"Experts note that children that are growing up online suffer from a lack of social skills, problem solving skills, they are overweight, have a shorter attention span and in general, are not leading a healthy lifestyle while they sit for hours in front of a computer screen. It’s a real addiction and already, therapists, clinics, books, and self help groups offering to cure the addiction are popping up everywhere." http://www.articlesbase.com/addictions-articles/internet-addiction-what-...
"Some scientists and writers suggest that spending a great deal of time on the Internet can significantly shorten a person's attention span. The same survey states, "More than half [of the students surveyed] have checked Facebook or MySpace and sent or received e-mail while using their laptop in class." I have seen, in my lecture classes, no shortage of high-achieving and academically motivated Brandeis students surreptitiously checking Facebook instead of taking notes. The temptation is strong. Is the Internet so addictive it prevents even the best students from concentrating in class?" http://media.www.thejusticeonline.com/media/storage/paper573/news/2008/1...
"The Internet appears to be a growing problem in the workplace. Psychologist Michael Fenichel,PhD described some clinical observations about persons who present for treatment with computer-related issues:
tend to have pervasive and characteristic cognitive styles which include a sort of "multi-tasking" with high-speed processing, and a loss of mid- and long-term goal directedness, diminished length of attention span, disrupted patterns of living (e.g., eating), and detached or disturbed social relationships, often using the computer as the focal point for all contact with the world.
"Internet Addiction": Addictive Behavior, Transference or More?" http://www.spiritualcompetency.com/nmhi/lesson6_1.asp
Addictive Behavior, Transference or More?
Michael Fenichel, Ph.D.
A look at internet relationships: Transference, Addiction, or Sublimation?
Much attention has been paid to the phenomenon of Internet Addiction, conceived of as a compulsive behavior, or craving for connectedness, or perhaps even a manifestation of transference or a reflection of object relations, or need-fulfillment. Clearly the life of an "Internet addict" can be as multiply-determined as Windows and Mac operating systems can be multi-tasked. Computer use is increasingly becoming integrated into daily life, and so both the temptations and opportunities for "addiction" seem to continue increasing, exponentially. It is easy to see the tremendous role which "websurfing" has come to play in the quantity and quality of life experiences, among a wide range of Internet afficionados. For both good and bad.
My work as a psychologist, as a volunteer in emergency communications in our nation's largest city, and as an Internet content provider and consumer, all lead me to an understanding of "Internet Addiction" which is clearly neither unidimensional nor uniquely psychoanalytical in explanation. In fact, interpersonal theory, structural theory, and learning theory converge to provide the well-heeled websurfer with an infinite opportunity for need gratification.
Whether the feedback from the net (the behavioral/social learning/narcissism components), the behavioral reinforcers which come from e-mail and chat contacts, or the opportunity to bind or sublimate aggressive or libidinal impulses (psychoanalytic imperatives)...it is clear that a great many people known to both professional therapists and probably to you the reader, are what we now refer to, perhaps with a chuckle, as "Internet addicts". While common nomenclature and historical perspective (which treats "addiction" as a compleat entity) may or may not support the use of a specific diagnostic entity, "Internet Addiction", the use of the term appears already well-established as a concept within our midst.
Is it possible that those of us who care to log on to our computers to examine ISP transference or Windows sublimation are merely projecting our own well-organized bundle of cathexes into one nice, neat, cuddly-sounding, politically-correct term? Or is this simply another type of compulsive disorder, or addiction, which escalates rapidly, finds many enablers, and is becoming a rather chic diagnosis, more so even than last year's "learning disability", or this year's "ADD"? Is the computer, for some, really a "transitional object" akin to a security blanket or the reliable purr of the family feline? A social reinforcer? Salve for the overactive mind with a very high arousal threshold? Can mastery over a computer or chat contacts constitute a straightforward reinforcement contingency, perhaps confirming one's very existence, if not other aspects of one's personality?
So, what do we make of the person that 10 mental health professionals (who just happen to understand Internet use) all simultaneously agree is an "Internet addict"? How should it be treated? Should it be? By whom? What are the criteria for diagnosis? What should they be in DSM VI? Surely overall life functioning has to be among the criteria, as should consideration of what may in effect be "hobby addiction" or "gadget addiction" or "information addiction", to use that paradigm, or perhaps, in contrast, what we're seeing is a form of social avoidance rather than transference neurosis. What are the daily life reinforcers outside of the computer screen?
For me the interesting thing is watching how the conceptualizers choose to portray "Internet addiction". I imagine it to be at least in part rather subjective, depending on our tendencies to be inclusive, precise, and perhaps a bit practice-savvy as well. I'm not sure that Managed Care is ready to cover it, and wonder whether it would cover a laptop if it does. (Come to think of it, I think I feel those symptoms coming on!)
I note some scientific studies being conducted with the intent of validating the construct of "Internet addiction". In fact, I applaud in particular the findings which purport addictive behavior in the context of the reinforcer, which goes far toward documenting the cognitive/behavioral component inherent in our "internet addict" population. However, it is clear from my own observation that those who spend a disproportional amount of energy and time relating to Unix servers rather than family or television, tend to have pervasive and characteristic cognitive styles which include a sort of "multi-tasking" with high-speed processing, and a loss of mid- and long-term goal directedness, diminished length of attention span, disrupted patterns of living (e.g., eating), and detached or disturbed social relationships, often using the computer as the focal point for all contact with the world. And so, at once, this "Internet addiction" appears to me to be both more and less than a unidimensional substance use disorder.
This is clearly an area ripe for further exploration, and one which might shed light on a wide range of topics relating to human needs, motivation, cognition, and behavior.