Background: Problematic Internet use (PIU) has been associated with impulse control disorders (ICDs), and postulated to share characteristics of a behavioral addiction with both impulsive and compulsive features. However, Internet use has not been previously systematically studied in Parkinson's disease.
Aim: We explore Internet use in PD patients with and without ICDs and matched healthy controls. We hypothesize that the PD-ICD patients will spend more time on the Internet, accessing websites related to their ICDs, compared with PD patients without ICDs and healthy volunteers.
Methods: Our study is the first to systematically explore problematic Internet use in patients with PD, with and without ICDs. Twenty-nine PD patients with ICDs, twenty PD patients without ICDs and nineteen healthy controls were recruited. All participants endorsed using the Internet for non-essential purposes. They underwent a semi-structured interview and completed questionnaires including the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale adapted for Internet use (Y-BOCS-Internet).
Results: PD-ICD patients scored significantly higher on the Y-BOCS-Internet than the PD-control and HV groups (PD-ICD: 13.69; PD-control: 5.42; HV: 4.70; p < 0.0001). Compared to PD controls and HV groups, the PD-ICD group spent more time on the Internet (p = 0.0001), described significantly more effort to resist Internet use (p = 0.0002), thoughts about Internet use (p < 0.0001) and its interference with their life functioning (p = 0.0025).
Discussion: Our results suggest that PD patients with ICDs have a relative increased tendency towards excessive Internet use compared to those without ICDs and healthy controls. Clinicians should actively screen for excessive Internet use in patients with ICDs.
Keywords: Computer use; Impulse control disorder; Internet addiction; Parkinson's disease; Problematic Internet use; Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale.
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