Rhodri Marsden: Cyberclinic

Could I be an internet addict? My dad thinks so, but I'm not sure. Does such a condition exist?


INTERNET ADDICTION DISORDER

Q. My dad thinks that I'm addicted to the internet. Admittedly, I check my e-mail incessantly and a day doesn't go by when I don't feel the need to shop, play games or look for information online. But does such a condition exist. Do other readers feel they have the same problem?

A. Dr Kimberly Young wouldn't just acknowledge your dad's opinion, she'd probably urge him to pack you off for in-depth counselling. Her investigations into so-called internet addiction disorder (IAD) have led to a book, Caught in the Net, which presents "the stories of dozens of lives shattered by a compulsion to surf the net".

Her website, The Center for Internet Addiction Recovery ( www.netaddiction.com), allows you to spend hours listening to podcasts to determine whether you have a problem. "Do you block out disturbing thoughts about your life with soothing thoughts of the internet?" asks her Internet Addiction Test; score too highly, and online counselling is recommended at $95 (£51) per hour - although free "recovery screensavers" are "coming soon".

Meanwhile, Dr Ivan Goldberg, an ally of Dr Young, has developed a list of symptoms of IAD, ranging from "internet is accessed more often than was intended" - to cold-turkey scenarios: "tremors, trembling, involuntary typing movements of the fingers".

But before you make an appointment with your GP, there's a vociferous group of psychologists who consider the theory of IAD deeply flawed, and that speculation about its nature creates needless worry. While none of the respondents to this week's Cyberclinic admitted to making involuntary typing movements while away from their computers, many admitted to overusing the web - but aren't that bothered about it. "When I'm online, I'm reading or writing," says Helen Coutts. "If I was sitting quietly reading a book, no one would tell me I had some kind of disorder."

The benign nature of net browsing is something that a few people commented on; yes, people might spend too much time online, but they might also argue with their partner, eat too many all-butter croissants or have unsavoury thoughts about minor celebrities, and these things can't really rank alongside schizophrenia or depression. "There's just something about finding an updated page, or a new bit of information, that gives a momentary pleasure," writes Neil Scott. And as someone whose internet-enabled phone is used rather too frequently to settle pub disputes over the actors who played various Seventies sitcom characters, I could class myself as an addict - but a well-adjusted one. Addiction to online pornography or online gambling has its own methods of treatment, but internet addiction itself isn't a recognised psychopathology, appearing in neither the ICD or the DSM - the two internationally recognised handbooks for diagnosing mental disorders - although some are lobbying for its inclusion.

The compulsion to check e-mail was singled out by a few people, including Steve Hill. "I get this need to hit the "check e-mail" button perhaps two or three times in the space of 10 seconds," he says, "even though my mail program checks for new mail every minute." Tom Stafford, co-author of the book Mind Hacks, has already identified this issue as a "variable-interval reinforcement schedule", which he himself experiences; you keep checking, as you never know exactly when the reward of that long-awaited e-mail will finally appear. He has come up with various ways to weaken the link between the action and the reward, including a five-minute delay between hitting "check mail" and the mail being checked by the computer. Software companies, however, are unlikely to be lining up to implement Stafford's recommendations.

The social contact of e-mail, instant messaging and online forums is an unquestionable benefit of the net and, as Jon McLean points out: "There are dozens of people I would never have met without the internet."

If you're not reassured, Nick Landau has a simple method of self-assessment: "Try not using it for a week." If you can do that without a twinge of longing, you're made of sterner stuff than I am.

Diagnosis required

Next week's question comes from Emma Farnfield:

"If I communicate online with anyone under the age of 25, I'm confronted by words and phrases that mean nothing to me. N00b? OMG? AFAIK? Could you and your readers cobble together some kind of guide?" Any comments, and new questions for the Cyberclinic, should be e-mailed to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam