Internet Addiction and Video Game Addiction
Please note that some of the information contained on this page is taken from the research of Dr. Kimberly Young - one of the pioneers in the assessment and treatment of internet addiction.
What is internet addiction?
Dr. Young defines internet addiction as "any online-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one's work environment." There is some debate as to whether there should be a distinction made between internet addiction and internet abuse (similar to the distinctions made between alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse). Regardless, the online behavior eventually becomes the most important component of the individual's life and previously enjoyed activities and relationships are abandoned.
Is internet addiction a diagnosable disorder?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions about internet addiction. The short answer is "no, not currently". However, this may change in the future. The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) is the primary reference for the diagnosis of psychological disorders. However, it should be noted that the DSM-IV was published in 1994 - a time when the internet was not nearly as accessible to the general population as it is now. Some mental health professionals believe that compulsive internet and computer use will be mentioned when the DSM-V is released. Others argue against this inclusion and do not believe that internet, computer, or excessive gaming behaviors are true addictions.
What are the defining features of tech addiction?
Occasionally, people believe that there is a specific "cut-off" for tech-addiction (internet, computer, video games). That is, if you spend more than X hours per week, you are addicted. This is not accurate. What is more important to consider is the impact the behavior is having on your life. Is excessive use impairing your work performance? If you are a student, are your grades suffering as a result of excessive tech use? Do you have less time for and interest in your partner or other important relationships? Have you given up activities (e.g., hobbies, sports, dating, exercise) that you once enjoyed? Do others complain that you spend too much time online? Are you frequently tired during the day due to staying up late online? Do you often turn to tech activities to deal with negative moods? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, your current tech use may be leading to an addiction. For a more comprehensive self-evaluation, Dr. Young's Internet Addiction Test can be found here.
How common is internet addiction?
It is often estimated that 5% of online users demonstrate symptoms thought to represent internet addition.
Are there different types of internet addiction?
Dr. Young has outlined five separate classifications:
Cybersexual: Excessive viewing, downloading, or trading online pornography, or involvement in adult chat rooms. Men are more likely than women to have a cybersexual addiction. Currently, this is the most common presenting problem when initiating therapy for internet addiction.
Cyber-Relational: Becoming excessively involved in online relationships through chat rooms, instant messaging, message boards, email, or social-networking sites. Online relationships are used to find comfort, support, and acceptance. These digital relationships eventually become more important than real-world relationships. Women are generally more likely than men to experience cyber-relational difficulties.
Net-Compulsions: This refers to a broad category of behaviors including obsessive online gambling, shopping, and stock trading.
Information Overload: Typically refers to excessive web surfing, information searching, and data collection.
Game Addiction: Excessive time spent playing video games which significantly detracts from the time and interest one has for relationships, school, or work.
What are the signs of video game addiction?
Head over to the Information Centre for an article on the signs of video game addiction.
Who is most likely to experience tech addictions?
Tech addictions can happen to almost anyone. However, there are certain groups and risk factors which make tech addictions more likely:
Individuals with other (past or present) addictions such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, or sex.
Individuals with other psychological difficulties such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. Internet use may be a temporary escape from feelings of sadness, shame, loneliness, or stress.
People with relationship difficulties. These users may be drawn to the more social aspects of the internet (chat rooms, online gaming, message boards, etc). They may turn to the internet as a way of quickly establishing new and temporarily more satisfying relationships.
Highly intelligent people. For example, individuals who are not intellectually challenged by their job or schoolwork may turn to online fantasy games as a way to stimulate their imagination and feel a sense of accomplishment.
People with extended periods of non-structured time. This group may include stay-at-home parents, university students, young children with few after-school activities, retired individuals, and people who work from home.
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