We use the internet every day and the trend is a positive. The average time that we spend online has been increasing and will continue to do so. When used sparingly, the internet is benign. But when addictive behavior becomes a part of it, the effects of the internet can be damaging.
Addictive behavior manifests itself in similar ways and only needs an object for the addiction. Internet usage can be that object, with internet addiction being something that medical professionals are taking more and more seriously.
How Much Is Too Much?
Internet addiction is, like all addictions, about the far too frequent use of one thing. And about the inability of a person to stop using the internet. For a long time, it was perceived as just that.
However, it looks like internet addiction could be a signal of other underlying problems. A new study says that it could be the sign of other issues regarding mental health among college students. The authors of the study say that what they found could change protocols for psychiatrists. Medical professionals could approach those who spend too much time online in a different way.
The study evaluated 254 freshman students at McMaster University. The students at the university in Ontario, Canada were asked to answer questions about their habitual internet use. The researchers used the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), a test that was developed in 1998. They also used their own scale that they put together themselves using more recent criteria.
Dr. Michael Van Ameringen is a professor of psychiatry as well as behavioral neuroscience at McMaster University. He was the chief researcher in the study. According to him the IAT questionnaire gave a lot of false positives. Because the way we use the internet has changed since 1998, the IAT pointed to people who were just using the internet. The study was interested in finding people who relied too much on the internet. Not just people who use it to work online, stream media or interact socially.
The new screening tool that they developed took into account modern internet use. Out of the 254 students evaluated, it found 33 that met the criteria for being addicted to the internet. 107 students had a problematic relationship with the internet and used it too much.
Internet Addiction and Mental Health
As part of the project, the team also made an assessment of the mental health of the students. They checked for signs of impulsiveness or depression and measured levels of anxiety and stress.
The findings of the study that were the most interesting came from correlations of the two sets of data. Most of the students that had internet addiction had a hard time controlling how much they use media streaming, messaging tools and social networking sites. At the same time, they had difficulty handling their everyday routines. They scored higher for depression and anxiety as well as impulsiveness and inattention. When it came to planning or time management, these areas were problematic to them.
Dr. Jan Buitelaar is a professor of psychiatry at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands. He says that the excessive use of the internet is not sufficiently studied. And that it could disguise mild or even more severe forms of psychopathology. In short, there could be a strong link between too much use of the internet and compulsive behavior.
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