Internet addiction disorder
|Internet addiction disorder|
|Internet addiction might be a subset of broader forms of addiction to technology.|
Addiction is defined by Webster Dictionary as a "compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful".
Problematic Internet use is also called compulsive Internet use (CIU), Internet overuse, problematic computer use, or pathological computer use (PCU), problematic Internet use (PIU), or Internet addiction disorder (IAD)). Another commonly associated pathology is video game addiction, or Internet gaming disorder (IGD).
IAD was originally proposed as a disorder in a satirical hoax by Ivan Goldberg, M.D., in 1995, although some later researchers have taken his essay seriously. He used this term because it was a suitable fit to his parody. This idea he conjured was to demonstrate the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders handbook's complexity and rigidity. Among the symptoms he included in this parody were "important social or occupational activities that are given up or reduced because of the internet use", "fantasies or dreams about the internet" and "voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers".
Goldberg himself has redefined IAD as a "pathological Internet use disorder" (also known as PIU) to avoid what he started as a joke to be thought of as an officially diagnosed addiction, such as an addiction to heroin. Goldberg mentioned that to receive medical attention or support for every behavior by putting it in to psychiatric nomenclature is ridiculous. Goldberg added if every overdone behavior can be an addiction that would lead us to have support groups for individuals that consistently cough or are addicted to books.
He took pathological gambling, as diagnosed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), as his model for the description of IAD. IAD receives coverage in the press, and the possible future classification of it as a psychological disorder continues to be debated and researched in the psychiatric community. A systematic review of PIU literature identified the lack of standardization in the concept as a major impediment to advancing this area of study.
Other online habits such as reading, playing computer games, or watching very large numbers of Internet videos are troubling only to the extent that these activities interfere with normal life. IAD is often divided into subtypes by activity, such as gaming; online social networking; blogging; email; excessive, overwhelming, or inappropriate Internet pornography use; or Internet shopping (shopping addiction). Opponents note that compulsive behaviors may not necessarily be addictive.
Internet addiction is a subset of a broader "technology addiction". Widespread obsession with technology goes back at least to radio in the 1930s and television in the 1960s, but it has exploded in importance during the digital age. A study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking (2014) suggests that prevalence of Internet addiction varies considerably among countries and is inversely related to quality of life.
A multidimensional construct
A conceptual model of PIU has been developed based on primary data collected from addiction researchers, psychologists, and health providers as well as older adolescents themselves. That study identified seven concepts, or clusters, that make up PIU using a concept mapping approach. These seven clusters are: psychosocial risk factors; physical impairment; emotional impairment; social and functional impairment; risky Internet use; impulsive Internet use; and Internet use dependence. The last three constructs have not been previously identified. Risky Internet use are behaviors that increase risks of adverse consequences. It is not just the amount of time spent on the Internet that puts an adolescent at risk; how the time is spent is also an important consideration. The impulsive use construct describes an inability to maintain balance or control of internet use in relation to everyday life. Finally, the dependent use construct reflects the more severe symptoms that are typically associated with addictions, such as withdrawal symptoms. Thus, internet addiction may represent a severe form of PIU.
Other research also stresses the fact that the Internet addiction disorder is not a unidimensional but a multidimensional construct. Various facets of Internet use must be differentiated because of their differential predictors, mechanisms and consequences. Online activities which, if done in person, would normally be considered troublesome, such as compulsive gambling, or shopping, are sometimes called net compulsions.
Internet addiction disorder is not listed in the latest DSM manual (DSM-5, 2013), which is commonly used by psychiatrists. Gambling disorder is the only behavioural (non-substance related) addiction included in DSM-5. However Internet gaming disorder is listed in Section III, Conditions for Further Study, as a disorder requiring further study.
Jerald J. Block, M.D. has argued that Internet addiction should be included as a disorder in the DSM-5. However, Block observed that diagnosis was complicated because 86% of study subjects showing symptoms also exhibited other diagnosable mental health disorders.
