Last Updated on Jan 25, 2012


Internet addiction disorder causes symptoms similar to drug addiction. It has been particularly studied in Asian countries like China and South Korea.

The internet has no doubt become an important part of our lives. With information available right from our stationary desktops to mobile laptops, tablets and phones, the internet helps to keep pace with the fast world. The social networking sites have added a new dimension to our lives, with people finding that they suddenly have a lot of ‘friends.’

Internet Addiction Disorder

With the internet as your closest companion for most of the time, is it possible that you could get addicted to it? Well, some psychiatrists believe that this is possible and have named the condition as Internet Addiction Disorder or Problematic Internet Use. In fact, they compare internet addiction to other substances like tobacco, alcohol and drugs. They also recommend that it should be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, (DSM-V) as a psychiatric disorder.

What is Internet Addiction Disorder? The term was first coined by a psychiatrist named Ivan Goldberg. A person suffering from this condition shows the following features:

  • Excessive use of the internet, often with a loss of sense of time or neglect of basic drives
  • Withdrawal symptoms like feeling of anger, tension and/or depression when the internet is inaccessible
  • Tolerance, that is, a constant need to increase the hours spent and the need for better computer equipment and more software to experience the same degree of satisfaction
  • Negative effects of prolonged use like arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation and fatigue.

These features resemble symptoms seen with drug addiction.

Internet addiction is of 3 types:

  • Excessive gaming
  • Sexual preoccupations
  • E-mail/ text messaging

Internet addiction has been particularly recognized as a problem in the Asian countries of South Korea and China. South Korea has seen 10 deaths in internet cafes due to heart and other problems, as well as a game-related murder. A report from China claims that at least one out of every six Chinese internet users is addicted on the internet to some extent. Internet addiction could particularly be a problem in adolescents and younger people, who are less self-regulative and more susceptible to media influences.

Whether internet addiction is a psychiatric disorder or not is still a matter of debate. Patients suffering from the so-called internet addiction often suffer from other psychiatric conditions in addition like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, impulsivity, shyness and suicidal tendencies. Thus, the addiction to the internet may be a part of these conditions and not a separate entity by itself. Psychiatrics should be alert while treating young patients with conditions like depression and should enquire about internet addiction. The data collected by different studies show a large variation in terms of the type of people at risk for developing this addiction. For example, most studies found internet addiction more common in males, but some did find a female preponderance or no gender difference. Thus, more research is required in this field.


  1. Chih-Hung Ko, et al. Psychiatric Comorbidity of Internet Addiction in College Students: An Interview Study. CNS Spectr. 2008;13(2):147-153
  2. King-wa Fu et al. Internet addiction: prevalence, discriminant validity and correlates among adolescents in Hong Kong. BJP 2010, 196:486-492.
  3. Bernardo Dell’Osso et al. Epidemiologic and clinical updates on impulse control disorders. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 2006; 256:464–475

Latest Publications and Research on Internet Addiction Disorder

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