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Internet addiction

Kätlin Konstabel

“God in a box” Zeigarnik effect Variable ratio reinforcement schedule ->
schedule of reinforcement where a response is reinforced after an unpredictable number of responses - > highest rate of responding and greatest resistance to extinction!

Content + internet as medium/“syringe” Disinhibition & deindividuation & anonymity

What is norm – what is disorder?
Subjective norm – “people like me” Cultural norm – what most people do Statistical norm – 2 standard deviations from around the population mean Normative norm – what people should do Clinical norm – adds functionality: how disturbing it is? What’s your approach to normality – as concerns internet use?

Internet is no more compulsive than other leisure activities – even if these activities sometimes interrupt other aspects of lives
- > there is little alarm about TV or telephone addiction?

Maybe we should talk about techological addiction instead? Focus should be on specific online activities Is it a unique disorder or rather a symptom of other disorders?

DSM-V (2013) – IA needs further study
Labeling behavior as addiction excuses these behaviors and predisposes people to do nothing about it
If its a real disease - who’s responsible? Software developers or person him/herself?

Internet causes specific psychological effects not found elsewhere Structural brain changes similar to chemical addictions; responds to drugs in similar way Growing problem – denial causes more problems that overreacting in the long run

Stop-start relapse cycle (Young, 2001)

Rationalization – “I deserve it", “I can control it", “Just a few minutes won’t hurt“

2. Regret and guilt (“I can’t believe I wasted all this time“, “I’m a horrible person for what I just did) 3. Abstinence – viewing one’s behaviour as a personal failure of willpower; promises never to do it again 4. Relapse – during stressful moments; memories of how exciting and/or selfmedicating being online was (and then back to no 1)

Addiction?Abuse? Dependence? Compulsion? Problematic internet use? Digital addiction

DIAR (Greenfield, 2009)- desire to stop, inability to stop, attempts to stop, relapse to previous use pattern Engaging in intoxicating/pleasurable behaviour (to alter mood or consciousness) A pattern of excessive use Negative impact on one/various spheres of living Tolerance & withdrawal features Parallel - pathological gambling?

Is duration or quantity of internet use important? – not necessarily! “the same high degree of computer use exhibited by two people might be considered either pathological or non pathological depending upon the impact that this has upon their life”
(Charlton and Danforth, 2007)

All the following (1–5) must be present: 1. Is preoccupied with the Internet (thinks about previous online activity or anticipate next online session) 2. Needs to use the Internet with increased amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction (plus need for better equipment) 3. Has made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use 4. Is restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use 5. Has stayed online longer than originally intended And at least one of the following: 1. Has jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational, or career opportunity because of the Internet 2. Has lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet 3. Uses the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression) Criteria according to (Beard & Wolfe, 2001)

How to study?
Self-reports unreliable Mostly small and diverse samples Question of cut-off scores (how much is too much) Internet changes… Prevalence….? (Finland 4-5%...India 38%?) Comorbidity? Are correlates predictors? no..

Generalized vs specific addiction
Generalized – not dependent on specific applications; compulsive use of the Internet itself Specific – involves the overuse/abuse of a content-specific function of the Internet (gambling, games, pornography, shopping) Internet addiction as a symptom of some other (impulse control) disorder

Generalized addiction
Internet as a mean to modulate negative affect & escape pressures & control moods
-> comorbidity with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders

However, direction of relationship is not Clear More likely to use the Internet for communicative purposes, to meet new people and to find support Those with IA are more confident online…

Statements characteristic to general IA
It’s easier to find friends online I’m more open up and friendlier online than in real life I have a network of online friends Internet is socially liberating I’m more myself online I have more fun with people I know online I share intimate secrets online I prefer online communication to the f2f one My online friends understand me better than other people

Compensation theory
Internet can offer things not available irl (or so it seems): Relationships, self-esteem, positive identity, positive mood Internet as a source for entertainment or spirituality as opposed to career-oriented real life

What about loneliness?
Two hypotheses: Internet causes loneliness vs the lonely are drawn to the Internet
Kraut 1998 & 2002 – classical and controversial study after being online for 2-3 years loneliness and depression are not related to the Internet use

“rich-get-richer”-> internet magnifies existing personality traits and... problems? Increased IA probability for lonely people (use both for communication and to feel better)

Possible predictors
Impulsivity! Novelty-seeking/risk-taking/sensation-seeking Enhanced reward sensitivity and decreased loss sensitivity (see: God in the box, internet and reinforcement) Perfectionism, emotion regulation problems, loneliness -> escapism Low self-directedness (subjective feeling of control over one’s life) Denial as ego defense mechanism Emotion focused (not problem focused) coping strategy – tendency to deal with emotions, not fix problems

Other existing psychological problems (social anxiety, depression, bipolarity, burnout)

Aftermath of childhood– parental extremes: parents lacking in emotional warmth, overinvolved, rejecting, lacking in responsiveness, punitive, over-intrusive Parents underestimating kids’ overinvolvement

Denial as problem
Internet as a part of everyday life Very seldom people contact specialists and admit IA – how to notice? Easier with children – so far Influence of specialist’s/therapists own attitudes? Getting information about withdrawal etc difficult – family, friends should be engaged in therapy

Self-help strategies
If IA criteria are met – seek professional help! What’s behind addiction? What’s missing irl? General time & stress management skills Practice the opposite – identifying one’s pattern of Internet use and doing neutral activities during that time Use external stoppers – use of external prompts, for example, an alarm clock to remind when it is time to log off Setting clear and realistic goals Reminder cards – negative consequence of Internet use are written down on a reminder card and carried at all times Personal inventory – make a list of hobbies (compare “then and and now”) Abstinence???