A team of Chinese researchers claims to have found similar changes in the brain chemistry of people that are addicted to Internet, to changes that are found in people who are addicted to alcohol, heroin, marijuana, amphetamines, and ketamine.
The diagnosis of Internet addiction disorder (IAD), was made using a questionnaire that was based on Young’s Diagnostic Questionnaire for Internet Addiction criteria by Beard and Wolf:
(1) Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (i.e., think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
(2) Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
(3) Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop Internet use?
(4) Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
(5) Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
(6) Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
(7) Have you lied to family members, a therapist or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
(8) Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a distressed mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, and depression)? Participants who answered ‘yes’ to items 1 through 5 and at least any one of the remaining three items were classified as suffering from IAD.
In comparison to 16 control subjects, the researchers found “abnormal white matter” in the brains of subjects with IAD. The white matter areas that were affected were the parts of the brain that are used for the processing of emotions, decision-making, and self-control. Interestingly, similar changes are typically seen in the brains of drug addicts.
At risk of sounding contrary, I would like to raise the possibility that the questionnaire may be part of the problem. I will give myself as an example: I spend much more time on the Internet than most people would consider healthy but Internet use is a big part of my job, and as it helps pay the mortgage and put food on the table, my family is accepting of it. As such questions 3, 6 and 7 become more or less invalid to someone like me. I am more likely than not addicted to the Internet but I am not forced to lie to family members in order to get my daily fix.
This has me wondering whether these white matter changes are the result of the addiction, or the result of the behaviors in which one must engage in order to facilitate an addiction. [Dvice]