Internet ‘Addiction’ Linked to Druglike Withdrawal

Deborah Brauser
So-called “Internet addiction” is associated with increased depression and even druglike withdrawal symptoms, new research suggests.
A study of 60 adults in the United Kingdom showed that those who were classified as high Internet users had a significantly greater decrease in positive mood after logging off their computers than the participants classified as low Internet users.
“Internet addiction was [also] associated with long-standing depression, impulsive nonconformity, and autism traits,” report the investigators, adding that the latter is “a novel finding.”
“We were actually expecting that people who used the net a lot would display enhanced moods after use — reflecting the positive reinforcing properties of the net,” coinvestigator Phil Reed, DPhil, professor and chair in the Department of Psychology at Swansea University in the United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News.
“So the key finding of an immediate increased negative mood, the withdrawal effect, was something of a surprise. But the more we looked into the literature, the more it seemed to fit the notion of an addictive disorder,” added Dr. Reed.
He noted that the main takeaway message for clinicians is that some people may experience disruptions to their lives from excessive Internet use — and that this can affect both their psychological and physical health.
In addition, patients “may need help exploring the reasons for this excessive use and what functions it serves in their lives.”
The study was published online February 7 in PLoS One.