Internet Addiction Amongst Teenagers

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A passion adds value to one’s life, an addiction takes away value. When the line between these two is crossed, the addict is often the last to know, due to their denial. A family and social history will reveal that the subject is being evaluated by close friends as actually suffering a great loss from their activity.

Internet Addiction Disorder is the term first proposed by Dr. Ivan Goldberg for pathological, compulsive Internet usage. The criteria for this disorder are listed in appendix 1 and are based on similar criteria for substance abused disorders found in the DSM-IV. It is ironic that Dr. Goldberg was not serious about proposing this as an official diagnostic category, yet this term became used extensively. Dr. Goldberg recently revised his suggestion to change the term for this condition to Pathological Computer Use, and changed several of the criteria.

Pathological Computer Use Disorder was proposed by me as the name for a disorder in which people overuse computers to the extent that (A and/or B):

A. Such use causes them distress; 
B. Such use has a detrimental effect on their physical, psychological, interpersonal, marital, economic, or social functioning.

A parallel unofficial disorder would be ‘workaholism” and the parallel official DSM-IV diagnosis would be “Pathological Gambling.”(Goldberg, 96)

In another note posted to the Internet, Dr. Goldberg refers to this condition as one that causes “Decreased occupational, academic, social, work-related, family-related, financial, psychological, or physiological functioning.” For this study, the term Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) will be used to designate a pathological use of computers, to engage in social interactivity. The term Pathological Computer Use (PCU) will be reserved for the broader category in which someone is pathological about any aspect of computers, and includes uses that are not social in their nature.

To be diagnosed as having Internet Addiction Disorder, a person must meet certain criteria as prescribed by the American Psychiatric Association. Three or more criteria must be present at any time during a twelve month period:

1. Tolerance: This refers to the need for increasing amounts of time on the Internet to achieve satisfaction and/or significantly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of time on the Internet.

2. Two or more withdrawal symptoms developing within days to one month after reduction of Internet use or cessation of Internet use (i.e., quitting cold turkey) , and these must cause distress or impair social, personal or occupational functioning. These include: psychomotor agitation, i.e. trembling, tremors; anxiety; obsessive thinking about what is happening on the Internet; fantasies or dreams about the Internet; voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers.

3. Use of the Internet is engaged in to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

4. The Internet is often accessed more often, or for longer periods of time than was intended.

5. A significant amount of time is spent in activities related to Internet use ( e.g., Internet books, trying out new World Wide Web browsers, researching Internet vendors, etc.).

6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of Internet use.

7. The individual risks the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of excessive use of the Internet.

In recent research, other characteristics have been identified. The first is feelings of restlessness or irritability when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use. The second is that the Internet is used as a way of escaping problems or relieving feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression. The third characteristic is that the user lies to family members or friends to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet. And, finally, the user returns repeatedly despite excessive fees.

Due to the nature of Internet Addiction Disorder (failed impulse control without involving an intoxicant), of all other addictions, IAD is said to be closest to pathological gambling. However, the effects that the addiction can have on every aspect of the person’s life are just as devastating as those of alcoholism.


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