Early investigation and research
The first quantitative journal study results of Internet use as possible addiction were published in 1996 by Penn State researcher, Steven John Thompson. in the Penn State McNair Journal. Thompson was a McNair Scholar who began his empirical Internet addiction research in 1995 with focus on the mass media effects of the Internet on society. Thompson's research, also evaluating dependency, was presented at the McNair Conference at SUNY Buffalo, and at the Penn State McNair Conference in 1996. While Thompson's study abstract was accepted at the annual Association for Education in Mass Communication and Journalism Convention in Chicago in 1997, the research was not formally presented due to non-attendance.
Since there was no available statistical tool for determining addiction at the Internet level in 1995, Thompson created a repurposed CAGE model for alcohol addiction to apply in Internet addiction with the first online Internet addiction survey questionnaire called McSurvey, referencing his McNair research scholar status therein.
Thompson academically surveyed over 100 people in 1995 who claimed online addiction at the time, and, after winnowing down viable participant response to a value of N=32, concluded in his published "Internet Connectivity: Addiction and Dependency Study" that Internet addiction, while needing more research, was often the way people felt rather than what was actually transpiring clinically, with his research results statistically confirming that the newness of the Internet, its empowerment of the individual with learning and knowledge, along with online community development and relationships, was why people were spending inordinate amounts of time on the Internet. Thompson's research indicated that, as with substance abuse, people with a propensity towards a particular addiction, such as pornography, may be capable of transferring that propensity into the new medium of the Internet appliance, but that did not indicate addiction to the Internet appliance.
While Thompson never conducted another formal quantitative study on Internet addiction, Thompson updated his seminal Internet addiction research 15 years later with a formal plenary presentation at the First International Forum on Media and Information Literacy held at Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in Fez, Morocco in 2011, where he was an informal contributor to UNESCO's Declaration on Media and Information Literacy adopted by Fez International Forum. With the unveiling of the 2011 updated research into Internet addiction and dependency, Thompson indicated that Internet addiction has been supplanted by dependency as a very real and pervasive societal issue that is not only not going away, but resulting in new structures and nomenclatures rooted in human enhancement technologies, ideas further explored in the Preface to his 2014 reference book Global Issues and Ethical Considerations in Human Enhancement Technologies.
Issues with identifying diagnostic criteria
The addiction to 'cyber sex', 'cyber relationships', 'net compulsions', 'information and research' and 'computer gaming' are categories explained by Young 1999, that relate to the 'broad' term Internet addiction. The addictive stimulus associated with an 'Internet addiction' is technically a rewarding and reinforcing stimulus which is transmitted via the internet, as opposed to exposure or access to the Internet itself; hence, "Internet addiction" is a misnomer.
Tolerance is seen as one of the most important criteria required to be considered addicted. Many have difficulty fathoming that a person can build up tolerance to the internet because it is not a substance. This tolerance can take the form of constantly needing to upgrade a computer, and faster internet speeds. This idea has been growing and being explored to being a possibility.
There are a variety of stimuli online that users could be addicted to rather than the Internet itself, which include communication, gaming, shopping, cyber-relations and anonymity, and so it is argued that users 'just use the Internet excessively as a medium to fuel other addictions'.
A study carried out by Young discovered that over half of people considered 'Internet-dependent' were new users of the Internet, and are therefore more 'inclined' to use to the Internet regularly. She also discusses the fact that 'Non-dependent' users had been using the Internet for more than a year, suggesting that over use of the Internet could 'wear off over time'.
Compulsive online gaming, online gambling, and use of online auction sites are all classed as categories of Internet Addiction that are said to often result in financial and job-related problems. Internet users can become easily addicted to these types of online activity, rather than the Internet itself.
Accessibility. Because of the convenience of the Internet, users now have easy and immediate access to gambling, shopping and gaming at any time of day, without the hassles of everyday life (e.g. travelling or queues).
Control. Users are in control of their own online activity. With the use of newer technology such as tablet computers and smartphones, users can go to the bathroom or another private place to engage with the Internet, without others knowing about it.
