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Internet Addiction

Last posted Oct 08, 2012 at 11:24PM EDT. Added Oct 07, 2012 at 10:38PM EDT
20 posts from 12 users

So, “Internet Use Disorder” has been added to the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Now I know that we’ve had threads about internet addiction before, but I’m curious as to where people stand on if this is a mental disorder or not.

There is some debate in the literature about whether or not IUD, as it’s called, is in fact a disorder like drug addiction, or whether it’s just due to the omnipresence of the internet, which causes us to feel strange when we aren’t around it.

A quick literature search gave me some interesting results. Most papers appear to be cataloguing and measuring neurochemical and behavioural changes associated with excessive internet uses, as well as some of its underlying causes. One article I read disagreed with the concept of “internet addiction”. The author has a slightly different view:

Today, when patients present with a complaint of Internet addiction, or are presented by someone else, usually a parent or caregiver, the intent is to convey the compulsive/impulsive, self-destructive, and isolative quality of an experience similar to what is assumed to be the abject suffering of a drug addict. Used by patients in this way the term addiction is a largely successful metaphor that conveys the damaging and damaged “out-of-controlness” of the experience. Because the metaphor does work, even clinicians who disagree with the very idea of an Internet addiction would do well not to ignore the term.

But when clinicians use the term in a professional context, we do so diagnostically. We are saying the nature and causes of the problematic behavior, as well as the prognosis and optimal treatment choices, are the same as other problems in the diagnostic category of addiction. It is diagnosis not metaphor; it is not just describing the felt experience but providing an explanation for the experience and behaviors. Such a use of the term would, I have come to believe, prematurely and problematically direct treatment choices in the absence of sufficient data while simultaneously limiting the range of future research.

From: Essig, T. The Addiction Concept and Technology: Diagnosis, Metaphor, or Something Else? A Psychodynamic Point of View J. Clin. Psychol., 2012 doi: 10.1002/jclp.21917

Basically, Essig is saying that IUD looks like an addiction, but only in its effects, and not its causes.

I’m personally inclined to agree with him; I’m certainly not any type of clinical psychologist, but from what I’ve observed online, and specifically within the Brony fandom, I think that people become “addicted” to the internet, i.e. develop IUD, for a large variety of reasons that have a large influence over the nature of their “addiction”. I think that you can’t say the same for, say, drug addiction. No matter what the cause, the addiction itself is the same. But with the internet, people are “addicted” in many different ways, be it through World of Warcraft, like in that paper, or through MLP, or even through KYM.

So to return to my original point in making this thread. What do you guys think? Is “internet addiction” a true addiction, or is it something new and different?

(Source of news, other source)

Oct 07, 2012 at 10:38PM EDT
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Im not addicted… No way.

Take it..

Wait..

Wait.. Didn’t think you were serious…

No…
Wait…

Fuck.

Where the hell are my free AOL starter disks…

Oct 07, 2012 at 10:42PM EDT
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Under its current definition, I really don’t think IUD can be considered a real disorder. I think the internet is just an easy way to access mediums to further one’s already existing addictions. For example, if I were to be addicted to an online gambling ring, I’d think that’d be considered a gambling addiction. When it comes to things like being addicted to WoW, I’d consider that to be like being addicted to a book or television show. The reason you never hear about book addiction, though, is because all books have an end. WoW essentially doesn’t.

I do think that there is such a thing as a communication addiction, however. A lot of people feel a constant need to check their facebook page or twitter feed, and I’ve had experiences where I’ve had compulsions to check the KYM forums or my profile page. But I don’t think that can be considered exclusive to the internet either, as I think it exists with texting and phone calls as well. I’m sure we’ve all met people who have entire text conversations during classes or phone conversations whilst driving.

Last edited Oct 08, 2012 at 12:08AM EDT
Oct 07, 2012 at 11:53PM EDT
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If it does turn out that internet addiction is a thing; that wouldn’t surprise me. In many ways I think I am addicted to it already

However the mechanics of internet addiction would of course be notably different from any other kind of addiction. I’m not sure how to describe it. Rather than an addiction to a sensation as it is with most high class drugs, addiction to the internet would be, what I would call: an addiction to an escape.

I’ll be looking into this deeper and formulating more thoughts on the matter.

Oct 08, 2012 at 12:00AM EDT
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Muffins wrote:

I do think that there is such a thing as a communication addiction, however.

