John Suler's The Psychology of Cyberspace
This article created August 1996, revised March 1998 (v2.0)

Internet Addiction Support Group

Is There Truth in Jest?

The following is a message by Ivan Goldberg, M.D. that was posted to the Psychology of the Internet mailing list in July 1996. Goldberg's criteria for internet "addiction" are remarkably similar to those of other researchers and clinicians who are studying this phenomenon. However, Goldberg intended the message as a joke, as evident, very subtly, by the word "humor" in the url of his web page that contains a similar text ( Joking about being "addicted" is commonplace among avid internet users. Are those jokes just a self-conscious poking fun at one's personal passion, perhaps even a positive indication of self-awareness? Or could it be, in some cases, a sign of minimizing one's problems, even a version of the denial that is so common among many types of addictions? The idea of an internet support group for internet addicts indeed seems ironic. It would be like holding A.A. meetings in bar, or Gambler's Anonymous meetings in a casino. And yet, reaching out through the internet to those who are problematically involved in cyberspace could be a viable strategy. It might be a first step towards helping them reduce internet use. The history of psychotherapy is filled with seemingly paradoxical yet viable approaches, such as flooding, implosion, and strategic therapy. As silly as it seems, might an online internet support group also work?

Goldberg's message....

Here is the message I posted on the Internet to announce the formation of the Internet Addiction Support Group. I would now change the name of the disorder to "Pathological Computer Use" and the criteria to:

    The use of Computers takes up so much time as to cause: (A and/or B)

As the incidence and prevalence of Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) has been increasing exponentially, a support group, The Internet Addiction Support Group (IASG) has been established. Below are the official criteria for the diagnosis of IAD and subscription information for the IASG.

Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) - Diagnostic Criteria

SEE revised criteria above!!

A maladaptive pattern of Internet use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:

(I) tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

    (A) A need for markedly increased amounts of time on Internet to achieve satisfaction
(II) withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following
    (A) the characteristic withdrawal syndrome
(III) Internet is often accessed more often or for longer periods of time than was intended

(IV) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control Internet use

(V) A great deal of time is spent in activities related to Internet use (e.g., buying Internet books, trying out new WWW browsers, researching Internet vendors, organizing files of downloaded materials.)

(VI) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of Internet use.

(VII) Internet use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical, social, occupational, or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by Internet use (sleep deprivation, marital difficulties, lateness for early morning appointments, neglect of occupational duties, or feelings of abandonment in significant others)

See also in The Psychology of Cyberspace

Computer and Cyberspace Addiction - is excessive internet use a true psychological addiction?

Why is This Thing Eating My Life? - An article that examines the healthy and unhealthy aspects of "addictions" to the Palace, a multimedia chat environment (see The Palace Study for more information about the Palace).

An interview with me by Morris Jones from Internet Australasia magazine. In the interview I respond to Jones' questions about addiction.

Cold Turkey: Messages from an Ex-Palace "Addict" - A Palace user decides to break the habit.

Mom, Dad, Computer (Transference Reactions to Computers) - One reason why some people become so attached to their computer is that it satisfies intense (and often unconscious) interpersonal needs from their past.

Cyberspace as Dream World: Illusion and Reality at the Palace - Some people may be drawn to cyberspace because it fulfills the need for an altered state of consciousness, similar to dreams. This may be especially true of the highly visual and fantasy-based MOO environments like the Palace.

Internet Addiction Questionnaire - devised by two German students.

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