Technology-mediated addictive behaviors constitute a spectrum of related yet distinct conditions: A network perspective

Psychol Addict Behav. 2018 Aug;32(5):564-572. doi: 10.1037/adb0000379. Epub 2018 Jul 19.


An important ongoing debate in the addiction field is whether certain technology-mediated behaviors constitute tenable and independent constructs. This study investigated whether problematic technology-mediated behaviors could be conceptualized as a spectrum of related, yet distinct disorders (spectrum hypothesis), using the network approach, which considers disorders as networks of symptoms. We used data from the Cohort Study on Substance Use and Risk Factors (C-SURF; Swiss National Science Foundation), with a representative sample of young Swiss men (subsample of participants engaged in technology-mediated behaviors, n = 3,404). Four technology-mediated addictive behaviors were investigated using symptoms derived from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.) and the component model of addiction: Internet, smartphone, gaming, and cybersex. Network analyses included network estimation and visualization, community detection tests, and centrality indices. The network analysis identified four distinct clusters corresponding to each condition, but only Internet addiction had numerous relationships with the other behaviors. This finding, along with the finding that there were few relationships between the other behaviors, suggests that smartphone addiction, gaming addiction, and cybersex addiction are relatively independent constructs. Internet Addiction was often connected with other conditions through the same symptoms, suggesting that it could be conceptualized as an "umbrella construct," that is, a common vector that mediates specific online behaviors. The network analysis thus provides a preliminary support to the spectrum hypothesis and the focus on the specific activities performed online, while showing that the construct of Internet addiction is inadequate. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Smartphone*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Video Games*
  • Young Adult