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A Comparison of Impulse Disorders and Dependency Vs. Internet Addiction

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PSY 7102-7

Dora Finnamore, EdD

Scholarly Writing and Professional Communication in Psychology Writing Skills

Problem Statement Research Articles

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A Comparison of Impulse Disorders and Dependency; vis-à-vis Internet Addiction

David A. Dawson

Northcentral University

There are a number of anecdotal reports indicative of people becoming addicted to the Internet in much the same way they can became addicted to narcotics, tobacco and alcohol.  Analogous to addiction to drugs, addiction to the Internet is claimed to have various negative life consequences. However, research among sociologists, psychologists, or psychiatrists has not yet formally identified addictive use of the Internet as a problematic behavior. Despite the topic's prominence in our popular culture, true published psychological studies on Internet addiction are scarce. Most are surveys, marred by self-selecting samples and no control groups. Others are theoretical papers which speculate on the philosophical aspects of Internet addiction but provide no real data (Deangelis, 2000) (Potenza, M.N. 2006) (Young, 2009) (Young, 2015).

Simply characterizing something as addiction because some outside person believes an individual does too much of it is both misleading and unscientific.  No legitimate research has been established indicating addiction associated with overuse of the Internet is either problematic or long-lasting. (Bessiere, K., Pressman, S., Kiesler, S & Kraut, R., 2010). Many psychologists even doubt that addiction is the right term to describe what happens to people when they spend too much time online (Hsu, W., Lin, S. S., Chang, S., Tseng, Y., & Chiu, N., 2015)(Clark, 2014)(Block, J.J., 2008. P.306.)( Koob, G. F., & Simon, E. J, 2009)(Wilcox, R. E. 2006) (Keepers, G. A.1990).

The science of addiction affects the psychological community and its patients in a number of very important ways. A Psychologists ability to appropriately diagnose behavioral addictions is tied to their professional reputation as well as their financial security. Additionally, the psychological community as a whole has been unable to clearly define whether a repetitive behavior should be classified as an addiction disorder and this speaks to the reputation of psychology as a science. A misrepresentation of a repetitive behavior as being an addictive behavior has the potential to threaten the science of psychology. The patient is also affected because in addition to having to cope with the life altering consequences and stigma of being diagnosed as having an addiction, they must bear the financial burden of being treated for the disorder by an expert in the field of psychology. For these reasons it is extremely important for psychologists to understand and define behavioral addictions appropriately.

It is interesting to compare and contrast impulse disorders with true biological addictions. This investigation focuses on Internet addiction but the analysis used could easily be applied to any behavior which the DMS-5 identifies as addictions. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals of Mental Disorders Volume 5 (DMS-5), these addictions include substance/medication-induced obsessive-compulsive and related disorder, trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), hoarding disorder, excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, and other obsessive-compulsive related disorders which might be due to another medical condition (American Psychiatric Association. 2013).

It is interesting to compare the science of behavioral addictions with true biological addictions in their historical context because doing so provides us some insight into changes in the way the psychological terminology has evolved throughout the years with respect to psychological addictions as well as the economic incentives behind those changes. By comparing Internet addiction with biological addictions we are able to gain a better understanding of both as well as an analytical approach of determining whether Internet addiction should be considered for inclusion into the list of psychological addictions to be added in future incarnations of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals of Mental Disorders.

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