Facts About Internet Addiction

Internet addiction affects as many as one in eight Americans, according to the Center for Internet Addiction. Dr. Jerald J. Block in a 2008 article in the "American Journal of Psychiatry" suggests Internet addiction should be included in the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Block defines Internet addiction as a compulsive activity involving excessive use, withdrawal and negative repercussions including social isolation, lying, low achievement and fatigue.

A close-up of a man using his smartphone and tablet. (Image: Adam Radosavljevic/iStock/Getty Images)

Function

Increasingly, people communicate, work, shop and pay bills online--the Internet is an important tool for many. The Center for Internet Addiction says it's not how much time you spend online that defines addiction. Rather, it's how the time is spent, and whether it has a negative impact on your relationships, work, play, health or school. If you have a hard time controlling the amount of time you spend online, are preoccupied with your online behavior or lie about the amount of time you spend on the Internet, you may well be addicted.

Geography and Gender

According to the Center for Internet Addiction, people in some Asian countries such as China and Korea may have even higher rates of problematic Internet usage that their U.S. counterparts, with as much as 30 percent of the population addicted. Gender also matters, with many more males being addicted than females. These statistics were backed up by a 2008 study comparing Chinese and American college students' Internet usage, published in "CyberPsychology & Behavior." The authors found that being Chinese and male was "significantly related" to Internet addiction.

Types

Cybersex and cyberporn are the most common types of Internet addiction, reports the Center for Internet Addiction. Online interactions through chat rooms and dating websites give cheating partners new opportunities to have affairs. Users can also become addicted to other online activities such as gaming, shopping, gambling or compulsive surfing. Michigan State University's Olin Health Center reported in 2006 that 18.5 percent of students admitted their academic performance suffered because of excessive Internet use.

Comorbidity

Block says most people who are addicted to Internet use also have at least one other comorbid condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. He writes that one study showed an average of 1.5 comorbid conditions such as other addiction, depression or anxiety disorder.

Identification

Michigan State University says that in 2006 "Internet dependent" students spent an average of almost 4 hours per day online and reported spending at least three consecutive hours online per week. They frequently got less than 4 hours of sleep because of Internet activity, looked for ways to go online while at school and used their online activities as a way to counter stress and improve their mood.

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