Many people use the word addiction casually to describe something they do often and somewhat compulsively. We hear people say things like, “I’m addicted to chocolate or I’m addicted to my cell phone.” Clinical addiction is a different matter. A clinical diagnosis is defined by:
The issue around the term “addiction” as it relates to the internet is confusing. Internet Gaming Disorder as a diagnosis is currently being considered for official recognition by the American Association of Psychiatry (APA). This is based on studies that show psychologic and physiologic patterns similar to those exhibited by a person with a drug addiction. For example, MRI studies of the brains of people engaged in excessive video game use look very similar to people addicted to drugs like cocaine.
Meanwhile, the idea of internet addiction is not currently being considered by the APA as a diagnosable addiction. In part this is because a person can do many things on the internet such as participate in social media, browse, research, and play games and so it is unclear what the internet addiction is to. That said, if you refer back to the signs of addiction above, people clearly exhibit symptoms of addiction in their use of internet.
If you are concerned about addiction in yourself or someone else, or you want to teach your kids about this issue, take a look at these two questionnaires below that screen for problematic use. Each has been validated by research. Even if a person has no signs of addiction, I think it is a great idea to do these surveys with your family as a way to open a conversation around addiction.
Video Game Addiction Questionnaire
Survey developed by Dr. Paul Gentile
Over time, have you been spending much more time thinking about playing video games, learning about video-game playing, or planning the next opportunity to play?
Total your "Yes", "Sometimes", and "No" answers.
Kids are considered to be pathological gamers if they responded with a “Yes" or “Sometimes" to at least 6 of these 11 questions.
Read about addiction and curbing screen time here:
Think your kid (or you) could be a screen zombie? Take the 'Screenagers' test—Los Angeles Times
Learning How to Exert Self-Control—New York Times
Compulsive Texting Associated with Poorer School Performance Among Girls—American Psychological Association
Compulsive Texting Takes Toll on Teenagers—New York Times
Teaching Self-Control Tips—Provides evidence-based information about parenting and child development.
Internet Gaming Order in the DSM 5 — In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Internet Gaming Disorder is identified in Section III as a condition warranting more clinical research and experience before it might be considered for inclusion in the main book as a formal disorder.
Here are some Programs and Centers for treating Cases of Addiction:
reSTART—The nation's first center specializing in the treatment of problematic internet, video game and technology use.
Outback Therapeutic Expeditions—A wilderness therapy program for teens.
Problematic & Risky Internet Use Screening Scale—An assessment specifically tailored to adolescents and young adults.
Bradford Regional Medical Center—Counseling and treatment for adults 18 years of age and older.
The Center for Internet & Technology Addiction—Founded by Dr. David Greenfield, one of the world's latest voices on internet, computer and digital media behavior.
Here are a few Tech Talk Tuesday posts that you might be interested in:
Gaming Internet Addiction Test, by Delaney Ruston, MD