Excitement. Internet users often get an excited feeling of a 'rush' or a "buzz" that they get when winning an online auction, a video game or online gambling. Gambling, gaming and online bidding all provide positive feedback that can result in addictive behaviour. Users will use the net as a way of gaining this emotion.
Internet users can become addicted to playing online games, gambling and shopping through the feeling it gives them. These online activities can create the feeling of convenience, independence and excitement, which makes the user want to do it again.
Internet addiction and pornography
Young (1999), a founding member of The Centre for On-Line Addiction, claims Internet addiction is a broad term that covers a wide variety of behaviors and impulse control problems. She claims this is categorized by five specific subtypes including:
- Cybersexual addiction: compulsive use of adult websites for cybersex and cyberporn.
- Cyber-relationship addiction: Over-involvement in online relationships.
- Net compulsions: Obsessive online gambling, shopping or day-trading.
- Information overload: Compulsive web surfing or database searches.
- Computer addiction: Obsessive computer game playing.
Hypersexuality has become an enduring focus of empirical consideration in recent years (Kafka, 2010) The study of compulsive Internet pornography use as a subdomain of hypersexuality has also become a prevalent empirical focus in recent years. Internet pornography use is increasingly common in Western cultures (Carroll et al. 2008). In tandem with this increase, the mental health community has witnessed a dramatic rise in problematic Internet pornography use (Manning, 2006; Warden et al. 2004; Owens, Behun, Manning, & Reid, 2012).
Joshua B. Grubbs, a specialist in addictive behavior patterns, outlines in the article "Internet Pornography Use: Perceived Addiction" that at present there is no widely accepted means of defining or assessing problematic Internet pornography use and the notion of Internet pornography addiction is still highly controversial.
Cyber-relationship addiction is one impulse-control problem that is covered within the Internet addiction disorder. It has been supported by different articles over the years, including Ramdhonee's "Psychological impact of internet usage on children and adolescents" and Young's Internet addiction: Symptoms, evaluation and treatment.
A cyber-relationship addiction has been described as the addiction to social networking in all forms. Social networking such as Facebook, and online dating services along with many other communication platforms create a place to communicate with new people. Virtual online friends start to gain more communication and importance over time to the person becoming more important than real-life family and friends.
Cyber-relationships are in essence a virtual relationship or form of communication between two people. Visuals are removed as it is communication through text, all you know of a person is what they are communicating to you and what is displayed on their profile. Some people "will be attracted to the silent, less visually stimulating, non-tactile quality of text relationships – which may be true for some people struggling to contain the over-stimulation of past trauma. A person's ambivalence about intimacy may be expressed in text communication because it is a paradoxical blend of allowing people to be honest and feel close while maintaining their distance. People suffering with social anxiety or issues regarding shame and guilt may be drawn to text relationships because they cannot be seen. Some people even prefer text because it enables them to avoid the issue of physical appearance which they find distracting or irrelevant to the relationship. Without the distraction of in-person cues, they feel they can connect more directly to the mind and soul of the other person. Text becomes a transitional space, an extension of their mind that blends with the extension of the other person's mind".
Issues within cyber-relationship addiction
Cyber-relationships can often be more intense than real-life relationships, causing addiction to the relationship. With the ability to create whole new personas, people can often deceive the person they are communicating with. Everyone is looking for the perfect companion but the perfect companion online is not always the perfect companion in real life. Although two people can commit to a cyber-relationship, while offline, one of them could possibly not be the person they are claiming to be online.
Causes and effects
Kimberly S. Young says that prior research links internet addiction disorder with existing mental health issues, most commonly depression. Young states that the disorder has significant effects socially, psychologically and occupationally.
According to a Korean study into the disorder, pathological use of the internet results in negative life consequences such as job loss, marriage breakdown, financial debt, and academic failure. 70% of internet users in Korea are reported to play online games, 18% of which are diagnosed as game addicts. The authors of the article conducted a study using Kimberly Young's questionnaire. The study showed that the majority of those who met the requirements of internet addiction disorder suffered from interpersonal difficulties and stress and that those addicted to online games specifically responded that they hoped to avoid reality.
