Internet addiction disorder is a growing problem. A nationwide study conducted by Stanford University’s School of Medicine estimated that nearly one in eight Americans suffer from at least one sign of Internet addiction. Another study suggests that between 5-10% of the population is Internet dependent. Although the rapidly growing disorder has received much attention, it was not included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), not even in the chapter “Conditions for Further Study.” Internet addiction is thought by many experts to resemble other types of “process” addictions, in which the person is addicted to activities or processes such as spending money, eating or gambling. The most immediate and prevalent sign of Internet addiction is a preoccupation with the Internet. Constantly thinking about the Internet when offline, experiencing a “rush” when logging on and being unable to log off and showing signs of loss of control over actions are other signs of Internet addiction. Personal relationships may suffer and the user may attempt to build relationships online in chat rooms or dating sites. This type of addiction usually begins on a casual basis and progresses to full-blown addiction. Researchers say that those prone to additive personalities have the most risk of developing Internet addiction. People who suffer from depression, anxiety or stress may also turn to the Internet as a means of self-medicating.
Still relatively new, there is no single treatment plan for Internet addiction. Therapy that helps the individual learn how to use the Internet in moderation, as well as family and one-on-one therapy is encouraged. Medication may also be prescribed for those with co-occurring depression or anxiety.