Internet Addiction: The Emergence of a New Clinical Disorder

Abstract

Anecdotal reports indicated that some on-line users were becoming addicted to the Internet in much the same way that others became addicted to drugs or alcohol, which resulted in academic, social, and occupational impairment. However, research among sociologists, psychologists, or psychiatrists has not formally identified addictive use of the Internet as a problematic behavior. This study investigated the existence of Internet addiction and the extent of problems caused by such potential misuse. Of all the diagnoses referenced in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth Edition (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1995), Pathological Gambling was viewed as most akin to the pathological nature of Internet use. By using Pathological Gambling as a model, addictive Internet use can be defined as an impulse-control disorder that does not involve an intoxicant. Therefore, this study developed a brief eight-item questionnaire referred to as a Diagnostic Questionnaire (DQ), which modified criteria for pathological gambling to provide a screening instrument for classification of participants. On the basis of this criteria, case studies of 396 dependent Internet users (Dependents) and 100 nondependent Internet users (Nondependents) were classified. Qualitative analyses suggest significant behavioral and functional usage differences between the two groups such as the types of applications utilized, the degree of difficulty controlling weekly usage, and the severity of problems noted. Clinical and social implications of pathological Internet use and future directions for research are discussed.

KIMBERLY S. YOUNG. CyberPsychology & Behavior. FALL 1998, 1(3): 237-244. doi:10.1089/cpb.1998.1.237. >

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