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Elizabeth Hartney, PhD

The Internet - One Addiction or Many?

By November 27, 2012

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Internet addiction is such a growing concern, it was even considered as a stand-alone addictive disorder in the upcoming DSM-V.

But while psychologists remain divided about whether compulsive or excessive use of the internet constitutes an addiction, many studies clearly indicate that large numbers of people are not only engaging in compulsive and excessive use, but are also experiencing severe consequences of their internet use.

Perhaps a more relevant question is whether maladaptive internet use actually constitutes one addiction or many. To put it another way, is the internet simply a vehicle for an underlying addiction -- with cybersex addiction, to addiction to sex, with online casinos, addiction to gambling, with online shopping, to addiction to shopping? Or is it use of the internet itself that holds some special appeal? Would those people who have lost vast amounts of money on internet gambling sites have done so through other means, such as lotteries or casinos? Would those whose marriages have been destroyed through compulsive use of internet pornography have ended up in the same predicament through use of videos or magazines? And if not, are internet-based addictions specific (ie. internet porn, internet gambling, internet shopping), or can they cross over?

In order to help people with addictions, it matters less what we call the addiction, and more what the nature of the addiction is. Without understanding the specific appeal of a given behavior, we are not in a position to help people to overcome it.

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