Internet Addiction May Disguise other Mental Health Issues

Internet Addiction May Disguise other Mental Health Issues

A study on hundreds of college students found addiction to the Internet and social networking pinpoints other underlying mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

The research revealed the Internet and social media use may impact the minds of young people more than originally estimated.

The analysis revealed an association between excessive Internet use and mental health issues in university-aged participants. This group was more likely to develop depression, impulsiveness, ADHD, and anxiety if they faced addiction to social media, and online media consumption and browsing.

Study authors also found that a startling number of people cannot stay offline long periods of time.

A group of academics at the McMaster University in Canada measured Internet addiction in 254 college students through a standardized test called the Internet Addiction Test (IAT) and their own test.

Lead author of the study Professor Michael Van Ameringen explained that participants who scored high on the IAT and on other tests find it very hard to perform well at home, school, work, and in other social settings.

Study Results

Of the total number of participants, 33 screened criteria for Internet addiction on the IAT. Nearly 60 percent of students failed to limit their video streaming use. About 48 percent had troubles in controlling their social media use. Plus, about 28 percent had difficulties with restricting their instant messaging use.

When researchers used their own screening tools, results were more concerning: 107 students had Internet addiction. Researchers believe this is a more accurate number which reflects modern-day realities. The IAT is a 1998 tool.

Prof. Van Ameringen noted that in the late 1990s there wasn’t any smartphone technology. Additionally, Internet users have become more reliant on the Internet in their homes and offices over the last 18 years.

Study authors explained they designed a new test because the IAT overlooks some common issues in modern Internet use while it flags false positives. An example of false positive is a person who routinely uses the Internet for research purposes in his or her work.

The study also revealed 42.1 percent of study participants developed other mental health issues while using excessively the Internet. Researchers cannot tell yet whether the excessive use of the Internet triggered those conditions or the other way around.

Study authors suspect that Internet addiction may be a grossly underestimated issue.

Professor Jan Buitelaar, who was not involved in the study, believes excessive Internet use may hide mild to severe psychopathology. Prof. Buitelaar also thinks the topic is currently “understudied.”

Researchers concluded that excessive use of social media and online media consumption may disguise addiction and compulsive behavior. But the research team acknowledged they need more studies before they can draw final conclusions.

Internet Addiction Symptoms

Past studies had shown, Internet addicts share some common traits such as:

    • Spending too much time online and cutting interactions with family members and friends
    • Information overload
    • Social networking, video gaming, stock trading, and gambling may result in work problems and encourage overspending
    • Addiction to online pornography can take a huge toll on real life relationships.

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