Internet Addiction Disorder- What is it? What treatment is available?

Internet Addiction Disorder- What is it? 

Internet addiction disorder (IAD) is sometimes referred to as Problematic Internet Use (PIU),[i] Compulsive Internet Use, (CIU),[ii] Internet overuse, problematic computer use, pathological computer use, or I-Disorder,[iii]. IAD is excessive computer use which interferes with daily life.[iv]

Melissa Killeen

Melissa Killeen

Habits such as reading email, playing computer games, or binge viewing every Twilight movie or entire seasons of Breaking Bad are troubling only to the extent that these activities interfere with normal life. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is often separated by the activity involved in the compulsive actions, such as video or online gaming; online social networking;[v] blogging; online stock trading, online gambling, inappropriate Internet pornography use, reading email;[vi] or Internet shopping.[vii]

Cyber-Relationship Addiction has been described as the addiction to accessing and using social networking platforms such as Facebook, Linked In, or online dating services such as and creating fictitious relationships with others through the internet. Along with many other meet-up platforms, such as Tinder or Siren, (mobile phone apps using a GPS that create a way to meet new people), finding online friends has been made very easy, yet very dangerous because there is no way to check the backgrounds of these fictitious friends. These virtual online friends start to gain more importance to the addict, eventually becoming more important than family and real-life friends.

Most, if not all “Internet addicts”, already fall under existing diagnostic labels.[viii] For many individuals, overuse or inappropriate use of the Internet is a manifestation of their depression, anxiety, impulse control disorders, or pathological gambling. According to the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery’s director Kimberly S. Young,[ix] “Internet addicts suffer from emotional problems such as depression and anxiety-related disorders and often use the fantasy world of the Internet to psychologically escape unpleasant feelings or stressful situations.”[x] More than half are also addicted to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, pornography or sex.[xi]

What kind of treatment is available?

Corrective strategies to thwart an Internet addiction include using software that will control or block the unwanted content, such as porn or gaming sites from an individual’s computer, addiction counselling, and cognitive behavioral therapy.[xii] One might consider placing time limits on smart phone or computer use, such as no smart phone use during homework time or no computer use after 9pm. The major reasons that the Internet is so addicting is the lack of limits and the absence of accountability by parents, teachers, and health professionals.[xiii] Professionals generally agree that, for Internet addiction, controlled use is a more practical goal than total abstinence.[xiv]

Families in the People’s Republic of China and South Korea have turned to unlicensed training camps that offer to “wean” their children, often in their teens, from overuse of the Internet. An internet addiction treatment center was started in Delhi, the capital city of India by a nonprofit organization, the Uday Foundation. In 2009, ReSTART, a residential treatment center for “pathological computer use”, opened near Seattle, Washington. The Ranch, a treatment center in Nunnelly, TN, that focuses on behavioral addictions has an internet addiction program. Dr Kimberly Young directs a treatment program called the Internet Addiction Program as part of the Behavioral Health Services Dual Diagnosis Unit at Bradford Regional Medical Center in Bradford, PA. Dr. Maressa Orzack, has treated addictive behaviors at the Computer Addiction Services unit at the McLean Hospital, in Belmont and Newton Center, Massachusetts. The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery has an Internet Addictions treatment track with locations in Peoria, Normal, Harvey and Springfield Illinois. New Beginnings offers treatment for Internet Addiction with facilities in many states.

For those that are not exactly sure they need treatment for an Internet addiction, there is Online Gamers Anonymous, (OLGA, and OLG-Anon). Founded in 2002, by Elizabeth (Liz) Woolley after her son, Shawn Woolley, committed suicide while logged into EverQuest.  OLGA is a twelve-step, self-help, support and recovery organization for gamers (OLGA) and their loved ones (OLG-Anon) who are suffering from the adverse effects of addictive computer gaming. It offers resources such as discussion forums, online chat meetings, Skype meetings and links to other resources.[xv]

References used in this blog

[i] Moreno MA, Jelenchick LA, Christakis DA (2013). “Problematic internet use among older adolescents: A conceptual framework”. Computers and Human Behavior 29: 1879–1887. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.01.053.

[ii] Meerkerk G.-J.; et al. (2009). “The Compulsive Internet Use Scale (CIUS)”. CyberPsychology & Behavior 12: 1–6. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0181.

[iii] Rosen, L. D. et al. (2012). iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold On Us. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9780230117570

[iv] Byun, S; et al. (2009). “Internet Addiction: Metasynthesis of 1996–2006 quantitative research”. Cyberpsychology & Behavior 12 (2): 203–7. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0102. PMID 19072075.

[v] Masters K. (2015). “Social Networking Addiction among Health Sciences Students in Oman“. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal 15 (3): 357–363. doi:10.18295/squmj.2015.15.03.009.

[vi] Turel, O. & Serenko, A. (2010). “Is mobile email addiction overlooked?” (PDF). Communications of the ACM 53 (5): 41–43. doi:10.1145/1735223.1735237.

[vii] eBay Addiction”. Center for Internet Addiction, web site: Net Addiction 2015-11-16

[viii] Hooked on the Web: Help Is on the Way. New York Times, Dec. 1, 2005.

[ix] Young, K. (2009). Issues for Internet Addiction as a New Diagnosis in the DSM-V. Washington, District of Columbia, US: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from PsycEXTRA database.

[x]Frequently Asked Questions”. Retrieved 2014-01-30.

[xi]Frequently Asked Questions”. Retrieved 2014-01-30.

[xii] “University of Notre Dame Counseling Center, “Self help – Lost in Cyberspace”. Retrieved 2009-11-11.

[xiii] “Internet addiction and lack of accountability”. 2010-12-07. Retrieved 2011-07-06.

[xiv] Young, Kimberly S. (2007). “Treatment Outcomes with Internet Addicts” (PDF). CyberPsychology & Behavior 10 (5): 671–679. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9971. Retrieved 2014-03-13.

[xv] Wikipedia, OLGA accessed on Nov 16, 2015-

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