Internet addiction

Drug abuse and addiction / Category / Emile Du Toit / May 5th 2014

What is internet addiction?

Internet addiction is characterized by excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges or behaviours regarding computer use and internet access that lead to impairment or distress.

The term ‘internet addiction’ describes a person’s overuse, or excessive time spent using the internet to such an extent that it has caused other aspects of their lives to become unmanageable. The person appears powerless to alter these behaviours despite the damage they are causing.

Specific pathological internet use is not internet addiction

Specific pathological internet use affects people who are dependent on a specific function of the internet, and are not classified as internet addiction.

Specific behaviours that fall outside of internet addiction tend to have their own diagnostic classification. These specific internet behaviours include overuse (abuse) of online sexual material/services, online auction services, online share trading, and online gambling. These dependencies tend to be content specific, and would exist in the absence of the internet.

Generalized pathological use of the internet is internet addiction

Generalised pathological internet use is what we call internet addiction. It involves a general, multidimensional overuse of the internet. It might also include wasting time online, without a clear objective.

Generalised pathological internet use is often also associated with online chat rooms and e-mail, which is assumed to be related to the social aspect of the internet. This need for social contact and reinforcement obtained online results in an increased desire to remain in a virtual social life.

Activities that fall part of internet addiction

Recreational activities that can form a part of internet addiction (either by themselves or as part of a pervasive pattern of use) include the following:

  • Surfing (browsing) the web
  • Social networking sites
  • Instant chat and instant messaging
  • Checking and sending email
  • Online gaming
  • Configuring computer preferences
  • Downloading of audio-visual material (mp3, mpeg etc) or software
  • Website design
  • Research of popular culture
  • Writing compact discs or music downloaded from the internet
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