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The experts are divided. Some say that internet addiction is a new but very real condition, while others insist that these behaviors are better explained within the spectrum of compulsive use disorders. Whatever you want to call it, however, there is no denying that an increasing number of people are having difficulty regulating the way they use technology and that the compulsive use of technology can have significant real world consequences. Learn more about the signs, symptoms and consequences of ‘internet addiction’, video game addiction and cybersex addiction.

Internet addiction has yet to be classified as a mental health disorder in the APA’s textbook of mental illnesses, the DSMV-IVr, although its inclusion is under consideration for an upcoming edition.

Some specialists consider problematic use of the internet, email or video games a new variety of an existing condition from the compulsive disorders family, while others consider that internet addiction is a unique and novel condition, similar in many ways to gambling addiction.

Whether or not internet addiction gains inclusion into the APA’s textbook, there is no debating that some people have real difficulty managing the amount of time they spend engaged in internet or computer mediated activities, and that a compulsive use of the internet can result in serious real-world problems.

Internet use is considered problematic when:

  • A person suffers offline consequences from their online behaviors (social isolation, declining performance at work or on the job, a failure to meet responsibilities due to time spent online, etc.)
  • A person loses track of the time they spend online, and is often on the internet for longer than intended
  • A person needs to spend ever greater time online to feel sated
  • A person feels withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or irritability, when they cannot be online

The Signs of Internet Addiction

Some warning signs of an internet addiction can include:

  • Thinking about spending time on the internet when offline
  • Concealing the extent of your use to others
  • Craving the internet when offline
  • Using time on the internet as a reward, or to escape from real life
  • No longer participating in activities you used to find enjoyable due the amount of time you spend online

People concerned about their reliance on the internet should seek the advice and diagnosis of a professional. Internet addiction self tests are also available, although they should not substitute for professional expertise.

 

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Page last updated Feb 22, 2011

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