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overview

This page discusses what has been characterised as 'internet dependency', 'cyber
addiction', 'internomania' or even 'onlineaholics' and 'netaholics'.
It covers introduction - the emergence of a new pathology
one disorder or many - what do we mean by 'cyber addiction'?
addiction as behaviour, substance, overuse or preference
precedents - anxieties about broadcasting, the telephone, telegraphy and
earlier 'new media' disorders
orientations and polemics - writing about "the scourge of the Internet Age"
issues - questions about the basis, prevalence and significance of net
addiction
It supplements discussion elsewhere on this site regarding computer rage, sexuality,
anxiety and other aspects of life online.
The following pages consider responses (eg the cyber addiction therapy industry),
use of 'internet addiction' as a defence in criminal trials and litigation against
employers or other entities for allleged negligence regarding addiction
introduction
Are you a "Net Addict"? A "cybersexual addict"? Or even a "cyberwidow" (apparently
there are no cyberwidowers)?
In yet another glorious chapter in the US's infatuation with therapy, the media and
health services discovered Internet Addiction (IA) and Pathological Internet Use
(PIU) during the mid 1990s. Given their affinity for the badge of modernity, that
discovery leaked across to well-ordered states such as Singapore, Malaysia, Japan
and China.
In the US psychologist Kimberly Young - author of Caught in the Net: How to
Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction and A Winning Strategy for Recovery (New
York: Wiley 1998) and similar works, founder of the COLA Center for On-Line
Addiction (COLA) - breathlessly recounts stories of
dozens of lives that were shattered by an overwhelming compulsion to surf the Net,
play MUD games, or chat with distant and invisible neighbors in the timeless limbo of
Cyberspace
Net addiction has become a media theme, with lurid depictions such as the 2005
account Hong Kong Internet junkie fights to combat addiction
Anthony Chan betrays the tell-tale signs of his addiction: his skin is pallid and
covered in spots, he sits nervously hunched, peering to correct his blighted vision
and he has trouble communicating with friends and family.

At just 16 he is emotionally fragile, physically ill and his future has been
compromised by the addiction which has him in its grip. But when the lights are
switched off he gets online, he could not care less about the problems it brings. His
drug is the Internet and, when connected, it makes the lonely Hong Kong schoolboy
feel on top of the world.
"The computer is my friend, it's my life, my social life," says Chan, shifting in his
chair and squinting in the glare of the brightly-lit office where we talk. It is one of the
few times this week he has left the confines of his bedroom where he spends hours
and hours every day logged onto the Internet and he is missing it already, he says.
Fortunately there are no claims that the addicts mug little old ladies or steal from
toddlers to pay for their habit.
In China it has been promoted as an explanation of why unfettered access to the net
is dangerous, with laments that addiction has resulted in murders, thefts, suicides,
bad temper and poor hygiene. More prosaically
two students in Chongqing fell asleep on a railway track after an all-night internet
session, and a 31-year old Legend of Mir addict reportedly dropped dead after a 20hour session.
In 2006 the Shanghai Youth Federation claimed that nearly 15% of teenagers in
Shanghai had become addicted to the net and online games, with "0.5% severely
addicted". It warned
Internet addiction is caused by overuse as well as [the medium's] bad culture, which
has negative effects on the psychological and physical development of teenagers
The same year saw hype about legal action in China by
the parents of a 13-year-old Chinese boy who they say jumped to his death from a
tall building after playing one of the popular Warcraft online games for 36 hours
straight
One might ask why the parents didn't simply drag him away from the machine? One
response is the scrutiny provided by Alex Golub & Kate Lingley in '"Just Like the Qing
Empire": Internet Addiction, MMOGs, and Moral Crisis in Contemporary China' in 3(1)
Games and Culture (2008), 59-75.
Apocryphal reports in 2004 claimed that conscripts in Finland were using net
addiction as a means of avoiding military service.
Alvin Cooper gained attention through problematical research that labelled the net
"the crack cocaine of sexual compulsivity", with one in 10 (self-selected) respondents
claiming that they are "addicted to sex and the Internet". By December 2005 some
US therapists were peddling claims that
6 percent to 10 percent of the approximately 189 million Internet users in this
country have a dependency that can be as destructive as alcoholism and drug
addiction

That is consistent with a 2005 pilot study by Mubarak Ali of Flinders University that
claimed a third of Australian teenagers "were in the process of becoming
psychologically addicted", with 7% of the 114 teens describing themselves as
"becoming addicted" to the net. One ungenerous observer responded that a similar
percentage would describe themselves as "becoming addicted" to chocolate or boys.
A further 26% of kids in the Flinders study reported that they used the net every day
and considered it "an important part of their lives". The average time spent online a
week was 13 hours, which we note is less than the time spent watching television.
The 2007 paper 'Excessive Internet Use: The Role of Personality, Loneliness and
Social Support Networks in Internet Addiction' by Elizabeth Hardie & Ming Yi Tee in 5
Australian Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society 1 (PDF) claimed that
An online survey of 96 adults showed that, based on Young's (1998) criteria for the
Internet Addiction Test, 40% of the sample could be classified as average internet
users, 52% as problem over-users and 8% as pathologically addicted to the internet.
The three groups differed on a range of factors, with over-users and addicts spending
increasingly more time in online activities, being more neurotic and less extraverted,
more socially anxious and emotionally lonely, and gaining greater support from
internet social networks than average internet users.
One might hesitate to draw conclusions about the prevalence of pathologies on the
basis of such a small sample.
John Grohol criticised other research, commenting that
I don't know of any other disorder currently being researched where the researchers,
showing all the originality of a trash romance novel writer, simply "borrowed" the
diagnostic symptom criteria for an unrelated disorder, made a few changes, and
declared the existence of a new disorder. If this sounds absurd, it's because it is.
In 2006 Elias Aboujaoude, Lorrin Koran & Nona Gamel gained attention for claims in
CNS Spectrums: The International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine that the
internet may be 'addictive' for 14% of the US online population. 13.7% supposedly
found it hard to stay away from the net for several days at a time and 8.2% used the
net as a way to escape problems or relieve negative mood.
Aboujaoude said "In a sense, they're using the Internet to 'self-medicate'". That
comment provokes questions about whether watching television, reading a book,
walking the dog or visiting a cinema is 'self medication' and thus an indication of
addiction. Psychologist Mark Griffiths challenged email from parents worried that
their kids are addicted because they use their computers three hours a day. Griffiths
sensibly commented
That isn't addiction. People will spend hours cyberchatting with long-distance friends
or partners and it's said they're addicted. That wouldn't be said if they were on the
phone.
US academic Sara Kiesler characterised 'net addiction' a "fad illness", commenting
that problematic use can be self-corrective and that characterising it as an addiction

demeans really serious illnesses, which are things like addiction to gambling, where
you steal your family's money to pay for your gambling debts, drug addictions,
cigarette addictions.
Margaret Shotton's Computer Addiction? A Study of Computer Dependency (London:
Taylor & Francis 1989), arguably more cited than actually read and based on study of
a mere 75 'addicts' reported that those hobbyists were
some of the most fascinating people of my life. They were intelligent, lively, amusing,
original, inventive, and very hospitable. True, they rarely spend much time
communicating with people for reasons explained within this book, but when interest
was shown in them and their activities it would be difficult to find more interesting
conversationalists. True, many of them were unconventional and unconstrained by
society's 'mores', but who would not like the freedom and courage to act without
recourse to others? True, some of their relationships were problematic and their
activities bewildering and distressing to their partners, but they were no more likely
to have failed marriages than
the rest of the population.
That description would fit many academics and police personnel.
one disorder or many?
If you are not a true believer one puzzling aspect of cyber addiction is its definition.
Is it one disorder or many? Is the label too broad to be meaningful? Where does
'normal' use stop and pathological use begin? What are its causes and appropriate
therapies? There is no expert consensus and the disorder is not recognised in
standard diagnostic manuals.
Jennifer Ferris' Internet Addiction Disorders: Causes, Symptoms & Consequences
argued that IAD is
a psychophysiological disorder involving tolerance; withdrawal symptoms; affective
disturbances; and interruption of social relationships.
In seeking to define the disorder she refers to a range of criteria that include
1. Tolerance - the need for increasing amounts of time on the net to achieve
satisfaction and/or significantly diminished effect with continued use of the same
amount of time on the internet.
2. Two or more withdrawal symptoms developing within days to one month after
reduction of Internet use or cessation of Internet use (i.e., quitting cold turkey) and
these must cause distress or impair social, personal or occupational functioning.
These include: psychomotor agitation, i.e. trembling, tremors; anxiety; obsessive
thinking about what is happening on the Internet; fantasies or dreams about the
Internet; voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers.
3. Use of the Internet is engaged in to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
4. The Internet is often accessed more often, or for longer periods of time than was
intended.
5. A significant amount of time is spent in activities related to Internet use (e.g.
Internet books, trying out new World Wide Web browsers, researching Internet
vendors, etc).

6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced


because of use.
7. The individual risks the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career
opportunity because of excessive use.
All in all, those criteria could be used to identify television, telephone or other
addictions. Ferris notes that "other characteristics have been identified", including
"feelings of restlessness or irritability when attempting to cut down or stop Internet
use" and use of the net for "escaping problems or relieving feelings of helplessness,
guilt, anxiety or depression". Oops, sounds like Barbara Cartland addiction.
What causes IAD? Given disagreement about the shape of the disorder - or merely
its existence and seriousness - there is no consensus. Christopher Bates,
commended by one of the gurus, suggests that 'cyberaddiction' is caused by "low
blood volume", presumably an advance on past explanations such as witches on
broomsticks.
behaviour? substance? overuse or preference
There is no consensus among health specialists that the net is addictive.
One reason is that there is disagreement about behavioural versus substance
addictions, with some writers arguing that behavioural addictions are expressions of
underlying problems (eg depression or even schizophrenia) rather than properly
attributable to a particular medium or pursuit.
Another reason is that there is disagreement about the identification of what
constitutes cyberaddiction (or addiction to things such as mobile phones, television,
iPods or reading medical journals). Proponents of cyberaddiction often refer to 'overuse', 'excessive use' or compulsivity. However, those proponents disagree about what
is excessive, with some arguing that anything more than three hours per day is
'excessive' (a figure that enables glib characterisation of most office workers as
actual or potential addicts).
Critics have responded that many people pursue avocations (such as chatting with
friends online, watching television, reading books or working on cars) because those
activities are pleasurable. They can stop, but - quite rationally - choose not to. Mere
engagement with a medium such as television or the net should not be treated as
always equivalence to compulsive behaviour or dependence.
Edward Castronova, in Synthetic Worlds: The Business & Culture of Online Games
(Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 2005), commented
When people spend dozens of hours weekly at their computers, or on the internet, or
playing video games, it is almost certain that some other activities will suffer. The
question is, when does this behaviour warrant the label 'addiction'? Addiction is a
strong word, calling for both renunciation on the part of the subject and forceful
intervention by others ... a behaviour becomes problematic when, and only when, it
degrades other important things in life. A 60-hour-a-week compulsive EverQuest
user who fails to speak to his own children when they come home from school is
engaging in problematic behaviour. But consider the same user, living alone, with all
his friends being online and in the game - is his devotion of time to cyberspace
problematic? In the end we can only judge whether presence in the virtual world is

good or bad by reference to the ordinary daily life of the person making the choice to
go there. For some people Earth is where they really ought to spend their time. For
others, perhaps the fantasy world is the only decent place available.
precedents
Despite assertions about the uniqueness or significance of net addiction - or the
insights of particular therapists - it is merely the latest of a succession of alarms
about the physical, psychological or social effects of new media and new
technologies.
Those precedents reflected broader social anxieties regarding virility, minorities,
nationality and the lower classes.
The advent of printing saw the emergence of warnings from educators, doctors and
the pulpit about the seductions of print. The pallid (and spotty) schoolboy whose
overindulgence in literature resulted in death from consumption was a theme for
around 400 years. It is a counterpart of claims that addiction to novels or poetry
debilitated the weaker sex, leading to frigidity, stillbirths and an early grave. The
development of mass markets for literature saw warnings that the lower classes - in
particular girls working in textile mills and other factories - were particularly
susceptible ... spending hours (and too much of their income) mooning over trashy
novels rather than devotedly tending the looms.
Denunciation of the telegraph featured claims that the wires altered the physiology of
those in close contact (a justification for early gender restrictions in the workforce)
and curdled milk or otherwise damaged cows. Women were believed to be
particularly excited by opportunities to receive and send telegrams, with compulsive
use resulting in catch-all symptoms such as neuraesthenia or dysmenorrhea. A few
generations later we saw more subtle warnings about anomie in the suburbs or the
office, with for example stereotypes about women "always nattering on the phone".
Such claims echoed warnings by clergy, civil society organisations and the emerging
psychology industry about compulsive consumption of film, radio and television.
Those warnings included assertions about subliminal messages, conditioning and
fundamental changes to brain physiology.
Mencken satirised contemporary US hysteria about television watching, warning in
1952 that
no matter how good any given television show is, to look at that tube of lights and
shadows almost invariably brings to mind such things as death, tuberculosis, cats
howling on the back fence, incest, dishes in the sink, etc.
Such a reaction ... applies particularly to looking at television alone. A hair-in-themouth, screaming-nerves sensation comes from viewing television in solitude, an act
of the same category as drinking in solitude or taking morphine while shut up in a
closet, but much worse.
Furthermore ... to look at it for any length of time, even in the company of others,
causes sexual impotence, shortens the life span, makes the hair and teeth fall out,
and encourages early psychosis in otherwise normal people.

The more recent Television & the Quality of Life: How Viewing Shapes Everyday
Experience (Mahwah: Erlbaum 1990) by Robert Kubey & Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
conceded that the term 'TV addiction' is "imprecise and laden with value judgments"
but claimed that it "captures the essence of a very real phenomenon".
Their 2002 article Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor noted that
Psychologists and psychiatrists formally define substance dependence as a disorder
characterized by criteria that include spending a great deal of time using the
substance; using it more often than one intends; thinking about reducing use or
making repeated unsuccessful efforts to reduce use; giving up important social,
family or occupational activities to use it; and reporting withdrawal symptoms when
one stops using it. All these criteria can apply to people who watch a lot of television.
Courts and much of the media have been less generous. In 2004 for example
Timothy Dumouchel gained momentary notoriety through small claims litigation
against a Wisconsin cable tv service. He said
I believe the reason I smoke and drink every day and my wife is overweight is
because we watched the TV everyday for the last four years... I'm definitely
addicted. When I'm home, it's on. I wanted to talk to my family. When you're
watching TV, how much do you communicate with your family?
Anxieties about 'SMS addiction' or 'mobile addiction' are highlighted later in this note.
We have pointed elsewhere to waves of anxiety about railways, film, radio and even
comics. A historical perspective is provided by Avital Ronell's The Telephone Book:
Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech (Lincoln: Uni of Nebraska Press 1991).
Joseph Walther offered a parody in his 1999 paper 'Communication Addiction
Disorder: Concern over Media, Behavior and Effects' (PDF).
orientations and polemics
The literature on internet addiction is at best uneven and is often distinctly polemical,
with an emphasis on anecdote at the expense of rigorous statistical analysis.
Young has been echoed in works such as Hooked On The Net: How to say goodnight
when the party never ends (Grand Rapids: Kregel 2002) by Andrew Careaga marketed as "a solid, Christ-centered take on the controversial subject of Internet
addiction - written by a self-admitted Internet aficionado" - and David Greenfield's
Virtual Addiction: Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks and Those Who Love Them
(Oakland: New Harbinger 1999) or In the Shadows of the Net: Breaking Free of
Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior (Center City: Hazelden 2004) by Patrick Carnes,
David Delmonico & Elizabeth Griffin. It has also been echoed in numerous
undergraduate papers, replete with labels such as 'MUD & IRC: The Heroin of the
Internet?'
There is a more analytical account in Richard Davis' paper A Cognitive-behavioral
Model for Pathological Internet Use (PIU) and Mark Griffiths' 'Internet addiction:
Does it really exist?' in Psychology & the Internet, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and
transpersonal implications (San Diego: Academic Press 1998) edited by Jayne
Gackenbach and in Narelle Warden, James Phillips & James Ogloff's 2004 'Internet

Addiction' in 11 Psychiatry, Psychology & Law 2, 280-295.