Young states that 52% of the respondents to her own study said that they were following recovery programs for other addictions. These included alcoholism, chemical dependency, compulsive gambling, or chronic overeating. These participants could see the same excessive behaviour, the need for a crutch to help them relax, in their use of the Internet, that they had exhibited in prior addictions. Though they believed that Internet addiction was not as serious as alcoholism, they still felt disheartened that a new addiction had substituted for the old one. Young also discusses the findings of Maressa Hecht-Orzack of McLean Hospital who set up a service for computer and Internet addiction in the spring of 1996. Orzack noted that primarily depression and bipolar disorder in its depressive swing were co-morbid features of pathological Internet use, along with this Orzack indicated that referrals received were from various clinics throughout the hospital rather than direct self-referrals for Internet addiction.
Determining the cause of excessive Internet use as it relates to negative outcomes may require a consideration of moderating factors. For example, excessive use accompanied by the cognitive factor of high preoccupation with the Internet (excessive thinking about the Internet) has been found to be related to greater amounts of negative outcomes.
Internet addiction disorder has also been found to correlate positively with damaged self-esteem, which underlying mechanism parallels that of clinical conditions such as bulimia nervosa. This occurrence of compulsions may be attributed to an automatic defense mechanism in which the individual avoids anxiety.
A current study on the effects of online internet gaming reveals how excessive internet addiction could significantly impair a student's brain. For this study, the researchers selected seventeen subjects with online gaming addiction and another seventeen naive internet users who rarely used the internet. Using a magnetic resonance imaging scanner, they performed a scan to "acquire 3-dimensional T1-weighted images" of the subject's brain. The results of the scan revealed that online gaming addiction "impairs gray and white matter integrity in the orbitofrontal cortex of the prefrontal regions of the brain". According to Keath Low, psychotherapist, the orbitofrontal cortex "has a major impact on our ability to perform such tasks as planning, prioritizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and controlling our emotions". As a result, these online gaming addicts are incapable of prioritizing their life or setting a goal and accomplishing it because of the impairment of their orbitofrontal cortex.
An online study of over 17,000 people, done by David Greenfield in conjunction with ABCNews.com, was presented at the 1999 American Psychological Association meetings in Boston, MA found approximately 5.9% met the criteria for an Internet addiction diagnosis. Several factors including dissociation (time distortion, disinhibition, ease-of-access, and content variables) contributed to compulsive Internet use; results of the study were published in CyberPsychology and Behavior and later included in Greenfield's 1999 book Virtual Addiction.
Studies, surveys, tests and questionnaires
A number of online surveys and questionnaires have been created to measure the amount and type of internet use an individual undertakes. A 1995 quantitative online questionnaire may be the first published in an academic journal. The Internet Addiction Test, the Chen Internet Addiction Scale, the Compulsive Internet Use Scale, the Problematic And Risky Internet Use Screening Scale, and Generalized Problematic Internet Use Scale are later measures of usage levels.
Problematic Internet use (PIU) is defined as an addictive behavior with extreme or poorly-controlled fixation, desires, or actions concerning computer use and Internet access that may lead to harm or anguish. Some individuals prefer online interaction to face-to-face encounters.
There are those researchers who say that Internet addiction disorder is not a true addiction and may in fact be no more than a symptom of other, existing disorders. An overbroad description of addiction leaves open the possibility of every compensatory behavior being declared an addiction. For example, a person who has lengthy telephone conversations with a friend to avoid an unpleasant situation could be declared "addicted to the telephone" with equal validity as a person who chats on the Internet with the same underlying goal.
Most, if not all "Internet addicts", already fall under existing diagnostic labels. For many individuals, overuse or inappropriate use of the Internet is a manifestation of their depression, social anxiety disorders, impulse control disorders, or pathological gambling. IAD is compared to food addiction, in which patients overeat as a form of self-medication for depression, anxiety, etc., without actually being truly addicted to eating. It is possible that a person could have a pathological relationship with a specific aspect of the Internet, such as bidding on online auctions, viewing pornography, online gaming, or online gambling (which is included under the existing pathological gambling), but that does not make the Internet medium itself addictive. For example, whether gambling is done on a computer or face-to-face does not affect whether or not it is pathological; a person with poor impulse control can lose sleep over a suspenseful novel or favorite television show or a computer game or the temptation to click on another web link.
