glass a full 18 hours each day, taking it off only for sleeping and bathing. He obtained it to improve his work performance, which involves inventories of Navy convoy vehicles. Permission to use the device was given because the intimacy of the electronic/human interface apparently encouraged an unusually high level of work performance by giving him quick access to detailed and complicated information. It is not known how well this intent was satisfied, but after the first two months of wearing and using the device, the patient began seeing his dreams through the point-of-view of a Google Glass display.
Dr. Doan also reported that the patient’s identity was “intertwined with the use of Google Glass” because it served as a social ice-breaker when he wore the device in public. Women and men would engage him in conversation, bolstering his personal confidence.
Though it is widely seen as a growing problem, Internet Addiction Disorder is not currently in the standardized psychiatric reference, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is included, however, in that publications’ appendix as something in need of further study. At this point, some psychiatrists see it as a primary problem while others say it is a symptom of other psychological issues.
Doan pointed out that Google Glass is not inherently bad but, if abused, can expose users to over-stimulation of the brain. Some people can limit use and set up boundaries, he said, but others are not capable of such moderation “and [are] always seeking more.”
IAD was first coined in 1995 by Dr. Ivan Goldeberg as a parody, a bit of comic relief within a serious profession. In the almost 20 years since the New York psychiatrist published his whimsical hoax, significant research has been organized on the subject and some professionals are now vigorously seeking its official recognition.
Upon exiting the Navy program, the serviceman with the first known addiction to Google Glass said his general mood had improved and no longer was making the involuntary movements. He was referred to a 12-step alcohol abuse program to further his treatment.
By Gregory Baskin