John Suler's 1999 paper Healthy & Pathological Internet Use attempted to
differentiate between good and bad consumption. Nicholas Yee's 2002 paper Ariadne
- Understanding MMORPG Addiction considers addiction to massive multiplayer online
roleplaying games; there is another perspective in the 2007 presentation The LAN
Game Ate My Brain, Dude: 'MMORPG Addiction' and Australian Law (PDF) and the
forthcoming paper A Label in Search of Liability: CyberAddiction and the Law.
Two outcomes from early alarms were the APA paper on Sexuality on the Internet:
From Sexual Exploration to Pathological Expression by Alvin Cooper, Coralie Scherer,
Sylvain Boies & Barry Gordon and Carla Surratt's Netaholics? The creation of a
pathology (New York: Nova Science Publishers 1999).
Points of entry to the literature on identification and treatment of addiction per se
include Addiction: mechanisms, phenomenology and treatment (New York: Springer
2003) edited by W Fleischhacker & D Brooks, The addiction-prone personality (New
York: Kluwer Academic 2000) by Gordon Barnes and Addiction: evolution of a
specialist field (Malden: Blackwell Science 2002) edited by Griffith Edwards. A
perspective on diagnostics is provided by papers in Rethinking The DSM: A
Psychological Perspective (Washington: American Psychological Association 2002)
edited by Larry Beutler & Mary Malik.
A more detailed bibliography is provided on the final page of this note.
issues
Most studies of cyberaddiction are deeply problematical because they

draw on small (sometimes ludicrously small) and often self-selected


populations
have no independent oversight
involve serious uncertainties about questionnaire structure and data handling
or about the interpretation of figures and answers
are not benchmarked against widely recognised independent research
fail to differentiate between time spent online at work and non-occupational
use.

An APA journalist gently noted in 2000 that


despite the topic's prominence, published studies on Internet addiction are scarce.
Most are surveys, marred by self-selecting samples and no control groups. The rest
are theoretical papers that speculate on the philosophical aspects of Internet
addiction but provide no data.
Meanwhile, many psychologists even doubt that addiction is the right term to
describe what happens to people when they spend too much time online.
"It seems misleading to characterize behaviors as 'addictions' on the basis that
people say they do too much of them," says Sara Kiesler, PhD, a researcher at
Carnegie Mellon University and co-author of one of the only controlled studies on
Internet usage, published in the September 1998 American Psychologist. "No

research has yet established that there is a disorder of Internet addiction that is
separable from problems such as loneliness or problem gambling, or that a passion
for using the Internet is long-lasting."
Another asked "is the internet addictive or are addicts using the internet?". Others
have wondered whether some 'victims' are scapegoating the net: if your career is on
hold, kids have bad taste in music, love has flown away and washing the dishes does
not excite you it must be the fault of the all-powerful internet. That perception of
potency is an echo of some of the more utopian claims that going online will make us
all wiser, richer, happier and - of course - connected.
US academic Ivan Goldberg, whose 1995 spoof of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders is sometimes cited as spawning the disorder, commented that
I don't think Internet addiction disorder exists any more than tennis addictive
disorder, bingo addictive disorder, and TV addictive disorder exist. People can overdo
anything. To call it a disorder is an error.
That was endorsed by Mark Griffiths, characterising much 'cyberaddiction' as
comparable to 'star trek addiction'. Other writers have wondered about the
implications for law, asking whether 'internet addiction' is different from the 'twinkie
defense', 'tobacco deprivation syndrome' or 'UFO survivor syndrome' highlighted
later in this note.
responses
This page considers responses to 'internet addiction'.
It covers

pulling the plug - therapeutic and management responses


associated disorders - 'contact addiction', 'web rage' and 'sms fever'
the therapy industry - statistics and studies

It supplements discussion elsewhere on this site regarding computer rage, sexuality,


anxiety and other aspects of life online.
pulling the plug
Responses to claims of pervasive cyber addiction have taken several forms, including

scepticism
provision of corporate network management services
different therapies, some delivered online, that range from traditional talking
cures to behaviourist aversion training or recourse to the power of prayer

One response has been to take addiction as a given and therefore restrict access to
the medium.
Websense, an 'employee management service', for example promoted its wares in

2002 with discovery of "one of the most highly addictive activities to scourge the
modern workplace", with 25% of employees supposedly feeling addicted and a mere
8% of those polled (some 305 US office workers) claiming no knowledge of
workplace web addiction.
Websense concluded that employee personal net usage centres on news sites (67%)
and shopping (37%), with 23% of employees indicating that shopping is the "most
addictive" online content. 67% access news sites for personal reasons; 37% access
shopping and auction sites at the office.
2% of the surveyed employees admitted accessing "pornography" and 2% admitted
gambling online at work. Supposedly 70% of "all Internet porn traffic" occurs during
the nine-to-five workday, up to 40% of surfing is not business-related and over 60%
of online purchases are made during that time.
Websense regrettably did not benchmark those figures against employee use of
telephones.
It notes a comment from Marlene Maheu ("Internet addiction expert" and CEO of an
organization developing internet and telehealth aids) that
Studies have shown that from 25 to 50 percent of cyber-addiction is occurring at the
workplace ... That means employees are getting paid to participate in activities that
are not work-related.
There is recurrent media attention - typically at the end of the year, when news is
'slow' and editors are barrel-scraping - to claims that people suffer withdrawal
symptoms when deprived of the net.
It is unclear whether going cold turkey on the net is much different from being
deprived of a mobile phone (sometimes characterised as contact addiction), snailmail
or a video.
We are underwhelmed by accounts of the latest clinical disorder but if you are an
Oprah fan you'll probably enjoy answers to questions such as "Why is the Internet so
seductive? What are the warning signs of Internet addiction? Is recovery possible?"
The corollary is presumably the 'web rage' featured in a 2001 Roper Starch report:
more fender benders on the digital highway.
The Singapore Straits Times reported in 2001 that psychiatrists were touring local
high schools, talking to children about the symptoms of IA. Supposedly, three
children per year sought help when the disorder was first 'discovered' in 1995. As of
2001 around 80 kids sought help each year.
It is unclear whether that figure is higher than demands for therapy to cure
GameBoy, Pokemon or plain old fashioned vanilla-style television. It is consistent
with past accounts of telephone addiction, featured in Ronell's The Telephone Book
or Tom Lutz' American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History (Ithaca: Cornell Uni
Press 1991).
Another response has been the emergence of the online confession sites - such as
Dailyconfession.com and Grouphug ("the idea is for anyone to anonymously confess
to anything") - highlighted in discussion elsewhere on this site regarding mind &

body in the digital environment.


associated disorders?
It is unclear whether net addiction is associated with other ICT disorders, substantive
or otherwise, including

SMS addiction
contact addiction (typically characterised as compulsive use of mobile phones
and electronic mail)
cyberchondria

