Internet addiction

Internet addiction is a psychological disorder proposed for inclusion in DSM-V (the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth revision), which is scheduled for publication in 2011. Korean researchers are developing a standard psychological tool called the K-scale to diagnose Internet addiction and measure its severity.

According to Dr. Jerald Block, who recommends Internet addiction for inclusion in the manual, the proposed disorder exhibits four common characteristics of addiction:

  • Excessive use, which may be accompanied by impaired sense of the passage of time and/or neglecting basic drives (such as hunger or the need for sleep).
  • Withdrawal (when prevented from going online), which may be manifested as anger, tension or depression.
  • Tolerance, which in the case of Internet addiction may be indicated by longer use or a perceived need for upgrades or new software.
  • Negative repercussions to the behavior, which may include arguments, fatigue, problems at school or work, lying, lack of achievement and social isolation.

According to research from Stanford University School of Medicine in Silicon Valley in 2006:

  • One in eight people in the U.S. is addicted to the Internet.
  • The typical Internet addict is "a single, college-educated, white male in his 30s, who spends approximately 30 hours a week on non-essential computer use."
  • 14 percent of study respondents had difficulty abstaining for several days.
  • 5.9 percent admitted that their Internet use impacted their relationships.
  • 8.2 percent admitted that they used the Internet to escape reality.
  • 3.7 percent were preoccupied by thoughts of going online when offline.

Other suggestions for the disorder's name include pathological computer use, problem Internet use, pathological Internet use and heavy Internet use.

This was last updated in April 2008

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