Internet Use Disorder

Internet use disorder is considered an internet addiction disorder. This disorder includes various technological applications such as the World Wide Web (www) as well as the use of emails. It is important however to note that this particular disorder was not previously included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), but it has been selected for the proposed revision of the DSM, known as DSM-V1. American Psychological Association has listed this particular disorder as a psychological disorder for years.

Description:

Many people tend to confuse an internet addiction disorders with process addictions. You have a process addiction when you are addicted to a particular behavior or activity such as specific sexual behaviors, gambling and/or shopping. If you have an internet use disorder, you are obsessed with browsing the internet. At first the disorder presents as a causal interest in the internet, but over time this disorder progresses until you spend the majority of your time surfing the internet. Many experts believe that it is not necessarily the amount of time you spend using the internet that matters most, instead it is the affect the internet usage has on your daily life.   When your internet use interferes with your education, your career, health and well-being and/or your relationships then you have an internet use disorder.

Causes and Warning Signs:

A prominent sign of the disorder is: you spend a significant portion of your day browsing the internet. Even after you are threatened with poor performance at work or poor grades at school, you find it nearly impossible to cut down on your internet usage and continue to spend the majority of your time online. There have been students who failed multiple courses in school because they were either unable or unwilling to reduce the time they spent online. Other warning signs include: irregular sleep patterns, racing thoughts, fatigue and/or unsatisfactory performance at work or school. You also may deny that you have a problem and lie about the total amount of time you spend browsing the internet. You may appear irritable and angry when you do not have access to the internet. During this time, you may desperately look another internet source.

Diagnosis:

  • Your preoccupation with the internet interferes with your normal everyday activities.
  • You constantly think about the internet.
  • In order to feel satisfied, you spend more and more time on the internet.
  • You become moody, restless, irritable and/or depressed when you do not have access to the internet.
  • You constantly find reasons to stay online for long periods of time.

Treatments:

There is little research on the topic of internet use disorder as it is a relatively new condition. Some experts may advise complete abstinence from internet use, while others treat it like any other addiction and recommend slow withdrawal from constant internet use. If you show signs of depression, excessive anxiety and/or extreme restlessness – anti-depressants may be recommended. There are a variety of 12-step-programs and support groups that can help you cope with the condition if your urges return.

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2001). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed). Retrieved form www.dsm5.org/proposedrevision/Pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=573.

Weinstein, A. & Lejoyeux, M. (2010). Internet addiction or excessive internet use. American Journal of Drug Alcohol Abuse. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20545603.

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