- People who seem addicted to the Internet
often show a bumper crop of psychiatric disorders like manic-depression,
and treating those other conditions might help them rein in their urge
to be online, a study suggests.
- On average, Internet "addicts"
in the study reported having five psychiatric disorders at some point in
their lives, a finding that "just blew me away," says psychiatrist
Nathan Shapira of the University of Cincinnati's College of Medicine.
- It's unclear whether the Internet problem
should be considered a disorder or just a symptom of something else, or
whether certain disorders promote the excessive online use, he says.
- Shapira is scheduled to present the study
today at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in
- He and colleagues studied 14 people who'd
spent so much time online that they were facing problems like broken relationships,
job loss and dropping out of school.
- One 31-year-old man was online more than
100 hours a week, ignoring family and friends and stopping only to sleep.
A 21-year-old man flunked out of college after he stopped going to class.
When he disappeared for a week, campus police found him in the uni versity
computer lab, where he'd spent seven days straight online.
- The study participants, whose average
age was 35, were interviewed for three to five hours with standard questions
to look for psychiatric disorders.
- Being hooked on the Internet is not a
recognized disorder. But Shapira says the excessive online use by the study
participants would qualify as a disorder of impulse control, in the same
category as kleptomania or compulsive shopping. In fact, he suggeste d
the Internet problem be called "Internetomania" or "Netomania,"
rather than an addiction.
- But the striking thing, Shapira says,
was the other psychiatric problems that turned up. Among them:
- -- Nine of the 14 had manic-depression
at the time of the interview, and 11 had it at some point in their lives.
- -- Half had an anxiety disorder such
as "social phobia," which is a persisting and unreasonable fear
of being embarrassed in public, at the time of the interview.
- -- Eight had abused alcohol or some other
substance at some time in their lives.
- Kimberly Young, a University of Pittsburgh
psychologist, says she has found a similar pattern of prior psychiatric
problems in most people hooked on the Internet. Some people who'd abused
alcohol or other substances told her they were using the Internet as a
safer substitute addiction.