Although excessive Internet use and its impact on adults and adolescents has been widely publicized, Internet Addiction or Internet Use Disorder have not been recognized as diagnostic categories in the 4th revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10).
In the past, the lack of uniform diagnostic criteria lead to parallel definitions of the terms “Internet Addiction” and “Internet Use Disorder”, which resulted in a conglomerate of names for the disorder and uncertanty about the diagnostic criteria.
Proposed Internet Addiction Diagnostic Criteria
In 2010, Tao et al. proposed the following diagnostic criteria for Internet addiction:
All the following symptoms must be present:
- Preoccupation with the internet (the subject thinks about previous online activity or anticipates next online session).
- Withdrawal (dysphoric mood, anxiety, irritability and boredom after several days without internet activity).
At least one (or more) of the following must be present:
- Tolerance (marked increase in internet use required to achieve satisfaction),
- Persistent desire and/or unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back or discontinue internet use,
- Continued excessive use of internet despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem likely to have been caused or exacerbated by internet use,
- Loss of interests, previous hobbies, entertainment as a direct result of, and with the exception of, internet use,
- Uses the internet to escape or relieve a dysphoric mood (e.g. feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety).
The excessive internet use is not better accounted for by psychotic disorders or bipolar I disorder.
Clinically significant impairment:
The excessive internet use leads to functional impairments (eg. reduced social, academic, or working ability), including loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunities.
The internet addiction must have lasted for an excess of 3 months, with at least 6 hours of internet usage (non-business/non-academic) per day.
(cf. Tao 2010)