Internet Addiction Disorder

Research on Internet usage suggests that greater use of the Internet has a detrimental effect on one’s well-being

According to a research team from Carnegie Mellon University, the more that participants used the Internet, the less likely they were to communicate with members of their household; moreover, their social circles were likely to grow smaller, and they experienced increases in depression and loneliness.

Likewise, the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society (2000) reported findings that the Internet has detrimental effects on people’s lives. The poll indicated that 13% of the respondents reported spending less time with family and friends, 26% talked less with family and friends on the telephone, and 8% attended fewer social events.

The Internet indirectly reduces the quality of life enjoyed by some people, leading in some cases to an extreme condition that psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg dubbed Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).

Symptoms of IAD

Take the case of “Jamie,” a 16-year-old living in the United Kingdom. Jamie spends 40 hours a week online, often in discussion groups, and even when he isn’t online, he reports thinking about logging on for his next session. Yet despite his inability to regulate how long he stays online and other compulsive behaviors associated with his Internet use, Jamie denies having any kind of problem, much less being an “addict” (Griffiths, 2000a). In order to help people like Jamie identify when their behavior has changed from casual to addictive levels, the American Psychiatric Association has recommended attending to the following indications (Ferris, 1997). If people suffer three or more of the following symptoms within a 12-month period, they may be experiencing IAD.

  1. They build a tolerance for the Internet. That is, they require more exposure to the Internet in order to feel the same amount of satisfaction as with previous amounts of exposure.
  • They experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the Internet. Withdrawal symptoms can include feelings of anxiety or obsessive thinking about what they are missing online.
  • They find themselves accessing the Internet more than they intend to or they access it for longer periods of time than they intend to.
  • They have a desire to reduce, or have been unsuccessful in reducing, their Internet use.
  • They spend a good deal of time with activities related to the Internet (e.g., buying Internet-related books).
  • They neglect to attend to social, occupational, or recreational activities because of the Internet.
  • They continue to use the Internet despite an obvious problem with their health, relationships, job, or mental health caused by their Internet use (e.g., insomnia, marital conflict, neglect of occupational duties, or anxiety).