Pathological Internet Use

Facilitated by recent studies conducted by Dr. Kimberly Young, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, the internet has officially been deemed potentially addictive. As recognized by the American Psychological Association, this new disorder, called Pathological Internet Use (PIU), groups internet use in the same addictive category as drugs, alcohol, and gambling.

According to Young's study of 396 PIU identified subjects, 90% of addictive activity occurs in two-way communication situations: chat rooms, MUDs, newsgroups, and e-mail. The majority of PIU sufferers were low-tech workers and those new to the internet. Moreover, according to Young, "Those who suffer from low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, or frequent disapproval from others are at the highest risk" of becoming Net addicts. On average, the addicted internet user spent 38 hours per week online, as opposed to 8 hours for non-addicted users. In recognition of this growing problem, internet addiction centers have already been created at institutions such as the University of Maryland at College Park, Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Ill., and Harvard affiliate McLean Hospital.

When Does Internet Use Become Pathological?

Do you:

  1. Feel preoccupied with the Internet (i.e., thinking about the Internet when offline)?
  2. Feel a need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
  3. Have an inability to control your Internet use?
  4. Feel restless or irritable when attempting to cut down to stop Internet use?
  5. Use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a poor mood (i.e., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, or depression)?
  6. Lie to family members or friends to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
  7. Jeopardize or risk the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
  8. After spending an excessive amount of money on online fees, often return another day?
  9. Go through withdrawal when offline (e.g., increased depression, anxiety, etc.)?
  10. Stay online longer than originally intended?

Individuals who met four or more of these criteria during a 12-month period were classified as dependent.