It is also unclear whether supposed web addiction is associated with the 'computer
rage' profiled by Kent Norman or the 'computer anxiety' highlighted elsewhere on
this site.
Laura Miller noted concerns about 'sex addiction' or online 'porn addiction',
commenting in 2008 that
Sex addiction is particularly fraught because some critics see it as a blame-dodging
attempt to pass off moral deviance as an illness. In yet another camp are those who
regard it as a veiled attempt to impose overly restrictive standards of sexual
normality. After all, a behavioral addiction is usually defined as the irresistible
impulse to keep doing something even though you desperately want to stop and
despite the threat of harmful consequences to your professional and personal life. By
that standard, simply being a practicing homosexual in pre-1970s America could
qualify as a sexual addiction. The consequences (arrest, disgrace, shame) and the
desire to stop (internalized homophobia) we now see as the toll unjustly imposed on
gay men and lesbians by a sexually oppressive society; at the time, few doubted that
such people were "sick." Little wonder, then, that some conservative religious groups
have latched on to the sexual addiction model, allowing them to label any interest at
all in pornography or even masturbation as pathological.
the therapy industry
Figures about the size, shape, growth and effectiveness of the cyberaddiction therapy
industry are unclear. It is thus similar to the adult content industry, explored
elsewhere on this site, where there has been little critical analysis of claims and
many statements are self-interested.
So far there appear to have been no successful lawsuits against software/hardware
vendors and ISPs for providing the means of addiction, in contrast to cases in the US
where plaintiffs sued fast-food outlets for wantonly causing an addiction to fries and
other takeaway treats.
Much of the writing about web addiction might be thought of in terms of fashion and
as a media phenomenon rather than a discrete pathology, one situated in a culture
where there is a substantial market for Blue Water (promoted as having had
"negative memories" removed and replaced with "beneficial energy patterns"),
Kabbalah Mountain Spring Water (which not only tastes good but absorbs radiation,
alleviates rheumatism and has anti-ageing properties) and hocus pocus.

Warden, Phillips & Ogloff's 2004 'Internet addiction' paper in 11(2) Psychiatry,
Psychology and Law (2004) commented that visitors to Young's Center for Online
Addiction are
offered credit card deductible e-counselling in the form of e-mail responses or,
alternatively, they can purchase self-help books and tapes, many produced by Young.
However the logic of conducting counseling and treatment via the very medium that
is creating or at least exacerbating problems is questionable Pathological gamblers
and individuals with substance dependence, for example, are not treated in casinos
and bars
Questions about the 'addiction industry' and contemporary anxieties are highlighted
in The Culture Of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid Of The Wrong Thing (New York:
Perseus 2000) by Barry Glassner, Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology
Industry is Doing to People (London: Constable 1998) by Tana Dineen, Therapy
Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability In An Uncertain Age (London: Routledge 2003) by
Frank Furedi, Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (New
York: Crown 2005) by Steve Salerno and Adam Burgess' Cellular Phones, Public
Fears & A Culture of Precaution (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 2004).
A historical perspective is provided by Traumatic Pasts: History, Psychiatry & Trauma
in the Modern Age, 1870-1930 (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 2001) edited by
Mark Micale & Paul Lerner and Mind Games: American Culture & the Birth of
Psychotherapy (Berkeley: Uni of California Press 1999) by Eric Caplan.
'A remedy for lonely hearts?' by Petra Boynton in 335 British Medical Journal (2007)
1240 noted a new service that offers to help the millions of unattached Britons infected by
"dating toxins."
Are you single? Been on your own for six months or more? If so you could be one of
the estimated "5.6 million British singles infected by dating toxins."
Research by online dating agency PARSHIP suggests (according to its press release)
this "epidemic of dating misery" is caused by "singles suffering from a build up of
dating toxins." These were identified via a survey of 5000 people as shyness,
fussiness, low self esteem, lack of opportunity, and desperation.
PARSHIP has reportedly generously offered potential clients a bespoke treatment
combining cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, dating etiquette, and - but
of course - a matchmaking service.
responses
This page considers responses to 'internet addiction'.
It covers

pulling the plug - therapeutic and management responses


associated disorders - 'contact addiction', 'web rage' and 'sms fever'

the therapy industry - statistics and studies

It supplements discussion elsewhere on this site regarding computer rage, sexuality,


anxiety and other aspects of life online.
pulling the plug
Responses to claims of pervasive cyber addiction have taken several forms, including

scepticism
provision of corporate network management services
different therapies, some delivered online, that range from traditional talking
cures to behaviourist aversion training or recourse to the power of prayer

One response has been to take addiction as a given and therefore restrict access to
the medium.
Websense, an 'employee management service', for example promoted its wares in
2002 with discovery of "one of the most highly addictive activities to scourge the
modern workplace", with 25% of employees supposedly feeling addicted and a mere
8% of those polled (some 305 US office workers) claiming no knowledge of
workplace web addiction.
Websense concluded that employee personal net usage centres on news sites (67%)
and shopping (37%), with 23% of employees indicating that shopping is the "most
addictive" online content. 67% access news sites for personal reasons; 37% access
shopping and auction sites at the office.
2% of the surveyed employees admitted accessing "pornography" and 2% admitted
gambling online at work. Supposedly 70% of "all Internet porn traffic" occurs during
the nine-to-five workday, up to 40% of surfing is not business-related and over 60%
of online purchases are made during that time.
Websense regrettably did not benchmark those figures against employee use of
telephones.
It notes a comment from Marlene Maheu ("Internet addiction expert" and CEO of an
organization developing internet and telehealth aids) that
Studies have shown that from 25 to 50 percent of cyber-addiction is occurring at the
workplace ... That means employees are getting paid to participate in activities that
are not work-related.
There is recurrent media attention - typically at the end of the year, when news is
'slow' and editors are barrel-scraping - to claims that people suffer withdrawal
symptoms when deprived of the net.
It is unclear whether going cold turkey on the net is much different from being
deprived of a mobile phone (sometimes characterised as contact addiction), snailmail
or a video.

We are underwhelmed by accounts of the latest clinical disorder but if you are an
Oprah fan you'll probably enjoy answers to questions such as "Why is the Internet so
seductive? What are the warning signs of Internet addiction? Is recovery possible?"
The corollary is presumably the 'web rage' featured in a 2001 Roper Starch report:
more fender benders on the digital highway.
The Singapore Straits Times reported in 2001 that psychiatrists were touring local
high schools, talking to children about the symptoms of IA. Supposedly, three
children per year sought help when the disorder was first 'discovered' in 1995. As of
2001 around 80 kids sought help each year.
It is unclear whether that figure is higher than demands for therapy to cure
GameBoy, Pokemon or plain old fashioned vanilla-style television. It is consistent
with past accounts of telephone addiction, featured in Ronell's The Telephone Book
or Tom Lutz' American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History (Ithaca: Cornell Uni
Press 1991).
Another response has been the emergence of the online confession sites - such as
Dailyconfession.com and Grouphug ("the idea is for anyone to anonymously confess
to anything") - highlighted in discussion elsewhere on this site regarding mind &
body in the digital environment.
associated disorders?
It is unclear whether net addiction is associated with other ICT disorders, substantive
or otherwise, including

SMS addiction
contact addiction (typically characterised as compulsive use of mobile phones
and electronic mail)
cyberchondria

It is also unclear whether supposed web addiction is associated with the 'computer
rage' profiled by Kent Norman or the 'computer anxiety' highlighted elsewhere on
this site.
Laura Miller noted concerns about 'sex addiction' or online 'porn addiction',
commenting in 2008 that
Sex addiction is particularly fraught because some critics see it as a blame-dodging
attempt to pass off moral deviance as an illness. In yet another camp are those who
regard it as a veiled attempt to impose overly restrictive standards of sexual
normality. After all, a behavioral addiction is usually defined as the irresistible
impulse to keep doing something even though you desperately want to stop and
despite the threat of harmful consequences to your professional and personal life. By
that standard, simply being a practicing homosexual in pre-1970s America could
qualify as a sexual addiction. The consequences (arrest, disgrace, shame) and the
desire to stop (internalized homophobia) we now see as the toll unjustly imposed on
gay men and lesbians by a sexually oppressive society; at the time, few doubted that
such people were "sick." Little wonder, then, that some conservative religious groups
have latched on to the sexual addiction model, allowing them to label any interest at
all in pornography or even masturbation as pathological.