Also, there are significant and critical differences between common Internet activities (e-mail, chatting, web surfing) and pathological gambling, which the IAD notion heavily parallels. The Internet is largely a pro-social, interactive, and information-driven medium, while gambling is seen as a single, anti-social behavior that has very little social redeeming value. Many so-called Internet addicts do not suffer from the same damage to health and relationships that are common to established addictions. There is also no research to support the association between Internet addiction and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
A complete review of the Internet addiction research by Byun et al. in 2008 demonstrated significant, multiple flaws in most studies in this area. In that article, the researchers wrote, "The analysis showed that previous studies have utilized inconsistent criteria to define Internet addicts, applied recruiting methods that may cause serious sampling bias, and examined data using primarily exploratory rather than confirmatory data analysis techniques to investigate the degree of association rather than causal relationships among variables." However, a significant amount of research has been released since 2008, partly as a result of the American Psychiatric Association's inclusion of internet and gaming use disorder as a condition of further study.
Screening for problematic use in individuals due the ever-changing digital landscape. Researchers Northrup, Lapierre, Kirk and Rae developers of the Internet Process Addiction Test (IPAT) propose that tools measure different processes utilized over the Internet, such as video game play, social networking, sexual activity and web surfing, may be more helpful than a measure of Internet addiction itself, as the Internet is simply a medium which facilities a variety of interactions, some of which are highly addictive, and others less so.
Cash, Rae and Winkler, in a paper titled "Internet Addiction: A brief summary of research and practice", describe early interventions used in the treatment of Internet addiction (IAD), and Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD).
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is designed to help individuals learn how to control their thoughts and feelings. This control is to prevent detrimental functions that may trigger impulses to escape into the virtual world. The therapy is setup for three stages. The first stage is to instruct the patient to identify there is a problem and how much a problem computers are creating. Identification is done by using a log to document duration, events, day, of online activity. This can be used to show in black and white how much time is spent online and to help create a realistic goal for patients to strive for. Using this log the patients interact with a therapist to make a schedule for online activity to promote new healthier habits. The second aspect of the treatment program is more for the cognitive aspect, as in, digging into what triggers the excessive online activity. The third phase is to confront or resolve the issues in the patient's life that lead to them seeking escape things via the Internet.
Families in the People's Republic of China have turned to unlicensed training camps that offer to "wean" their children, often in their teens, from overuse of the Internet. The training camps have been associated with the death of at least one youth. In November 2009, the government of the People's Republic of China banned physical punishment to "wean" teens from the Internet. Electro-shock therapy had already been banned.
In July 2014, an internet de-addiction center was started in Delhi, the capital city of India by a non profit organization, Uday Foundation. The Foundation provides counseling to the children and teens with internet addiction disorder.
In August 2009, ReSTART, a United States-based residential treatment center for "problematic digital media use, internet addiction, and video game addiction", opened near Seattle, Washington, United States. It offers a 7- to 12-week intensive program for adolescents and adults intended to help people set device limits, and address digital distractions.
In 2005, Professor Kiesler called Internet addiction a fad illness. In her view, she said, television addiction is worse. She added that she was completing a study of heavy Internet users, which showed the majority had sharply reduced their time on the computer over the course of a year, indicating that even problematic use was self-corrective.
Over the past decade, the concept of Internet addiction has grown in terms of acceptance as a legitimate clinical disorder often requiring treatment. Researchers are divided over whether Internet addiction is a disorder on its own or a symptom of another underlying disorder. There is also debate over whether it should be classified as an impulse-control disorder or an obsessive-compulsive disorder rather than an addiction.
While the existence of Internet addiction is debated, self-proclaimed sufferers are resorting to the courts for redress. In one American case (Pacenza v. IBM Corp.), the plaintiff argued he was illegally dismissed from his employment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because of Internet addiction triggered by Vietnam War-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The case was dismissed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and affirmed on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit in 2010 (case summarized in Glaser & Carroll, 2007).
