Internet Addiction? Symptoms May Be Linked to Depression, Compulsive Behavior

Posted on May 10th, 2011

Millions of people just can’t stop clicking. Their everyday life is marked by excessive Internet use, and a compulsion to continue using the Internet even though they face personal and workplace consequences.

Debate continues concerning whether overuse of the Internet – for chat rooms, social media, email, for news, games or even sexual pursuits – is actually Internet addiction, pointing toward a need for specific treatment strategies and widespread recognition of the problem.

Part of the debate over the validity of Internet addiction centers on associations of Internet overuse with the signs of mental health conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder or anxiety-related disorders. Experts disagree over whether or not too much Internet use leads patients toward the development of these diagnoses, or if these mental health conditions are present first before a person developed an addition to the Internet.

Research studies on Internet addiction also vary in scope and results, as addressed in a recent blog posted on The Huffington Post. Co-author Simone Seol, MPH candidate, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, listed several studies exploring excessive Internet use and addiction. Studies in China, South Korea and Taiwan – home of the world’s most frequently accessed broadband – have suggested that addiction to the Internet has reached epidemic levels. China is believed to have several hundred treatment facilities for Internet addiction.

In terms of connecting mental well-being to Internet addiction, a Carnegie Mellon University study suggests that overuse of the Internet to search for health information may increase a person’s levels of depression.

Currently, Internet addiction is not officially listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, set for updated publishing in 2013. To date, research to formally validate Internet addiction has not been conclusive – yet millions of people are believed to neglect their families, careers, finances and personal relationships for compulsive or excessive Internet use.

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