Internet Addiction (Online Addiction)
Comprehensive information about Internet addiction, online addiction. Includes definition, signs and symptoms, causes and treatment of Internet addiction.
There is No Internet Addiction Disorder
To begin with, Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is not a real disorder; at least not as far as the American Psychiatric Association is concerned. It started out as a hoax, when in 1995, psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg posted the fabricated symptoms of Internet addiction on his website and the post became viral and was passed around the internet. Goldberg used the symptoms of pathological gambling as his model for Internet Addiction Disorder.
In June 2007, the American Medical Association declined to recommend to the American Psychiatric Association that they include Internet Addiction Disorder as a formal diagnosis in the 2012 edition of the DSM. Instead, the group recommended further research of "video game overuse." Members of the American Society of Addiction Medicine opposed calling overuse of Internet and video games a true addiction. Among the necessary research is a way to define "overuse" and a way to differentiate an "internet addiction" from obsession and compulsion and self-medication for depression or other disorders.
Internet Addiction, Online Addiction is Real Some Say
Others, however, do believe internet addiction to be a true disorder and they are trying to get it included in the bible of psychiatric diagnosis, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Two of the leaders at the forefront of this movement are Kimberly Young, PhD, of the Center for Online Addiction and a leading researcher in Internet addiction and Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack, the director of the Computer Addiction Study Center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Orzack opened a clinic for Internet addicts at the hospital in 1996, when, she said, "everybody thought I was crazy." Dr. Orzack said she got the idea after she discovered she had become addicted to computer solitaire, procrastinating and losing sleep and time with her family.
When Dr. Orzack started the clinic, she saw two patients a week at most. Now she sees dozens and receives five or six calls daily from those seeking treatment for internet addiction elsewhere in the country. More and more of those calls, she said, are coming from people concerned about family members addicted to Internet video games, online gambling and internet pornography.
A growing number of therapists and inpatient rehabilitation centers are often treating Internet addicts with the same approaches used to treat chemical addictions; including the use of 12-step programs.
Because the addiction to the internet is not recognized in psychiatry as a disorder, insurance companies do not reimburse for treatment. So patients with an online addiction either pay out of pocket, or therapists and treatment centers bill for other afflictions, including the nonspecific impulse control disorder.
One inpatient program, at Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Ill. admits patients wanting to recover from obsessive computer use. Experts there said they see similar signs of withdrawal in those patients as in alcohol addicts or drug addicts, including profuse sweating, severe anxiety and paranoid symptoms.
In a December 2005 article, Rick Zehr, the vice president of addiction and behavioral services at Proctor Hospital told the New York Times:
"The line is drawn with Internet addiction when I'm no longer controlling my Internet use. It's controlling me."
Dr. Hilarie Cash, who runs Internet/Computer Addiction Services in Redmond, Washington (home of Microsoft) and other therapists report seeing a growing number of teenagers and young adults as patients, who grew up spending hours on the computer, playing games and sending instant messages. These patients appear to have significant developmental problems, including attention deficit disorder and a lack of social skills.
Most proponents of Internet Addiction Disorder agree that more scientific research into the subject is needed in order to validate that it's a true disorder.
Learn More About Internet Addiction, Online Addiction
- What is Internet Addiction
- Symptoms of Internet Addiction
- Take Internet Addiction Test
- Causes of Internet Addiction
- Treatment for Internet Addiction
- Internet Addiction and Your Child
- APA Monitor on Psychology, "Is Internet Addiction Real?," Vol. 31, No. 4, April 2000
- New York Times, "Hooked on the Web," Dec. 1, 2005
Last Updated: 20 June 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD