In my earlier posts I have highlighted the difficulties experts have in defining the phenomenon that is commonly known as 'Internet addiction', and sometimes known as Internet Use disorder (DSM-5). It follows that a struggle to define Internet addiction will invariably lead to problems in the assessment and diagnosis of it. Block (2008) proposed that four core components must have been repeatedly affected or demonstrated, for a diagnosis to be possible:
- Excessive Internet use, often associated with a loss of sense of time (or ‘flow’), or the neglecting of basic drives;
- Withdrawal, including feelings of anger, frustration, and/or depression when computer access is impeded or denied;
- Tolerance, including the felt need for more hours of Internet usage, or better computer equipment and software; and
- Adverse consequences, including antagonised personal or working relationships, lying, poor school or vocational achievement, fatigue and social isolation.
At this time, there are no diagnostic instruments for Internet addiction that show adequate validity and reliability across countries. The most commonly used questionnaire is Young’s Internet Addiction Test [IAT], which has been validated in the United States, Finland, Korea, as well as in the United Kingdom (Widyanto & McMurran, 2004). The IAT was developed to support Internet addicts, those who are uncertain as to whether they are Internet addicted, and those concerned about associates who may be struggling with issues connected to the Internet. Other scales have been developed and utilised, and include: the Chen Internet Addiction Scale [CIAS], the Questionnaire of Experiences Related to Internet [QERI], Compulsive Internet Use Scale [CIUS], and the Problematic Internet Use Questionnaire [PIUQ]. However, given that these instruments are based upon different theoretical and philosophical foundations, they do not necessarily agree on the underlying dimensions that constitute problematic Internet use.
King et al. (2011), in a systematic review and CONSORT evaluation (Consolidating Standards of Reporting Trials, a ‘gold standard’ proposed by Altman et al., 2001), discovered five of the eight shortlisted studies utilised variants of Internet Addiction Test [IAT] (Young, 1996). Whilst other instruments have been proposed, the King et al. (2011) study reflects the lasting popularity of the IAT diagnostic instrument, in the assessment and evaluation if Internet addiction.
At the International Centre for Internet Addiction, we use a comprehensive battery psychometric assessments to determine a person's level of distress and predisposition to problematic Internet use. In future posts I will say more about the types of Internet addiction people struggle with, using case studies examples. I will also show you some of the methods and techniques we use, and the philosophy underpinning our treatment programmes.