Internet addiction is becoming a serious mental health issue

12 Jan 2012

Internet addiction disorder (IAD) is becoming a serious mental health issue around the world, a group of researchers in China has found.

The study found that pathological internet usage – an individual’s inability to control his or her use of the internet – will eventually result in mental health issues and functional problems in life, such as social interaction, academic performance, career progression and behavioural problems.

The researchers, drawn from various Chinese universities, medical institutes and government departments, were able to highlight changes in gray matter density that found that addiction to internet games was no different than a pathological addiction to gambling.

The rise in interest in the subject by psychiatrists and educators signals IAD is becoming a serious issue.

The researchers found that IAD subjects had multiple structural changes in the brain that correlated with the duration of the addiction.

“One resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study demonstrated that IAD college students have increased regional homogeneity in several brain regions including cerebellum, brain stem, limbic lobe, frontal lobe and apical lobe.

“Two task-related fMRI studies of individuals with online game addiction indicated that cue-induced activation in response to internet video-game stimuli is similar to that observed during cue presentation in people with substance dependence or pathologic gambling.”

The researchers also reported that IAD students had lower activation in the conflict detection stage, and showed less efficiency in information processing and lower impulse control than normal controls by recording event-related brain potentials during a Go/No-Go task.

“Additionally, a positron emission tomography (PET) study found that internet game overuse shares psychological and neural mechanisms with other types of impulse control disorders and substance/non-substance-related addiction.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years