But is that truly a communication addiction, or the normal human tendency to want to “belong” and to feel needed? In some ways I think that the increased omnipresence of communication methods have made us more dependent on each other. In the old days, the only way to communicate directly was via sending letters in the mail. Then came the telephone (or ham radio but who cares about that). And now, we have cell phones that can call, text, email, IM, tweet, browse the internet, etc, etc. So could the compulsion to check all those be an extension of the compulsion to check your answering machine for your landline? Or your (physical) mailbox? I think so. Since our phones are so much more convenient, and since they’re portable, it’s easier for us to be connected, and it’s easier for us to feel the need to be connected.

So, just because we can act on those compulsions more easily, and get more immediate results, does that indicate an addiction?

Oct 08, 2012 at 01:02AM EDT
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Like Muffins has indicated, the internet is a way to access entertainment/social mediums. To me this would be similar to saying a person who uses needles to inject multiple drugs has a needle addiction. The internet is usually the most convenient to use for multiple different things, but I’m not sure if this means excessive use of the internet could be considered an addiction, or if it could be considered something else entirely.

Oct 08, 2012 at 01:25AM EDT
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opspe wrote:

Muffins wrote:

I do think that there is such a thing as a communication addiction, however.

But is that truly a communication addiction, or the normal human tendency to want to “belong” and to feel needed? In some ways I think that the increased omnipresence of communication methods have made us more dependent on each other. In the old days, the only way to communicate directly was via sending letters in the mail. Then came the telephone (or ham radio but who cares about that). And now, we have cell phones that can call, text, email, IM, tweet, browse the internet, etc, etc. So could the compulsion to check all those be an extension of the compulsion to check your answering machine for your landline? Or your (physical) mailbox? I think so. Since our phones are so much more convenient, and since they’re portable, it’s easier for us to be connected, and it’s easier for us to feel the need to be connected.

So, just because we can act on those compulsions more easily, and get more immediate results, does that indicate an addiction?

I just like to feel loved and to visit a place where I can be happy because my life’s fulla bullsh-

I think it’s a case of “it’s so convenient, I can’t afford not to.” If I’m a participant in an active part of the Internet where things might actually be happening and I’m given the option to check that at any moment, why wouldn’t I? It’s kind of like being in a conversation that never ends, and I’m not one to simply walk out of conversation without a proper sendoff. It’s more a sense of participation than addiction, even if you’re a lurker. Sure, I have a pretty solid routine of pulling out my phone and checking the same websites every so often, but I want to know what’s going on and I have a legitimate desire to know. It’s not because I feel some strange force compelling me to take my phone out. Sure, when I’m working on the computer I’m constantly opening new tabs and exploring various parts of the Internet, which might have some qualities of addiction, but – screw it, maybe I’m in denial. While I don’t think I’m addicted to my phone or any sort of mobile Interwebbing, I think I might qualify as addicted on the Internet, if your definition of addiction is a constant, irresistible need to do something else, and the same something else is always what’s available.

Oct 08, 2012 at 01:33AM EDT
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Crimson Locks wrote:

Like Muffins has indicated, the internet is a way to access entertainment/social mediums. To me this would be similar to saying a person who uses needles to inject multiple drugs has a needle addiction.

That’s exactly the reason that I think internet addiction isn’t the same as a drug addiction or an addiction to gambling. We all use the internet for different reasons, and get different things from our use of it. So it’s entirely non-uniform in that sense.

But at the same time, studies have shown that people suffering from IUD who are cut off undergo the same withdrawal symptoms as drug users. That includes the neural patterns that are observed during MRIs.

So how do we reconcile those two aspects of this issue?

Oct 08, 2012 at 01:36AM EDT
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If your use of the internet is causing loss of control of your life, you are addicted.

Compulsion and addiction are different.

True addicts would break into stores or prostitute for a router if they didn’t have one.

Oct 08, 2012 at 12:56PM EDT
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Well, this got some pretty intelligent responses from several people. I’m not sure how much I can add, but here goes anyway.

I think that we haven’t touched much on classical conditioning yet. It’s true that the Internet is the mechanism by which we get our stimulus of interest, but after receiving that stimulus over time after going online, you do begin to want to use that stimulus. You begin to associate whatever pleasant outcome you’re going for with your browser, your bookmark setup, your routine…the Internet.

Now, I think an interesting question to ask is “If a person was receiving these positive reinforcements (now I’m using operant conditioning terminology…) from another source that they once got from the Internet, would they still want to go to the Internet?”

I think the longer one has to “break” himself or herself from going online for social interaction, games, lolz, or whatever after being able to easily access it IRL and realizing that he or she can easily access it IRL, the more likely that person is actually addicted to the Internet.

But I think you have to consider the unique aspects of the Internet here as well. The social interaction you get online is very different from what you would get IRL. The jokes and information is nearly limitless online, but your own world limits you. If you lived in NYC or a place that was particularly diverse, then perhaps that would be as much of a problem. But even with that, you’d have to pick up on things IRL at a much slower pace that may end up being really uncomfortable for you. Even though those are still not necessarily the Internet (the Internet is still the means by which to get to your end,) the Internet provides something unique in regards to these IRL reinforcements, so perhaps it is the only means by which you can get to your end.

Furthermore, if you use triangulation (i.e., using multiple sources to confirm the same fact), then you may find a more “accurate” answer or general truth than by going to only one or two areas, even in a large, diverse city like The Big Apple.


Now to answer opspe’s most recent question,

That’s exactly the reason that I think internet addiction isn’t the same as a drug addiction or an addiction to gambling. We all use the internet for different reasons, and get different things from our use of it. So it’s entirely non-uniform in that sense.

But at the same time, studies have shown that people suffering from IUD who are cut off undergo the same withdrawal symptoms as drug users. That includes the neural patterns that are observed during MRIs.

So how do we reconcile those two aspects of this issue?

I think I might have to a certain extent. I think the Internet provides a very specific way to get these needs. So the Internet is a means, but it offers unique ends that differ from the IRL version of them.

That just muddies the issue.


I think there is one more aspect to consider: An addiction must be to something that isn’t necessary to human life.

I think some might argue that social interaction isn’t a necessity, but I think for us to function as “human beings,” we need it to some extent. We need to laugh. Most of us need our sexual urges met.

  • Again, you can get them by other means, technically, but depending upon your sense of humor, there may not be many people (or any at all around you) who could make you laugh like the messed up minds on the Web.
  • How are you going to satisfy that midget fetish without spending a ton of money on DVDs?
  • How easily can you connect with people you’ve met on KYM who are entirely different from your friends IRL but are still awesome people?

So depending upon your own Hierarchy of Needs and how high you need to go up to feel fulfilled, you might argue that you are addicted to something as a unique individual with individual needs.

Since humans got along on the whole without the World Wide Web, one might easily say “You don’t need the Internet to live.”

But there may have been those who lived such a poor life in those dark, dark days. They may not have had friends, because they were horribly deformed, because they didn’t believe the world was flat, or because they were asexual…something out of the ordinary, but they were really lonely.

People like these probably lead more fulfilling lives with access to the Web now.
 
 
Also, addiction (or any other disorder in Psychology) is generally only considered a disorder when it interferes with your life. For some people, once they get back from school or work, that may be all they want, and they’re happy with it. Is that a disorder?

Now, the cases of WoW that pull people away from people the know and love would be problematic and indicative of a mental disorder, especially when that person realizes that what they’re doing is wrong.


So I guess I don’t have an answer. I would say that the “treatment” for Internet addiction is to supply what you get out of the Internet in other ways. Drug treatment is to get you past the physiological addiction and into a lifestyle where you don’t feel the need to get that high. The “high” for the Internet may actually be a need.

It’s tricky.

Last edited Oct 08, 2012 at 08:33PM EDT
Oct 08, 2012 at 08:25PM EDT

Welcome to the world of medical excuses, my friend. Like ADHD. They added the ‘Hyperactive’ in there to give an excuse to parents about why their kids like to have fun, and why they just don’t give a shit about most things in their life. That’s the whole premise of the disorder.

Oct 08, 2012 at 08:34PM EDT
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I’m not going to go into a diatribe on this. All I’ll say is that I’ve been addicted to certain video games before, and I find Internet addiction to be a very similar sensation.

Oct 08, 2012 at 08:50PM EDT
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opspe wrote:

So, just because we can act on those compulsions more easily, and get more immediate results, does that indicate an addiction?

I would have to agree somewhat with what Exudes said. Because of Facebook and Twitter, people feel as if they are constantly engaged in their social interactions. And so it feels as if keeping up with your friends’ Facebook statuses is essential for maintaining your social life. Maybe it actually is.

I wouldn’t really know, since I don’t use Facebook or Twitter. Or have a social life, for that matter.

