Internet Addiction Disorder
Internet Addiction, Internet Use Disorder & Internet Use Gaming Disorder are three synonymous terms describing the psychopathology involved with children and adults who become dependent upon Information and Communications Technology. Michael Nuccitelli Psy.D., a New York State licensed psychologist and author of the Information Age Forensics construct, iPredator, presents his understanding of the Information Age addiction called Internet Use Disorder.
(aka Internet Use Disorder)
by Michael Nuccitelli Psy.D.
The Information Age is a period beginning in the last quarter of the 20th century and presently thriving in the second decade of the 21st century. The Information Age is a stage in societal and technological development similar to the Industrial Revolution (1750-1942). The Information Age represents the evolution, emergence, consumption of and reliance upon Information and Communications Technology (ICT). In a mere four decades, ICT and its importance to humanity have led many to surmise that the planet and its human inhabitants are amidst an Information Revolution.
Mobile digital technology, telecommunications, social media and the abstract concept and artificial universe of cyberspace are just a few examples of humanities newest frontiers. Both the benefits and detriments of society now centralize around the art & science of how to obtain, exchange and disseminate information.
The planet is experiencing a shift from traditional industry, born and bred during the Industrial Revolution, to an economy based on the creative and rapid manipulation of information. Just as the Industrial Revolution greatly changed the lives of humanity, the Information Revolution is a societal shift rapidly changing humanity’s social, economic and psychological conditions of the times. The Information Revolution marks another major turning point in history, following the Industrial Revolution and changing every aspect of daily life unlike ever before.
Welcome to the Information Age!
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is an umbrella term used to define any electronic or digital communication device or application used to obtain, exchange or disseminate information. ICT stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of telecommunications, which enable users to create, access, store, transmit and manipulate information. ICT consists of all forms of telecommunication, information technology, the internet, broadcast media, audio and video processing, transmission and network based control and monitoring functions. ICT has rapidly become one of the basic building blocks of modern society and will become increasingly important as the Information Age matures.
Many industrialized nations now regard understanding ICT and mastering the basic skills and concepts of ICT as vital. For some, ICT is nothing more than tools of convenience for conducting their responsibilities. For others, their social, scholastic, business and/or financial affairs disclosed in cyberspace and through ICT are crucial to their self-esteem, self-worth, success and perceptual world.
ICT has changed the way humanity interacts, exchanges and accesses information. Smartphones, mobile devices and social media are the latest in a succession of advancements growing at a feverish pace. It is often hard to fathom that the Internet, used by two billion plus people globally, only celebrated its 20th birthday in 2011. The negative aspects of the Information Age are the birth of what this author calls, iPredator, and the psychopathology of Internet Addiction (aka Internet Use Disorder.) prior to exploring Internet Addiction, a brief definition of iPredator is as follows:
iPredator: A child, adult, group or nation who, directly or indirectly, participates in the exploitation, victimization, stalking, theft or disparagement of others using Information and Communications Technology (ICT.) iPredators are driven by deviant fantasies, desires for power and control, retribution, religious fanaticism, political reprisal, psychiatric illness, perceptual distortions, peer acceptance or personal and financial gain. iPredators can be any age, either gender and not bound by economic status, race or national heritage.
iPredator is a global term used to distinguish anyone who engages in criminal, deviant or abusive behaviors using ICT. Whether the offender is a cyberbully, cyberstalker, cyber harasser, cyber criminal, online sexual predator, internet troll or cyber terrorist, they fall within the scope of iPredator. The three criteria used to define an iPredator include:
I. A self-awareness of causing harm to others, directly or indirectly, using ICT. II. The intermittent to frequent usage of ICT to obtain, exchange and deliver harmful information. III. A general understanding of Cyberstealth used to engage in criminal or deviant activities or to profile, identify, locate, stalk and engage a target.
Unlike human predators prior to the Information Age, iPredators rely on the multitude of benefits offered by ICT. These assistances include exchange of information over long distances, rapidity of information exchanged and the seemingly infinite access to data available. Malevolent in intent, iPredators rely on their capacity to deceive others using ICT in an abstract electronic universe.
Although it is assumed all humanity, has residing deep in their psyche, the potential & Dark Psychology for behaving in harmful and malevolent ways they rarely or never activate, ICT and cyberspace offers a direct connection and psychological route to the dark side. Just as ICT and cyberspace is incredibly pro-social and beneficial to humanity, these same technological advancements can lead humanity to diabolical and sinister endeavors.
It is common knowledge, needing no clinical citations, to state that people who suffer from addiction, mood-mind altering substance disorders and non- mood-mind altering substance disorders, are at much higher rates of committing criminal, deviant and dysfunctional. The inclusion of Internet Use Gaming Disorder in the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5, is the step in humanity recognizing the Information Age is a real period in human civilization. Although the DSM-5 has many opponents for various reasons, the discussions alone in 2013 on Internet Addiction validates how important Information and Communications Technology has become to citizens of the Information Age.
Internet Use Disorder
Internet Addiction and Internet Use Disorder are synonymous terms describing the compulsive dependencypeople experience using Information and Communications Technology. Humanity is thriving at the beginning of the period called the Information Age whereby digital devices and electronic communication channels are a priori. Internet addiction, information technology, cyberspace and virtuality are new terms introduced to the English lexicon. Just as any new human experience, the Information Age and the growing dependency upon Information and Communications Technology is a proverbial “double edged sword.”
Contemporary Information Age society has now been introduced to Internet Addiction. In 2013, Internet Addiction and its psychopathology is a new mental illness for a new societal paradigm. In Mid-May 2013, this writer spent 3 days conducting research on Internet Use Disorder and the cornucopia of terms found were numerous. A list of these terms is as follows:
Internet Addiction Synonyms: Internet Addiction Disease, Internet Addiction Syndrome, Cybersexual Addiction, Cyber-Relational Addiction, Net Compulsions, Information Overload, Internet Use Disorder, Internet Addiction Disorder, Internet Addict, Internet Dependent, Computer Addiction, Web Addiction, Online Addiction, Net Addiction, Internet Junkie, Internet Gaming Addiction, Technology Addiction, Internet Abuse, Web Addiction, Internet Pornography Addiction, Internet Porn Addiction, Pathological Internet Use, Computer Game Addiction, Internet Addiction Disease, Internet Addiction Syndrome, Internet Usage Disorder, Internet Dependency Disorder, Problematic Internet Use, Internet Use Gaming Disorder, Web Dependency, Information Addiction, Video Game Addiction, Facebook Addiction, Computer Addiction.
Internet Addiction: Information Age Psychopathology
As the professional community and academics bicker over the terminology and tenets of Internet Addiction, the fact remains there are a growing number of children and adults who abuse and become dependent upon Information and Communications Technology. Despite the battle of terminology, etiology, existence and prevalence of Internet Addiction, this writer’s working definitions are as follows:
Internet Abuse & Internet Dependence Definitions
Internet Abuse: Internet Abuse (aka Internet Addiction & Internet Use Gaming Disorder) is an umbrella concept defining a child or adult’s compulsive and progressive abuse of the internet and electronic devices designed to obtain, exchange or disseminate information. Although the internet is the predominate arena in which Internet Abuse takes place, electronic devices and communications channels not internet enabled are also included in the definition.
Internet Abuse causes dysfunctional cognitive, affective, behavioral & perceptual intrapersonal consequences accompanied with employment, academic, familial, peer & intimate partner interpersonal consequences. On a continuum of severity, ranging from absent to mild, cessation of Internet and/or electronic device usage causes withdrawal symptomology, psychological and/or physiological, combined with perceptual tolerance. Also on a continuum of severity, Internet Abusive online users engage in criminal, deviant and/or deceptive online activities ranging from absent to severe.