the therapy industry


Figures about the size, shape, growth and effectiveness of the cyberaddiction therapy
industry are unclear. It is thus similar to the adult content industry, explored
elsewhere on this site, where there has been little critical analysis of claims and
many statements are self-interested.
So far there appear to have been no successful lawsuits against software/hardware
vendors and ISPs for providing the means of addiction, in contrast to cases in the US
where plaintiffs sued fast-food outlets for wantonly causing an addiction to fries and
other takeaway treats.
Much of the writing about web addiction might be thought of in terms of fashion and
as a media phenomenon rather than a discrete pathology, one situated in a culture
where there is a substantial market for Blue Water (promoted as having had
"negative memories" removed and replaced with "beneficial energy patterns"),
Kabbalah Mountain Spring Water (which not only tastes good but absorbs radiation,
alleviates rheumatism and has anti-ageing properties) and hocus pocus.
Warden, Phillips & Ogloff's 2004 'Internet addiction' paper in 11(2) Psychiatry,
Psychology and Law (2004) commented that visitors to Young's Center for Online
Addiction are
offered credit card deductible e-counselling in the form of e-mail responses or,
alternatively, they can purchase self-help books and tapes, many produced by Young.
However the logic of conducting counseling and treatment via the very medium that
is creating or at least exacerbating problems is questionable Pathological gamblers
and individuals with substance dependence, for example, are not treated in casinos
and bars
Questions about the 'addiction industry' and contemporary anxieties are highlighted
in The Culture Of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid Of The Wrong Thing (New York:
Perseus 2000) by Barry Glassner, Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology
Industry is Doing to People (London: Constable 1998) by Tana Dineen, Therapy
Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability In An Uncertain Age (London: Routledge 2003) by
Frank Furedi, Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (New
York: Crown 2005) by Steve Salerno and Adam Burgess' Cellular Phones, Public
Fears & A Culture of Precaution (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 2004).
A historical perspective is provided by Traumatic Pasts: History, Psychiatry & Trauma
in the Modern Age, 1870-1930 (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 2001) edited by
Mark Micale & Paul Lerner and Mind Games: American Culture & the Birth of
Psychotherapy (Berkeley: Uni of California Press 1999) by Eric Caplan.
'A remedy for lonely hearts?' by Petra Boynton in 335 British Medical Journal (2007)
1240 noted a new service that offers to help the millions of unattached Britons infected by
"dating toxins."
Are you single? Been on your own for six months or more? If so you could be one of
the estimated "5.6 million British singles infected by dating toxins."

Research by online dating agency PARSHIP suggests (according to its press release)
this "epidemic of dating misery" is caused by "singles suffering from a build up of
dating toxins." These were identified via a survey of 5000 people as shyness,
fussiness, low self esteem, lack of opportunity, and desperation.
PARSHIP has reportedly generously offered potential clients a bespoke treatment
combining cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, dating etiquette, and - but
of course - a matchmaking service.
responses
This page considers responses to 'internet addiction'.
It covers

pulling the plug - therapeutic and management responses


associated disorders - 'contact addiction', 'web rage' and 'sms fever'
the therapy industry - statistics and studies

It supplements discussion elsewhere on this site regarding computer rage, sexuality,


anxiety and other aspects of life online.
pulling the plug
Responses to claims of pervasive cyber addiction have taken several forms, including

scepticism
provision of corporate network management services
different therapies, some delivered online, that range from traditional talking
cures to behaviourist aversion training or recourse to the power of prayer

One response has been to take addiction as a given and therefore restrict access to
the medium.
Websense, an 'employee management service', for example promoted its wares in
2002 with discovery of "one of the most highly addictive activities to scourge the
modern workplace", with 25% of employees supposedly feeling addicted and a mere
8% of those polled (some 305 US office workers) claiming no knowledge of
workplace web addiction.
Websense concluded that employee personal net usage centres on news sites (67%)
and shopping (37%), with 23% of employees indicating that shopping is the "most
addictive" online content. 67% access news sites for personal reasons; 37% access
shopping and auction sites at the office.
2% of the surveyed employees admitted accessing "pornography" and 2% admitted
gambling online at work. Supposedly 70% of "all Internet porn traffic" occurs during
the nine-to-five workday, up to 40% of surfing is not business-related and over 60%
of online purchases are made during that time.

Websense regrettably did not benchmark those figures against employee use of
telephones.
It notes a comment from Marlene Maheu ("Internet addiction expert" and CEO of an
organization developing internet and telehealth aids) that
Studies have shown that from 25 to 50 percent of cyber-addiction is occurring at the
workplace ... That means employees are getting paid to participate in activities that
are not work-related.
There is recurrent media attention - typically at the end of the year, when news is
'slow' and editors are barrel-scraping - to claims that people suffer withdrawal
symptoms when deprived of the net.
It is unclear whether going cold turkey on the net is much different from being
deprived of a mobile phone (sometimes characterised as contact addiction), snailmail
or a video.
We are underwhelmed by accounts of the latest clinical disorder but if you are an
Oprah fan you'll probably enjoy answers to questions such as "Why is the Internet so
seductive? What are the warning signs of Internet addiction? Is recovery possible?"
The corollary is presumably the 'web rage' featured in a 2001 Roper Starch report:
more fender benders on the digital highway.
The Singapore Straits Times reported in 2001 that psychiatrists were touring local
high schools, talking to children about the symptoms of IA. Supposedly, three
children per year sought help when the disorder was first 'discovered' in 1995. As of
2001 around 80 kids sought help each year.
It is unclear whether that figure is higher than demands for therapy to cure
GameBoy, Pokemon or plain old fashioned vanilla-style television. It is consistent
with past accounts of telephone addiction, featured in Ronell's The Telephone Book
or Tom Lutz' American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History (Ithaca: Cornell Uni
Press 1991).
Another response has been the emergence of the online confession sites - such as
Dailyconfession.com and Grouphug ("the idea is for anyone to anonymously confess
to anything") - highlighted in discussion elsewhere on this site regarding mind &
body in the digital environment.
associated disorders?
It is unclear whether net addiction is associated with other ICT disorders, substantive
or otherwise, including

SMS addiction
contact addiction (typically characterised as compulsive use of mobile phones
and electronic mail)
cyberchondria

It is also unclear whether supposed web addiction is associated with the 'computer
rage' profiled by Kent Norman or the 'computer anxiety' highlighted elsewhere on
this site.
Laura Miller noted concerns about 'sex addiction' or online 'porn addiction',
commenting in 2008 that
Sex addiction is particularly fraught because some critics see it as a blame-dodging
attempt to pass off moral deviance as an illness. In yet another camp are those who
regard it as a veiled attempt to impose overly restrictive standards of sexual
normality. After all, a behavioral addiction is usually defined as the irresistible
impulse to keep doing something even though you desperately want to stop and
despite the threat of harmful consequences to your professional and personal life. By
that standard, simply being a practicing homosexual in pre-1970s America could
qualify as a sexual addiction. The consequences (arrest, disgrace, shame) and the
desire to stop (internalized homophobia) we now see as the toll unjustly imposed on
gay men and lesbians by a sexually oppressive society; at the time, few doubted that
such people were "sick." Little wonder, then, that some conservative religious groups
have latched on to the sexual addiction model, allowing them to label any interest at
all in pornography or even masturbation as pathological.
the therapy industry
Figures about the size, shape, growth and effectiveness of the cyberaddiction therapy
industry are unclear. It is thus similar to the adult content industry, explored
elsewhere on this site, where there has been little critical analysis of claims and
many statements are self-interested.
So far there appear to have been no successful lawsuits against software/hardware
vendors and ISPs for providing the means of addiction, in contrast to cases in the US
where plaintiffs sued fast-food outlets for wantonly causing an addiction to fries and
other takeaway treats.
Much of the writing about web addiction might be thought of in terms of fashion and
as a media phenomenon rather than a discrete pathology, one situated in a culture
where there is a substantial market for Blue Water (promoted as having had
"negative memories" removed and replaced with "beneficial energy patterns"),
Kabbalah Mountain Spring Water (which not only tastes good but absorbs radiation,
alleviates rheumatism and has anti-ageing properties) and hocus pocus.
Warden, Phillips & Ogloff's 2004 'Internet addiction' paper in 11(2) Psychiatry,
Psychology and Law (2004) commented that visitors to Young's Center for Online
Addiction are
offered credit card deductible e-counselling in the form of e-mail responses or,
alternatively, they can purchase self-help books and tapes, many produced by Young.
However the logic of conducting counseling and treatment via the very medium that
is creating or at least exacerbating problems is questionable Pathological gamblers
and individuals with substance dependence, for example, are not treated in casinos
and bars

