News Release

*Free* Understanding internet addiction, and its root causes, towards preventing problematic use

Reports and Proceedings

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Problematic internet use parallels other addictive behaviors, including drug addiction, but the neurobiological and psychological mechanisms involved remain elusive. In a Perspective, Matthias Brand discusses the addictive potential of the internet and how it can be best conceptualized and evaluated. “Given the increased use of the internet in this era of social distancing and remote working, it is important to assess harm caused by online addictive behaviors,” writes Brand. There is an increasing awareness that some aspects of the internet can lead to problematic addictive behaviors in some people, resulting in functional impairment and distress in a user’s daily life. While some problematic internet use behaviors, such as gaming and gambling, are recognized as disorders, others, including shopping, social network use and pornography, remain unspecified. Here, Brand briefly reviews the research that illustrates the mechanisms that could lead to internet addiction and whether they are different or similar to other addictions. According to the author, the most problematic internet applications deliver pleasure and enable the reduction of negative moods – responses that parallel the effects of addictive drug use on the brain’s reward system. Other applications can lead to compulsive usage patterns, indicating that self-control regulation can also drive problematic internet use. According to Brand, online addictive behaviors may be a consequence of difficulties in making good choices and regulating rewarding behaviors in the brain. Evaluating the root cause of internet addiction may improve the understanding of what makes some people more vulnerable to addiction than others and how problematic internet use can be prevented.

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