The chronic and more debilitating condition, Internet Dependence, is more chronic, severe and self-destructive. Internet Abuse is segmented into six typologies as follows: Cyber Sex Fixated, Cyber Relationship Fixated, Internet Gaming & Online Commerce Fixated, Information Implosion Fixated, Dark Side Fixated and NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) Fixated. The NOS Fixated typology applies to internet abusing online users who share more than one typology, has a co-existing mental illness or medical condition causing psychiatric dysfunction.
Internet Dependence: Internet Dependence (aka Internet Addiction & Internet Use Gaming Disorder) is an umbrella concept defining a child or adult’s compulsive and progressive dependency upon the internet and electronic devices designed to obtain, exchange or disseminate information. Although the internet is the predominate arena in which Internet Dependence takes place, electronic devices and communications channels not internet enabled are also included in the definition. Internet Dependence causes dysfunctional cognitive, affective, behavioral & perceptual intrapersonal consequences accompanied with employment, academic, familial, peer & intimate partner interpersonal consequences.
On a continuum of severity, ranging from mild to severe, cessation of Internet and/or electronic device usage causes withdrawal symptomology, psychological and/or physiological, combined with perceptual tolerance. Also on a continuum of severity, Internet Dependent online users engage in criminal, deviant and/or deceptive online activities ranging from mild to severe.
The mild and less debilitating condition, Internet Abuse, is not as chronic, severe or self- destructive. Internet Dependence is segmented into six typologies as follows: Cyber Sex Fixated, Cyber Relationship Fixated, Internet Gaming & Online Commerce Fixated, Information Implosion Fixated, Dark Side Fixated and NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) Fixated. The NOS Fixated typology applies to internet dependent online users who share more than one typology, has a co-existing mental illness or medical condition causing psychiatric dysfunction.
Internet Addiction Motivations & Influences
1. Anonymity: One of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, aspect of ICT is the inherent anonymity available to all ICT users. This privacy allows ICT users to obtain, exchange, and disseminate information along with being able to easily socially connect with others without their identity being revealed. Ranging from creating felonious online identities to pristine privacy comforted knowing their secrets cannot be connected to their identity if they choose, makes ICT the criminal, deviant & disturbed ICT user’s best friend.
2. Accessibility: ICT provides easy access to the information, materials & social contacts that meet whatever their obsessive-compulsive preoccupation may be. The online user is not bound by the restrictions of time, location & finances to locate and engage in his/her fixations.
3. Isolation: Depending on the ICT Abuser’s fixation, the ability to research, locate and engage others who shares his/her fixation in an isolated environment allows them to engage in high risk online & ICT activities. Completely insulated from admonishment by friends, loved and co-workers, their false sense of total isolation increases the probability that all curiosity impulses are explored without concern of being identified, apprehended and punished.
4. Inexpensive: ICT is an extremely inexpensive tool in the ICT Abuser’s toolbox. Other than the cost of the ICT devices, utility bills and software, the ICT Abuser is capable of accessing untold number of websites, social contacts and organizations all specific to their chosen fixate. The added benefit to ICT being so inexpensive, red flags of large sums of money being drained is not an issue.
5. Fantasy: Common with all forms of addiction and psychopathology is the role of fantasy and dissociation. The internet world of the ICT Abuser in home to an entire universe, designed by them, and themed with their fixation. As the severity of addiction progresses, the ICT Abuser engages in longer periods of time when they are not using their ICT.
6. Disconnection: Synonymous with detachment, the ICT Abuser gradually disconnects from their real friends, family and associates. This process of disconnection can happen physically by being more time in an isolated environment or happen psychologically. When psychological disconnection occurs, the ICT Abuser can be surrounded by loved ones, but their thoughts and complete focus are engaged in their fixations.
The 6th factor mentioned above is one of this writer’s 4D’s of Online Victim Dynamics. D4 is Disconnected, Discouraged, Distressed & Disengaged.
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