I was interested in this new study conducted by Stanford School of Medicine Researchers on Internet addiction. In the past, studies conducted on problem Internet use utilized adopted DSM criteria that suggested that people suffered from impulse control disorders. In a first-of-its-kind, telephone-based study, the researchers found that more than one out of eight Americans exhibited at least one possible sign of problematic Internet use. The findings follow results from previous, less rigorous studies that found a significant number of the population could be suffering from some form of Internet addiction.
"Our telephone survey suggests that potential markers of problematic Internet use are present in a sizeable portion of the population," the researchers noted in their paper, which appears in the October issue of CNS Spectrums: The International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine. "We often focus on how wonderful the Internet is - how simple and efficient it can make things," elaborated lead author Elias Aboujaoude, MD. "But we need to consider the fact that it creates real problems for a subset of people."
Aboujaoude, clinical assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of Stanford's Impulse Control Disorders Clinic, said that a small but growing number of Internet users are starting to visit their doctors for help with unhealthy attachments to cyberspace. He said these patients' strong drive to compulsively use the Internet to check e-mail, make blog entries or visit Web sites or chat rooms, is not unlike what sufferers of substance abuse or impulse-control disorders experience: a repetitive, intrusive and irresistible urge to perform an act that may be pleasurable in the moment but that can lead to significant problems on the personal and professional levels.
According to preliminary research, the typical affected individual is a single, college-educated, white male in his 30s, who spends approximately 30 hours a week on non-essential computer use. While some may hear this profile and assume that a person's Internet "addiction" might actually be an extreme fondness for pornography, Aboujaoude stressed that pornography sites are just one part of the problem.
"Not surprisingly, online pornography and, to some degree, online gambling, have received the most attention - but users are as likely to use other sites, including chat rooms, shopping venues and special-interest Web sites," he said. In the Stanford study-which Aboujaoude said is the first large-scale, random-sample epidemiological one ever done-the researchers conducted a nationwide household survey and interviewed 2,513 adults. This study confirms past findings on Internet addiction and further validates the existence of the disorder and its potential for widespread misuse. Further empirical evidence on the disorder helps researchers and clinicians understand the effects of the Internet when misused or abused and I think provides a greater understanding of its prevalence.