Questions about the 'addiction industry' and contemporary anxieties are highlighted
in The Culture Of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid Of The Wrong Thing (New York:
Perseus 2000) by Barry Glassner, Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology
Industry is Doing to People (London: Constable 1998) by Tana Dineen, Therapy
Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability In An Uncertain Age (London: Routledge 2003) by
Frank Furedi, Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (New
York: Crown 2005) by Steve Salerno and Adam Burgess' Cellular Phones, Public
Fears & A Culture of Precaution (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 2004).
A historical perspective is provided by Traumatic Pasts: History, Psychiatry & Trauma
in the Modern Age, 1870-1930 (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 2001) edited by
Mark Micale & Paul Lerner and Mind Games: American Culture & the Birth of
Psychotherapy (Berkeley: Uni of California Press 1999) by Eric Caplan.
'A remedy for lonely hearts?' by Petra Boynton in 335 British Medical Journal (2007)
1240 noted a new service that offers to help the millions of unattached Britons infected by
"dating toxins."
Are you single? Been on your own for six months or more? If so you could be one of
the estimated "5.6 million British singles infected by dating toxins."
Research by online dating agency PARSHIP suggests (according to its press release)
this "epidemic of dating misery" is caused by "singles suffering from a build up of
dating toxins." These were identified via a survey of 5000 people as shyness,
fussiness, low self esteem, lack of opportunity, and desperation.
PARSHIP has reportedly generously offered potential clients a bespoke treatment
combining cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, dating etiquette, and - but
of course - a matchmaking service.

mobiles
This page considers 'mobile phone addiction' and 'email addiction'.
It covers

introduction
symptoms
responses
crackberry addiction
introduction

Claims of addiction to other communication and entertainment devices - including


mobile phones, Blackberries, television sets, pinball machines and video game
equipment - provide a perspective on debate about internet addiction or computer
addiction.

Compared to assertions that cyberaddiction affects 25% of the office population or


that 40% of the overall population is "at risk" the claims by proponents of "mobile
addiction", "tele-addiction" or "SMS addiction" often appear quite muted.
That is perhaps because many people use mobile phones and because mobiles, in
contrast to the internet, have not been fetishised as miraculous/demonic.
Diana James of QUT fretted in 2006 (PDF) that
Mobile phone addiction is going to surpass internet addiction because at least you
can walk away from your computer ... our dependency on mobiles means most
people are never without them.
Perhaps comfort can be taken in the short life of many mobile phone batteries.
Lee Hae-gyoung, a Korea Cyber University professor, similarly claimed that 20% of
the South Korean mobile phone population "displays symptoms of addiction". Mobile
addiction was claimed to be "much worse than Internet addiction" and "just as
dangerous as substance addiction like alcohol or drugs". South Koreans "addicted to
mobile devices have trouble living a normal life".
James elsewhere commented that "a wide range of adverse consequences for
addictive mobile phone consumers" includes "damaged relationships, emotional
stress and falling literacy" in addition to debt and tiredness.
symptoms
What are the symptoms? One popular account suggests that a user may be addicted
if answering 'yes' to any of five questions 1. Do you get anxious if you dont get an instant response to an SMS?
2. Does the thought of turning your mobile off send you into a shiver?
3. When you go out to dinner, do you sit the mobile on the table in front of you?
4. Do you feel unloved if your phone doesn't ring, ding or zing for a few hours?
5. When you hop off a plane or finish a movie, is the first thing you do to check your
phone?
Would we regard a daily hot bath/shower as representing a 'water addiction' across
80% of the population?
As with cyberaddiction, there is no international consensus

that mobile phone (or SMS) addiction exists


that it affects more than a handful of people (possibly not many more people
than those addicted to interpretive dance, collecting doilies or playing with
model trains)
about the identification of its symptoms
whether it is caused by the device or is an expression of underlying problems
about appropriate treatment.

As with cyberaddiction it is not recognised in the leading diagnostic manuals, such as


the DSM.
As with notions of cyberaddiction the mass media have uncritically embraced some of
the more lurid assertions of mobile addiction, for example that "2 billion people
worldwide are now hooked on a mobile phone" and that "4 out of 10 young adults in
Spain are considered mobile phone addicts".
A more nuanced comment might be that the severity of that 'addiction' varies and
can be distinguishable from traditional addictions such as that to heroin, with for
example no sweats, stomach cramps and hallucinations or other nastiness when
going cold turkey or simply being out of mobile range.
responses
Responses have varied. One Australian writer questioned the empirical basis of the
claim that mobile addiction is going to surpass internet addiction, asking why mobile
addiction had not previously become apparent after a decade of use by much of the
Australian population and what are the regulatory implications.
Are mobiles to be sold with cigarette-style health warning stickers? Is government
funding to be diverted from heroin and alcohol treatment facilities to mobile phone
addiction counselling centres?
South Korea, in a display of the anxieties discussed by Golub & Lingley's perceptive
2008 'Just Like the Qing Empire' paper, reportedly considered what was described as
a 'curfew' to
limit the "amount of time teenagers spend on their phones".
Therapists have leveraged popular concern regarding mobile addiction, with publicity
for online treatment or mobile treatment of "SMS addiction" and clinics offering face
to face treatment for such a disorder.
Two accounts are provided Woong Ki Park's 'Mobile Phone Addiction' in Mobile
Communications: Re-Negotiation of the Social Sphere (London: Springer 2003)
edited by Richard Ling & Paul Pedersen, the 2006 'Exploring Addictive Consumption
of Mobile Phone Technology' (PDF) by Diana James & Judy Drennan.
crackberry addiction?
The mass media - on slow news days - have embraced the notion of 'email addiction'
or 'crackberry addiction', with a syndicated item in 2006 fretting that
Blackberry email devices can be so addictive that owners may need to be weaned off
them with treatment similar to that given to drug users, experts warned today. They
said the palmtop gadgets, which have been nicknamed 'crackberries' because users
quickly become hooked on them, could be seriously damaging to mental health. [One
study] claims the Blackberry is fuelling a rise in email and internet addiction, with
sufferers able to survive only a few minutes without checking for new mail. One key
sign of a user being addicted is if they focus on their Blackberry ignoring those
around them. ... the effects of becoming addicted to the device can be 'devastating'

