Psychiatric features of individuals with problematic internet use

J Affect Disord. 2000 Jan-Mar;57(1-3):267-72. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(99)00107-x.


Background: Problematic internet use has been described in the psychological literature as 'internet addiction' and 'pathological internet use'. However, there are no studies using face-to-face standardized psychiatric evaluations to identify behavioral characteristics, psychiatric comorbidity or family psychiatric history of individuals with this behavior.

Methods: Twenty individuals with problematic internet use were evaluated. Problematic internet use was defined as (1) uncontrollable, (2) markedly distressing, time-consuming or resulting in social, occupational or financial difficulties and (3) not solely present during hypomanic or manic symptoms. Evaluations included a semistructured interview about subjects' internet use, the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (SCID-IV), family psychiatric history and the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) modified for internet use.

Results: All (100%) subjects' problematic internet use met DSM-IV criteria for an impulse control disorder (ICD) not otherwise specified (NOS). All 20 subjects had at least one lifetime DSM-IV Axis I diagnosis in addition to their problematic internet use (mean+/-SD=5.1+/-3.5 diagnoses); 14 (70.0%) had a lifetime diagnosis of bipolar disorder (with 12 having bipolar I disorder).

Limitations: Methodological limitations of this study included its small sample size, evaluation of psychiatric diagnoses by unblinded investigators, and lack of a control group.

Conclusions: Problematic internet use may be associated with subjective distress, functional impairment and Axis I psychiatric disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / diagnosis
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology*