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Internet Addiction Could Be Widespread Among U.S. Adults

More research needed to determine if it is a disorder in its own right

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- A sizeable proportion of the U.S. population may be engaging in addictive or problematic Internet use, according to a report in the October issue of CNS Spectrums.

Elias Aboujaoude, M.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., and colleagues conducted a random-digit-dial telephone study of 2,513 U.S. adults using questions derived from already-established diagnostic criteria for impulse control disorders, substance abuse and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Among the 56.3 percent of people who responded, interviews lasted for an average of 11.3 minutes. At least one marker for problematic Internet use was reported by between 3.7 percent and 13 percent of respondents. The study comprised four sets of diagnostic criteria, the least restrictive of which asked respondents for information on unsuccessful attempts to reduce Internet use, staying online for longer than intended, Internet use interfering with relationships, and being preoccupied with Internet use when offline. These criteria revealed a 0.7 percent prevalence of problematic Internet use.

The authors recommend further research to establish whether addictive use of the Internet is an independent disorder or a symptom of other psychopathologies. "If problematic Internet use is found to be an independent mental disorder, a valid screening instrument will be needed," the authors write. Meanwhile, "a diagnosis of 'impulse control disorder not otherwise specified' may be justified."

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