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Extensive Internet Involvement—Addiction or Emerging Lifestyle?

By Karin Helmersson Bergmark, Anders Bergmark and Olle Findahl


In the discussions for the future DSM-5, the Substance-Related Disorders Work Group has been addressing “addiction-like” behavioral disorders such as “Internet addiction” to possibly be considered as potential additions for the diagnostic system. Most research aiming to specify and define the concept of Internet addiction (or: Excessive/Compulsive/Problematic Internet Use—PIU), takes its point of departure in conventional terminology for addiction, based in established DSM indicators. Still, it is obvious that the divide between characteristics of addiction and dimensions of new lifestyles built on technological progress is problematic and far from unambiguous. Some of these research areas are developing from the neurobiological doctrine of addiction as not being tied to specific substances. The concept of “behavioral addictions”, based on biological mechanisms such as the reward systems of the brain, has been launched. The problems connected to this development are in this study discussed and reflected with data from a Swedish survey on Internet use (n = 1,147). Most Swedes (85%) do use the Internet to some degree. The prevalence of excessive use parallels other similar countries. Respondents in our study spend (mean value) 9.8 hours per week online at home, only 5 percent spend more than 30 hours per week. There are both positive and negative social effects at hand. Many respondents have more social contacts due to the use of Internet, but there is a decline in face-to-face contacts. About 40% of the respondents indicate some experience of at least one problem related to Internet use, but only 1.8% marked the presence of all problems addressed. Most significant predictors for problem indicators, except for age, relate to “time” and time consuming activities such as gaming, other activities online or computer skills

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