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Teens with ADHD More Likely to Get Addicted to the Internet

posted 11:39 PM EST, Wed October 07, 2009
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Teens with ADHD More Likely to Get Addicted to the Internet © Photo Credit: Miss Gong & The Flickers

Taiwanese researchers have linked ADHD, depression, hostility and social phobia to an increased risk of internet addiction in teens.

What makes a person more vulnerable to internet addiction? That’s what researchers in Taiwan wanted to know when they started tracking 2293 students at junior high schools in southern Taiwan more than 2 years ago.

The research team used self report questionnaires, given at 6, 12 and 24 months into the study, to screen for internet addiction and found that overall, 10.8% of the teens tracked met the criteria for the addiction.

The researchers were also able to identify certain subgroups of teens at greater than normal risk for internet addiction, including:

  • Boys and girls with hostility issues or a diagnosis of ADHD
  • Girls with depression or social phobia
  • Those who spent more than 20 hours online each week and used it everyday
  • Those who played online games

Teens with ADHD faced the greatest increased risk of internet addiction. The researchers hypothesize why ADHD may be linked to internet addiction by saying, “Internet behavior is characterized by rapid response, immediate reward and multiple windows with different activities, which may reduce feelings of boredom or delayed aversion in adolescents with ADHD.”

The researchers recommend that at-risk teens (those with ADHD, hostility, social phobia and depression) receive early preventative interventions to reduce their risks of internet addiction.

Internet addiction has yet to receive a formal entry into the APAs manual of disorders, the DSM IV, although it is under consideration for a coming revised edition. Without a formal diagnostic manual yet available, psychologists consider the following symptoms indicative of problematic internet usage:

  • An inability to control how much time you spend online
  • Trying to cut down on your internet usage, and failing
  • Feeling irritable or anxious when you can’t get online (withdrawal symptoms)
  • Suffering offline consequences from your internet usage

The research results can be read in the October edition of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

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