About 25% of users fulfill Internet addiction criteria within the first six months of using the Internet. Many individuals initially report feeling intimidated by the computer but gradually feel a sense of "competency and exhilaration from mastering the technology and learning to navigate the applications quickly by visual stimulation" (Beard 374). The feeling of exhilaration can be explained by the way IAD sufferers often describe themselves as: bold, outgoing, open-minded, intellectually prideful, and assertive.
According to a study by Kathy Scherer, a psychologist from the University of Texas at Austin, "13% of college internet users fit the criteria for Internet addicts" (Scherer 1997). In her study, Scherer enlisted the help of 531 college students. She discovered that "72% of the Internet addicted students were men" (Scherer 1997).
Public concern, interest in, and the study of, Internet over use can be attributed to the fact that it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between the online and offline worlds. The Internet has tremendous potential to affect the emotions of humans and in turn, alter our self-perception and anxiety levels.
According to the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery (whose director is Kimberly S. Young, a researcher who has lobbied for the recognition of net abuse as a distinct clinical disorder), "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." More than half are also addicted to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or sex.
Mark Griffiths states that "[t]he way of determining whether nonchemical (i.e., behavioral) addictions are addictive in a nonmetaphorical sense is to compare them against clinical criteria for other established drug-ingested addictions", and although his data is dated, and may no longer represent average Internet use accurately, Griffiths comes to the conclusion that the Internet does meet that criteria for addiction in a small number of users.
Scientists have found that compulsive Internet use can produce morphological changes in the structure of the brain. A study which analyzed Chinese college students who had been classified as computer addicts by the study designers and who used a computer around 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, found reductions in the sizes of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, rostral anterior cingulate cortex, supplementary motor area and parts of the cerebellum compared to students deemed "not addicted" by the designers. It has been theorized that these changes reflect learning-type cognitive optimizations for using computers more efficiently, but also impaired short-term memory and decision-making abilities—including ones in which may contribute to the desire to stay online instead of be in the real world.
Patricia Wallace PhD, Senior Director, Information Technology and CTY Online, at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth argues that based on the case histories that have surfaced, no one denies that excessive involvement with certain psychological spaces on the net can have serious effects on a person's life. She explains that, at a large university in New York, the dropout rate among freshmen newcomers rose dramatically as their investment in computers and Internet access increased, and the administrators learned that 43% of the dropouts were staying up all night on the Internet.
Online gambling addiction
According to David Hodgins, a professor of psychology at the University of Calgary, online gambling is considered to be as serious as pathological gambling. It is known as an "isolated disorder" which means that those who have a gambling problem prefer to separate themselves from interruptions and distractions. Because gambling is available online, it increases the opportunity for problem gamblers to indulge in gambling without social influences swaying their decisions. This is why this disorder has become more a problem at this date in time and is why it is so difficult to overcome. The opportunity to gamble online is almost always available in this century opposed to only having the opportunity in a public forum at casinos for example. Online gambling has become quite popular especially with today's adolescents. Today's youth has a greater knowledge of modern software and search engines along with a greater need for extra money. So not only is it easier for them to find opportunities to gamble over any subject, but the incentive to be granted this money is desperately desired.
Stock trading addiction
According to Brian Bloch during his trading addiction study in July 2013, online stock trading is one activity, just like online gambling that gives a participant an addictive rush. Online stock trading has an environment that is vulnerable to encouraging addiction. Problem traders have ownership towards when and how they trade stocks and distribute their money. There are no second parties, bosses or schedules so the problem trader could automatically feel empowered. Because it is on the Internet, when stock trading, the trader's are able to feel as though they are in their own world and etch out reality. Bloch explains that it is quite common for problem traders to experience "beginners luck" when stock trading, but as they continue based off the initial rush, they begin to lose money. After the loss of money, problem traders begin a cycle of trying to win back their losses which results in an immense financial loss and even bankruptcy. Your brain produces dopamine when responding to an exciting experience, kind of like your brain is giving your body a reward. By releasing this chemical that gives a pleasurable effect, it is subconsciously teaching the brain that the activity that caused the reaction is positive, and should be repeated. So those who trade stock get a rush when successful and have an "obsessive desire" to repeat the pleasure.
