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Internet Addiction, Depression, ADHD: More Needed for a Conclusion

                The internet is a fascinating tool constructed of several elements which include gaming, streaming, pornography, social media, and the news. Because of this tool, there has been much research the prevalence of internet addiction. According to the DSM-V, Internet Use Disorder has not been considered to have established diagnostic categories. However, Scott E. Caplan, a Ph.D. in Communications, has attempted to develop ways to identify internet addiction from symptoms such as excessive usage, uncontrollable desire, a neglect of social life, along with withdrawal symptoms similar to those of physical drug abuse.[1] This has led to a discussion of whether or not internet addiction is related to other psychological disorders, specifically, to those of depression and ADHD.

                In Caplan’s study, he claims that depressed individuals are more likely to engage in internet activities based on the idea that one might feel safer, more efficacious, more confident, and more comfortable with online interpersonal interactions. In another research study by Robert E. Kraut, a Human-Computer Interaction professor at Carnegie Mellon University, similar results showed there was a higher level of a need to interact online and depression levels in households.[2] These studies measured the levels of loneliness using the Beck Depression Inventory(BDI) and the 20-item UCLA Loneliness Scale. These studies showed signs of a correlation between depression and internet addiction; however, I believe a crucial point missing was clinical analysis, not of psychological component but a physiological analysis within the cellular level of a human brain. Kimberly Young conducted a study to identify the presence of a correlation between depression and internet and noted that further research should be done to identify if depression caused internet addiction or the other way around.[3]

                Hee Jeong Yoo, a professor at the Gyeongsang National University College of Medicine, and many other Ph.D professors, formulated a study utilizing responses from 535 elementary school students in which results showed that from the DuPaul’s ADHD rating scale of 18 ADHD symptoms based on DSM-IV, there was a positive correlation between a higher amount of inattention and hyperactivity impulsivity to internet addiction.[4] Along with another study done by Ju Yu Yun from the Kaohsiung Medical University of Taiwan and other Taiwanese professors, there was an 88% consistency of students diagnosed with ADHD symptoms.[5] Similar to the depression studies, conclusive statements encouraged future studies to focus on this neurocognitive or psychobiological functions rather than self-reported claims of both disorders affecting an individual simultaneously.

                There is still far too little evidence from experimental data to make a concrete or convincing statement for which disorder causes the other. A potentially plausible reason internet addiction has not warranted more attention by the APA to be placed in the DSM is that there has been no discrete physiological type of data. When measuring depression, many of the surveys taken are self-provided, meaning there is a lot of bias from those judging their own symptoms. Much of what needs to be discussed are changes in cellular constructs, mathematical data on cells or clinical research within a group of people on possible brain changes which are objective information based solely on the physical evidence.

                I highly encourage scientists to proceed with more clinical studies in this area because of the need for more extensive knowledge. Recent studies have mainly used self-reported data on the surveys thus leading to a less plausible conclusion. Rather than relying on self-reported claims, an analysis of MRI scans of the brain or microscopic images of brain cells within those affected with ADHD or depression and those addicted to internet will definitely garner impactful data for scientific verification. Conducting research may be costly; however, the research could be highly beneficial to the community of those affected by ADHD or depressive symptoms. There could be a major case in the cure for these psychiatric disorders. There is much to discover and I believe that if many researchers start generating clinical studies, there could be an amazing leap into scientific innovation. Clinical research could eventually lead to possible treatments. Internet addiction, depression, and ADHD are definitely prevalent throughout the world, and only by even more research will one truly find that distinct relationship between these disorders.




[1] Caplan, Scott E. "Preference for Online Social Interaction A Theory of Problematic Internet Use and Psychosocial Well-Being." Communication Research 30.6 (2003): 625-648.

[2] Kraut, Robert, et al. "Internet paradox." American psychologist 53.9 (1998): 1017-1031.

[3] Young, Kimberly S., and Robert C. Rogers. "The relationship between depression and Internet addiction." CyberPsychology & Behavior 1.1 (1998): 25-28.

[4] Yoo, Hee Jeong, et al. "Attention deficit hyperactivity symptoms and internet addiction." Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 58.5 (2004): 487-494. Yen, Ju-Yu, et al. "The comorbid psychiatric symptoms of Internet addiction: attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, social phobia, and hostility." Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. 58.5 (2004): 487-494.

[5] Yen, Ju-Yu, et al. "The comorbid psychiatric symptoms of Internet addiction: attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, social phobia, and hostility." Journal of Adolescent Health 41.1 (2007): 93-98.

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1 comment

Some teenagers may come off "addicted to social media" or the internet in general, and if they are not able to have access to this, they could become depressed or develop a form of depression much milder than the real thing. This is more from social media, rather than the internet. A teen playing computer games would be a whole lot happier than a teen wanting at least one like on their Instagram photo. Teenagers nowadays have social anxiety and need to be noticed by others. This is where ADHD may come in. These teens need attention just to get through the day. They cannot help this though, because everyone nowadays just goes with the social norm. The social norm in this day and age just so happens to be social networking.

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