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Internet addiction is a mental condition characterized by excessive use of the internet, usually to the detriment of the user. Addiction is generally understood to be a mental disorder involving compulsive behavior. When someone is constantly online, they may be described as addicted to it. While it is recognized as a problem, professionals have yet to agree on whether to recognize the term as a distinct form of addiction.
Internet addiction is also known by numerous other terms, including internet addiction disorder, pathological internet use, internet dependency, problematic internet use, internet overuse and compulsive internet use.
Internet addiction is a term that any layman can understand. That is because excessive internet usage is a common experience in daily life. The difficulty is in finding a clear technical definition that everyone can agree on. A blog on the American Psychiatric Association’s website titled “Can You Be Addicted to the Internet?” explains the ambiguity: “There is still much uncertainty and disagreement among experts about overuse of the internet, the symptoms, how to measure it and even the language used to describe it.”
Many psychiatric professionals have been pushing for the term to be recognized in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” But it was not included as an entry in the fifth edition of the publication, referred to as DSM-V, which came out in 2013.
Dr. Jerald Block, a psychiatrist in Portland, Oregon, wrote a 2008 editorial for The American Journal of Psychiatry proposing its inclusion in DSM-V. He said that internet addiction is generally of three types: excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations, and email/text messaging. Further, he said all three types share four components: excessive use, withdrawal, tolerance (for the costs of the activity) and negative repercussions.
Video game addiction is a related malady. A quick online search of video game deaths yields the sad results of those who got lost in the game they were playing. Hours, days, even weeks later, they died from their preoccupation. Multiple causes of death have been proposed.
Researchers continue to study the problem of internet addiction. A 2015 Pew study reported that one-fifth of Americans go online “almost constantly.” The Internet Addiction Test (IAT) is now considered by some as a valid test of internet addiction. However, a 2016 European College of Neuropsychopharmacology survey suggests that those with internet addiction may have underlying mental problems, such as depression and anxiety.