That study, alas, was led by business school academics rather than by medical
specialists. One might thus be a tad wary of claims that equate email abuse or mere
bad manners and boredom with "chemical or substance addictions" and warn that
"Addiction to technology can be equally damaging to a worker's mental health".
Study author Nada Kakabadse is reported as warning that 'a worrying 33 per cent of
us' are becoming addicted to the internet, a conclusion possibly based on surveys
that may privilege self-characterised addiction.
Co-author Gayle Porter commented that "the fast and relentless pace of technologyenhanced work environments creates a source of stimulation that may become
addictive", arguing that
Information and communication technology (ICT) addiction has been treated by
policy makers as a kind of elephant in the room - everyone sees it, but no one wants
to acknowledge it directly. Owing to vested interests of the employers and the ICT
industry, signs of possible addiction - excess use of ICT and related stress illnesses are often ignored.
Elsewhere she had claimed that a workaholic is "an individual tendency to pursue
one thing to the exclusion of all others", with employers "becoming enablers to this
workaholic addiction through technology such as BlackBerrys and e-mail" and that
"The trend is toward companies 'expecting' employees to be available 24/7 because
the technological capability exists".
Porter suggested that
If people work longer hours for personal enrichment, they assume the risk. However,
if an employer manipulates an individual's propensity toward workaholism or
technology addiction for the employer's benefit, the legal perspective shifts. When
professional advancement (or even survival) seems to depend on 24/7 connectivity,
it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between choice and manipulation.
'Addicted to technology' by Nada Kakabadse, Gayle Porter & David Vance in 18(4)
Business Strategy Review (2007), 81-85 does not necessarily damp scepticism. From
an Australian perspective the issues highlighted by Kakabadse et al might be
effectively addressed through existing tort law and workplace safety legislation
rather than through establishment of a new medical disorder.
Australian courts appear to be unpersuaded by 2007 claims in the UK Independent
that
one employer had to pay substantial damages to a woman who was so distracted by
her BlackBerry while driving that she crashed and killed a motorcyclist. In another, a
woman took action after putting cleaning fluid on her baby's nappy instead of baby
oil because she was distracted by her BlackBerry.
Calls on your mobile while driving are not a surefire way of minimising responsibility;
why is a Blackberry different? Perhaps the landline can be ignored when it is nappy
time?

the box
This page considers 'television addiction'.
It covers

introduction
anxieties
disputes
the plug-in drug
introduction

Claims of television addiction or videogame/computer game addiction (and


precursors such as pachinko addiction) offer a perspective on

media reception of claims of a new pathology or increasing epidemic


debate within the health professions about the characterisation of disorders,
the potential confusion of causation with correlation, and the appropriateness
of specific therapies
government responses to community pressure that reflect broader social
discontents rather than particular medical problems.

Critics have claimed that television is addictive, is a 'plug-in drug', erodes community
and individual health, and fosters a range of ills from violence to gendered
discrimination.
Those claims encompass mere viewing of television and exposure to particular types
of content, from soap operas to cartoons (hotbeds of violence) and feature films
(inducing violence, sexual licence and substance abuse).
As with cyberaddiction, those claims are disputed by addiction specialists, by industry
and by people who are sceptical about misuse of 'addiction' as an expression of what
Alan Dershowitz dismissed as "the abuse excuse".
They are reminiscent of past jeremiads against the movies (particularly viewing by
children, women or the lower classes - all deemed more excitable and suggestible) or
reading novels, comics and the yellow press.
There is disagreement about what constitutes addiction to television (or to games),
whether the supposed addiction is a manifestation of an underlying disorder, and the
number of addicts. Is addiction to the box measurable? Is it simply a matter of a
critic's perception that the 'victim' has 'over-used' the medium and thus is addicted?
anxieties
Aric Sigman, author of Remotely Controlled: How Television Is Damaging Our Lives
(London: Vermilion Press 2005), in describing television as "the greatest health
scandal of our time" claims that "viewing even moderate amounts of television

may damage brain cell development and function

is the only adult pastime from the ages of 20 to 60 positively linked to


developing Alzheimer's disease
is a direct cause of obesity a bigger factor even than eating junk food or
taking too little exercise.
significantly increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
may biologically trigger premature puberty.
leads to a significantly elevated risk of sleep problems in adulthood, causing
hormone changes which in turn increase body fat production and appetite,
damages the immune system and may lead to a greater vulnerability to
cancer.
is a major independent cause of clinical depression (of which Britain has the
highest rate in Europe)
stunts the development of children's brains
increases the likelihood of children developing ADHD
lowers adult libido
is a leading cause of half of all violence-related crime.

A sceptic might ask whether pastimes such as reading novels (or reading exposes of
media ills) have the same effects ... and whether some people confuse correlation
with causation?
disputes
Sigman was preceded by the widely-publicised - and arguably mythologised - dispute
involving US consumer Timothy Dumouchel. That dispute is of interest because it
raises questions of law's recognition of new pathologies and because it has been
uncritically assimilated by popular culture.
In January 2004 Dumouchel, of West Bend (Wisconsin) threatened as a selfrepresented litigant to sue his cable television provider Charter Communications for
causing his alleged TV addiction. He reportedly claimed that said his family's viewing
habits - "forced" by cable television - caused his wife to become overweight and his
children to grow lazy. It has been claimed that in a written complaint against Charter
he stated that "I believe that the reason I smoke and drink every day and my wife is
overweight is because we watched TV every day for the last four years".
In response to ungenerous questions such as why didn't you use the remote control
to turn off the box, Dumouchel reportedly explained that "the reason I am suing
Charter is they did not let me make a decision as to what was best for myself and
my family and (they have been) keeping cable (coming) into my home for four years
after I asked them to turn it off". He claimed that Charter was liable because it
continued providing service after he had requested the cancellation, in some
accounts for four years and without billing. Why not simply disconnect the box or cut
the cord? Dumouchel is reported as claiming that he thought such an act was illegal
and did not wish to face prosecution.
The nub of his case, which did not proceed, is that his remote control exerted a
power so irresistible that he could not force himself to stop watching. His family were
similarly bewitched. He reportedly claimed that he had previously given up drinking
and smoking, habits he resumed under the influence of cable TV. Some accounts of
the dispute feature claims that he unsuccessfully sought US$5,000 or three

computers and a lifetime free Internet service from Charter to settle the dispute.
There have been no legally accepted claims in Australia that cable or free to air
television is addictive.
The basis and interpretation of research on tv addiction remains contentious, with
disagreement about the implications of exposure to television per se and exposure in
particular locations such as bedrooms. One study in Pediatrics of 781 Minneapolis
area adolescents for example noted that 62% reported having a tv in their bedroom.
Twice as many of those teens were classified as heavy TV watchers compared to
those without a box near the bed. Girls with a bedroom tv reported less vigorous
exercise (1.8 hours per week compared to 2.5 hours for girls without a TV) and ate
fewer vegetables, drank more sweetened beverages and ate meals with their family
less often. Boys with a bedroom TV reported a lower grade point average than boys
without one, along with a lower consumption of fruit and fewer family meals.
A study by Tracie Barnett, Jennifer OLoughlin, Marie Lambert, Lise Gauvin, Yan
Kestens & and Mark Daniel at the American Heart Associations 48th Annual
Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in 2008 indicated
that although 60% of US teens spend on average 20 hours per week in front of
television and computer screens, a third spend closer to 40 hours per week, and
about 7% are exposed to more than 50 hours of 'screen-time' per week. Boys and
those whose parents had lower educational attainment were much more likely to be
in the high-screen time group. Teens with high levels of screen time "may be at
increased risk of obesity". The study indicated that 52% of boys and 26% of girls
reported average total screen-time levels above 42 hours per week; 52% of boys
and 39% of girls reported average levels of TV/video use above 23 hours per week;
24% of boys and 7% of girls reported average levels of computer/internet use of
almost 30 hours per week. Television accounted for most of the screen-time, with
85% of the teens reporting less than 10 hours per week of computer/internet use.
That consumption does not, however, equal addiction, with one of the authors
subsequently commenting on the importance of making the streets safe so that
teens have diversions other than the box.
the plug in drug?
Salient works on addiction to the box include Marie Winn's The Plug-In Drug (New
York: Penguin 1985) and Unplugging the Plug-In Drug (New York: Penguin 1987),
Jerry Mander's Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (New York: Quill
1978), Robert Kubey & Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Television and the Quality of Life
(Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum 1990) and 'Television addiction is no mere metaphor' in
286(2) Scientific American (2002) 62-81 and Robert McIlwraith, Robin Jacobvitz,
Robert Kubey & Alison Alexander's 'Television addiction: Theories and data behind
the ubiquitous metaphor' in 35(2) American Behavioral Scientist (1991) 104-121.
Responses include Why TV Is Good For Kids (Sydney: Pan Macmillan 2006) by
Catharine Lumby & Duncan Fine, 'The Cultural Power of an Anti-Television Metaphor:
Questioning the "Plug-In Drug" and a TV-Free America' (PDF) by Jason Mittell and
Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What
Parents Can Do (New York: Simon & Schuster 2008) by Lawrence Kutner & Cheryl
Olson. Other works are highlighted in the following page

