Tonioni F, D’Alessandris L, Lai C, Martinelli D, Corvino S, Vasale M, Fanella F, Aceto P, Bria P.
Institute of Psychiatry and Psychology, Catholic University of Sacred Heart, 00185 Rome, Italy.
The aim of this study was to investigate psychopathological symptoms, behaviors and hours spent online in patients with internet addiction disorder (IAD) at a new psychiatric service for IAD inside a policlinic.
Eighty-six subjects participated in the study. Thirty-three patients asking for psychiatric consultation regarding their excessive use of the internet were assessed with IAD interview, internet addiction test (IAT), Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90-R) and a brief sociodemographic survey. Moreover, patients had to respond to the following question: Over the last month, how much time have you spent online per week? At the end of psychiatric assessment, 21 of the 33 patients satisfied inclusion (IAD interview) and exclusion (psychotic disorders, neurocognitive deficits, dementia, serious mental delay, current alcohol or drug abuse) criteria. Twenty-one patients of the clinical group were compared with 65 subjects of a control group who were recruited online using IAT.
IAD patients showed significantly higher scores on the IAT compared to subjects of the control group. Only item 7 (How often do you check your e-mail before something else that you need to do?) showed a significant inverse trend. SCL-90-R anxiety and depression subscale scores and item 19 (How often do you choose to spend more time online over going out with others?) of the IAT were positively correlated with number of weekly hours spent online in IAD patients.
Findings suggest that a misuse of internet, characterized by many hours spent online avoiding interpersonal relationships with real and known people, could be an important criterion in the clinical interview in order to diagnose the IAD. The association between the lost interest in communicating with real people and psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression could be relevant to detect IAD patients.