Online gaming addiction (Internet gaming disorder)
Video game addiction is a known issue around the world. Incidence and severity grew in the 2000s, with the advent of broadband technology, games allowing for the creation of avatars, 'second life' games, and MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role playing games). World of Warcraft has the largest MMORPG community on-line and there have been a number of studies about the addictive qualities of the game. Addicts of the game range from children to mature adults. A well-known example is Ryan van Cleave, a university professor whose life declined as he became involved in online gaming. Andrew Doan, MD, PhD, a physician with a research background in neuroscience, battled his own addictions with video games, investing over 20,000 hours of playing games over a period of nine years.
Online gaming addiction may be considered in terms of B.F. Skinner's theory of operant conditioning, which claims that the frequency of a given behaviour is directly linked to rewarding and punishment of that behavior. If a behaviour is rewarded, it is more likely to be repeated. If it is punished, it becomes suppressed.
Orzack, a clinical psychologist at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts claims that 40 percent of World of Warcraft (WoW) players are addicted. Orzack says that the best way to optimize the desired behaviour in the subject is to provide rewards for correct behaviour, and then adjust the number of times the subject is required to exhibit that behaviour before a reward is provided. For instance, if a rat must press a bar to receive food, then it will press faster and more often if it doesn't know how many times it needs to press the bar. An equivalent in World of Warcraft would be purple (epic) loot drops. Players in World of Warcraft will often spend weeks hunting for a special item which is based on a chance system, sometimes with only a 0.01% chance of it being dropped by a slain monster. The rarity of the item and difficulty of acquiring the item gives the player a status amongst their peers once they obtain the item.
Online Gamers Anonymous, an American non-profit organization formed in 2002, is a twelve-step, self-help, support and recovery organization for gamers and their loved ones 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. Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous (ITAA) founded in 2009, is a 12-step program supporting users coping with digital distractions.
Jim Rossignol, a finance journalist who reports on Internet gaming has described how he overcame his own addiction, and channeled his compulsion into a desirable direction as a reporter of Internet gaming and gaming culture.
Communication addiction disorder (compulsive talking)
Communication addiction disorder (CAD) is a supposed behavioral disorder related to the necessity of being in constant communication with other people, even when there is no practical necessity for such communication. CAD had been linked to Internet addiction. Users become addicted to the social elements of the Internet, such as Facebook and YouTube. Users become addicted to one-on-one or group communication in the form of social support, relationships and entertainment. However interference with these activities can result in conflict and guilt. This kind of addiction is called social network addiction.
Social network addiction is a dependence of people by connection, updating and control of their and their friends social network page. The correlation between the social network use and a decreasing of offline social relationships is a complex issue, depending not only from the time spent on them but also from the motivation in using them. For some people in fact, the only important thing is to have a lot of friends in the network regardless if they are offline or only virtual; this is particularly true for teenagers as a reinforcement of egos. Sometimes teenagers use social networks to show their idealized image to the others. They generally start using social networks to improve face-to-face relationships. However, some of them use these tools as a showcase creating an idealized image to be accepted by groups and to reach a big number of friends. They spend a reduced time for face-to-face relationships, passing instead at least six hours per day on social networks. However, other studies claim that people are using social networks to communicate their real personality and not to promote their idealized identity.
Virtual reality addiction
Virtual reality addiction is an addiction to the use of virtual reality or virtual, immersive environments. Currently, interactive virtual media (such as social networks) are referred to as virtual reality, whereas future virtual reality refers to computer-simulated, immersive environments or worlds. Experts warn about the dangers of virtual reality, and compare the use of virtual reality (both in its current and future form) to the use of drugs, bringing with these comparisons the concern that, like drugs, users could possibly become addicted to virtual reality.
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