Sir-ful Turtle wrote:

Welcome to the world of medical excuses, my friend. Like ADHD. They added the ‘Hyperactive’ in there to give an excuse to parents about why their kids like to have fun, and why they just don’t give a shit about most things in their life. That’s the whole premise of the disorder.

I actually do have ADHD, so I found the “don’t give a shit about most things in their life” part to be a tad offensive. I will admit that the methods in which many teachers and parents diagnose their child with ADHD may be faulty and uneducated, but ADHD extends beyond a simple case of a child refusing to pay attention. It’s an inability to focus.

For example, if I were to attempt my homework unmedicated, what usually happens is that I’ll set my desk up, open my books, then I’ll get lost for about an hour listening to music or thinking about something else (usually an upcoming event of sorts). Then I’ll realize how much time has passed and what little progress I’ve made. And then I’ll break into a mad pacing about how this keeps happening and how I’ll never succeed in life. Meanwhile, my homework is still sitting there.

Last edited Oct 08, 2012 at 09:20PM EDT
Oct 08, 2012 at 09:11PM EDT
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Fridge wrote:

I’m not going to go into a diatribe on this. All I’ll say is that I’ve been addicted to certain video games before, and I find Internet addiction to be a very similar sensation.

I can understand that.

I’ve been addicted to a few games and internet addiction does cause a similar sensation.

I’ve had serious emotional and physical pain, lack of sleep, etc because of stuff. Kinda weird since there is no obvious active substance

Opspe wrote:

But at the same time, studies have shown that people suffering from IUD who are cut off undergo the same withdrawal symptoms as drug users.

^That quote right there is completely true.

Its very hard to describe what video game/internet addiction feels like, but yeah its real.

Glad APA finally added this. I’ve been seriously studying psychology and possibly will continue to do so (College/University)

Last edited Oct 08, 2012 at 09:32PM EDT
Oct 08, 2012 at 09:13PM EDT
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Le Bumpkin wrote:

Welcome to the world of medical excuses, my friend. Like ADHD. They added the ‘Hyperactive’ in there to give an excuse to parents about why their kids like to have fun, and why they just don’t give a shit about most things in their life. That’s the whole premise of the disorder.

It is painfully obvious you have no idea how serious of a problem ADD/ADHD really is. Granted, there are a ton of people who will use it as an excuse, and there are some doctors that will diagnose a kid with anything, but please do not be offensive towards the people that actually legitimately suffer from disorders like this. Same goes for this new “internet addiction”. Whether it could actually be classified as the textbook definition of addiction or not, you can not argue that there are plenty of people around the world that have caused harm to their physical and mental state due to excessive use of the internet.

Oct 08, 2012 at 09:26PM EDT
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Crimson Locks wrote:

It is painfully obvious you have no idea how serious of a problem ADD/ADHD really is. Granted, there are a ton of people who will use it as an excuse, and there are some doctors that will diagnose a kid with anything, but please do not be offensive towards the people that actually legitimately suffer from disorders like this. Same goes for this new “internet addiction”. Whether it could actually be classified as the textbook definition of addiction or not, you can not argue that there are plenty of people around the world that have caused harm to their physical and mental state due to excessive use of the internet.

Like my dad always said: If you can spend hours on a video game or a computer, you obviously don’t have an attention disorder.

(And he works with that kind of stuff all the time)

Also, just because someone causes harm to others over the internet doesn’t necessarily mean they’re addicted to it.

Last edited Oct 08, 2012 at 10:32PM EDT
Oct 08, 2012 at 10:23PM EDT
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Like my dad always said: If you can spend hours on a video game or a computer, you obviously don’t have an attention disorder.

So… that means hardcore gamers don’t have attention disorders, so what? Does that mean these disorders suddenly don’t exist? Also, I can see your father’s point about computers being valid if a person could stay on the same website for hours at a time, but I’m guessing people with attention disorders usually don’t. They’ll probably end up spending some time reading messages on a forum, and then they’ll suddenly wanna check their email, and then check youtube or whatever other sites they frequent. In other words, yes they are on the computer, but they get easily distracted by everything that’s going on within the internet. This, at least, is what I think it would be like for a person with an attention disorder.

Also, I did not say internet addiction exists or that it doesn’t, I only said people have caused harm to themselves from excessive use.

Oct 08, 2012 at 11:24PM EDT
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Skeletor-sm

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