Expert claims internet addiction should be recognized as a disorder requiring treatment

September 18, 2017, Flinders University
Credit: Flinders University

Pathological internet addiction that triggers deviant behaviour on social networking sites (SNS) should be recognised as a disorder needing treatment, a Flinders University expert says.

Internet is not recognised as a disorder which means that sufferers are not being treated, causing increased mental strain that can manifest itself in problematic online behaviours. This includes sharing sensitive personal details online or online sexual involvement with strangers.

"Society doesn't recognise the multi-dimensional, complex problems of individuals with disorder," says and mental health expert Dr Mubarak Rahamathulla, a senior lecturer in social work at Flinders University.

"Individuals with the condition will not be diagnosed or offered support and treatment, which causes enormous additional psychological strain, and can lead to problematic deviant behaviours in cyberspace."

Dr Rahamathulla's research into general strain theory, where negative experiences in life can result in problem behaviours and deviance, finds a very high likelihood that internet addiction sufferers will vent their frustrations through problematic online behaviours.

He says this can be expressed in an anonymous way through SNS, creating social and psychological problems for other internet users and the wider community, and lead to possible crimes.

"Our research argues that individuals with internet addiction may feel victimised and so will feel compelled to engage in a range of deviant behaviours in SNS to vent their emotional strains," says Dr Rahamathulla.

Adult respondents in Dr Rahamathulla's study also reported that their online sexual correspondence through SNS are adversely affecting their real-life relationships.

While monitoring and blocking deviant is possible on such social networking sites as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter, anti-social activity can go unhindered on private mobile messaging applications such as Facebook Messaging, WhatsApp and Google Play.

Dr Rahamathulla says that as worldwide Facebook subscriptions edge near 2 billion people, mobile messaging applications came second to Facebook in 2015 and are still expanding (AC Nielsen, 2016). These more private one-on-one communication channels present increased opportunities for aberrant behaviour, or trigger addictions that generate negative expression.

"The rapid shift from more public social networking to private mobile messaging communications increase the frequency of SNS use, bringing with it possible psycho-social consequences of heavy use of SNS," Dr Rahamathulla says in his latest research paper.

However, rather than blaming the internet, he says the process that leads to pathological internet needs closer examination and identification.

"Excessive use of SNS has been reported as leading to psychological addiction to internet use – which has not been acknowledged as a condition needing attention."

Dr Rahamathulla is calling for more research into intervention therapies, and for recognition of this deviant behaviour as a clinical disorder.

"There is no reliable data available to deeply analyse the nature of internet addiction and its link with deviant and problem behaviours – particularly when its use is so entwined with day-to-day work and social life," he says.

"Classic intenet addictive symptoms, similar to drug and alcohol addiction, include mood modification, preoccupation with and increased use of internet over time, possible withdrawal symptoms, conflict and relapse if internet useis restricted."

Dr Rahamathulla's research article, "General strain theory of Internet addiction and its association with deviant behaviours in (SNS)", has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society.

Explore further: Is 'internet addiction' a misnomer?

Related Stories

Is 'internet addiction' a misnomer?

March 21, 2016
A recent study by Phil Reed and colleagues provides some experimental evidence that internet addicts may be conditioned by what they view on the screen.

Internet addiction affects six percent of people worldwide

December 18, 2014
Internet addiction is an impulse-control problem marked by an inability to inhibit Internet use, which can adversely affect a person's life, including their health and interpersonal relationships. The prevalence of Internet ...

Study shows internet addiction may indicate other mental health problems problem in college-aged students

September 19, 2016
A new survey of internet users suggests that people who use the internet excessively may have more mental health problems. Using two scales to evaluate internet use, researchers have found high rates of problematic internet ...

Recommended for you

Age-related racial disparity in suicide rates among US youth

May 21, 2018
New research suggests the suicide rate is roughly two times higher for black children ages 5-12 compared with white children of the same age group. The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), appears ...

Schizophrenia more prevalent away from green spaces

May 21, 2018
People who grew up without green spaces are 50 per cent more likely to develop schizophrenia compared with those who grew up surrounded by greenery.

Cannabis—it matters how young you start

May 18, 2018
Canadian researchers find that boys who start smoking pot before 15 are much more likely to have a drug problem at 28 than those who start at 15 or after.

Long legs turn women's heads, arm length immaterial: study

May 16, 2018
Labouring over the age-old question "What do women look for in men?", scientists added an item to the list Wednesday: legs slightly longer than average, with a good shin-to-thigh ratio.

Elevated homocysteine identified as metabolic risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases

May 16, 2018
The amino acid homocysteine occurs naturally in the human body, generated as a byproduct of methionine metabolism. Genetic diseases or an imbalanced diet, with too much red meat or deficiencies in B vitamins and folic acid, ...

Researchers find clues to treating psychoses in mental health patients

May 16, 2018
Psychotic disorders often are severe and involve extreme symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations in which people lose their sense of reality. Researchers at the University of Missouri recently found evidence that boosting ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.