Internet Addiction: A New Diagnostic Category?

March 11, 2009

Rebecca Shafir

The American Medical Association (AMA) is looking to determine whether Internet Addiction should be considered an official diagnostic category. Since an “Internet addiction” has been becoming a more frequent “off-the-cuff” complaint of parents and adult patients during neurofeedback intakes, I decided to see whether a formal category exists. 

The authors of “i-Brain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind (2008 Collins Living) a new book by Dr. Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan propose five criteria for Internet Addiction Disorder. If you meet all five criteria, chances are an Internet addiction is present: 

1) Preoccupation: The person constantly thinks about previous and future online sessions.

2) Tolerance: Longer periods of online activity are needed to feel satisfied.

3) Lack of Control: The person cannot cut back or stop online activities.

4) Withdrawal: Irritability and other mood changes occur when the person tries to stop online activities.

5) Staying online: The user remains online longer than intended.

Furthermore, if the user has demonstrated at least one of these behaviors, an Internet addiction is highly likely:

  • jeopardized a job, educational opportunity or a relationship
  • led to concealment of the online activity, and/or
  • been used as a means of escaping problems or relieving uncomfortable feelings.

Seeking the help of a psychotherapist specializing in addiction disorders can be helpful in taming the symptoms associated with an Internet Addiction Disorder.  

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