home | about | site use | resources | publications | timeline


overview
responses
excuses
litigation
mobiles
the box
games
studies

blaw

studies
This page highlights literature by proponents and critics of
the notion of cyberaddiction.
It covers cyberaddiction research and polemics
points of reference
law and cyberaddiction
research
Elias Aboujaoude, Lorrin Koran, Nona Gamel, Michael Large
& Richard Serpe, 'Potential Markers for Problematic Internet
Use: A Telephone Survey of 2,513 Adults', 11(10) CNS
Spectrums: The International Journal of Neuropsychiatric
Medicine (2006), 750-755
Yair Amichai-Hamburger & Adrian Furnham, 'The Positive
Net', 23(2) Computers in Human Behavior (2007), 10331045
Murugan Anandarajan, Thompson Teo & Claire Simmers,
'The Internet and Workplace Transformation', 7 Advances in
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diagnostic criteria for Internet addiction', 4(1)
CyberPsychology and Behavior (2001), 377-383

related
Guides:
Digital
Environment

Jerald Block, 'Issues for DSM-V: Internet Addiction', 165(3)


American Journal of Psychiatry (2008), 306-307
Fenglin Cao, Linyan Su, TieQiao Liu & Xueping Gao, 'The
relationship between impulsivity and Internet addiction in a
sample of Chinese adolescents', 22(7) European Psychiatry
(2007), 466-471

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Notes:
Adult Content
Industry
Cybersuicide

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well-being: development of a theory-based cognitivebehavioral measurement instrument', 18(5) Computers in
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::
version of March 2008
Bruce Arnold
caslon.com.au | caslon analytics

CYBERADDICTION, NOUVELLE
"TOXICOMANIE SANS DROGUES"
Rsume :
LInternet offre des multiples possibilits dans les domaines du travail, de l'ducation, ou dans la
communication. Pourtant il y a des personnes qui dpassent les limites dune connexion
"normale" et qui vont dans le sens dune conduite addictive, perdant tout contact avec la vie
relle. L'adaptation de la grille des critres de l'addiction selon le DSM-IV prouvent le bien fond
d'une telle affirmation. Les critres de laddiction peuvent sappliquer dans la mme mesure au
jeu pathologique, lachat compulsif, la sexualit pathologique, le point commun de ces
conduites addictives tant la perte de contrle, la recherche de sensations et de plaisir. Dans le
cas des cyberaddictifs, on assiste une polyaddiction, somme et intrication de laddiction
lInternet, de la addiction communicationnelle, de la sexualit pathologique. Jusqu' prsent, les
forums de discussion et les articles concernant le sujet, ont fait lapanage des sites nordamricains l'explication tant peut-tre le dveloppement initial du Web aux USA et Canada.
L'exprience des enseignants, des cliniciens, va dans le sens d'un vritable comportement
addictif ayant comme objet l'Internet. Le rtablissement dune relation "saine" lInternet, une
meilleure intgration de la ralit virtuelle dans la vie courante, les groupes de paroles logs sur
Internet, sont des solutions proposes par les addicts eux-mmes. Une conclusion de cet
article, serait la ncessit dducation et de prise de conscience devant lampleur que le Web
peut prendre dans la vie des consommateurs, afin de tirer tous les profits de cet excellent
moyen de communication et information.
Mots-cls :
Internet - addiction - cyberaddiction polyaddiction - addiction communicationnelle - ralit virtuelle
Summary :
The Net offers a lot of possibilities for working, education, game and communication. But there are some
persons which are overusing the net, overtaking the limits of a healthy connexionwhich present the
addiction behavior criterion, loosing all kind of control to real life. The corespondancy of the DSM-IV
criterion of addiction prooves the thruthfulness of this affirmation. Someone, will reply that the addiction
criterion could be applied in the same order, to gambling, buying spree or sex addiction, the common key
of these addictive behaviors being the loose of control, seeking for sensations and pleasure. The
cyberaddicted, presents a polyaddictive pathology, with an intrication of NetAddiction, comunication
addiction and sex addiction. Till now, the IRC and the articles concerning the subject, where the
exclusiveness of the north-americain or canadian authors. The experiencies of professors, clinical
practioners, join the idea of an addictive behavior to the 'Web'. Restoring a healthy relation to the Net, a
better integration of the virtual reality into courant life, the IRC, are some of the solutions proposed by the
cyberaddicted themselves. A conclusion of this article, is the need to educate and to be awared about the
importance of the Net in our lives, in order to take advantage from this excellent communication and
information tool.
Key words :
Internet - addiction - cyberaddiction polyaddictive behavior - communicationnal addiction - virtual
reality
" ..Une illusion cre par le cerveau pour se dlester des actions animales et permettre au cortex de se
concentrer sur ce pour quoi il a t fait. Cette illusion est vitale, mais elle nen est pas moins une illusion.
Or ce merveilleux dispositif neurogiciel recle en lui un pige fatal. ...Ce pige sappelle la facilit. La
facilit engendre la fois dpendance et ennui. Elle est une sorte de trou noir qui aspire inexorablement la
conscience si lon ne prend pas garde ". Maurice Dantec, Les racines du mal.
LInternet, allie les avantages offerts par la facilit de communication sans frontires et sans limites, par la
convivialit de travail, la qualit, la prcision et la rapidit des moyens de recherche, ltendue de ses
rseaux, mais aussi dun espace ludique interactif et dun moyen sans prcdent en terme daccessibilit.

Le plus attrayant, reste le dveloppement du monde virtuel, qui se mlange avec le monde rel, avec la
reprsentation du monde de limaginaire. La question qui se pose, est de savoir s'il y a complmentarit
entre les deux mondes, plus prcisment si le monde virtuel nest pas en train de se substituer lautre et
dapparatre effectivement plus disponible, plus facile vivre et supporter que le monde rel.
Comme le dit J.G.Ballard "cela reprsente le plus grand vnement dans lvolution de lhumanit. Pour la
premire fois, lespce humaine sera capable de nier la ralit et de substituer sa vision prfre ".
Actuellement, lInternet est devenu plus quune grande base de donnes, plus quun moyen fiable et de
qualit permettant des communications rapides en temps rel. Par sa facilit daccs, par sa connotation
scientifique et la note dacceptation sociale qui laccompagne, lInternet devient facilement objet dabus
(Kathleen Scherer, University of Texas - Austin).
Dans les donnes scientifiques provenant doutre-Atlantique, on parle de plus en plus des cybriens, des
cyberaddictifs - ces accros de la connexion et de la communication, ces drogus du virtuel qui passe des
heures et des heures on-line, afin de visiter et dhabiter le plus longtemps possible la communaut virtuelle,
le Cyberland, expression idalise du village plantaire de Marshall McLuhan.
Du point de vue des classifications actuelles, le DSM-IV et le CIM-10, les troubles addictifs des
toxicomanies sans drogues, l'addiction sexuelle, le jeu pathologique, l'achat compulsif, sont mal
rpertoris. On les retrouvent dans des sous-classes comme les "Troubles du contrle des impulsions",
"Troubles du contrle des impulsions non-spcifi ailleurs" ou "Autres troubles des habitudes et des
impulsions".
C'est Otto Fenichel en premier (1949), qui a soulev la question des " toxicomanies sans drogues ". Depuis,
plusieurs auteurs ont trait le sujet, certains prfrant de garder le terme addiction pour les toxicomanies
aux diffrentes substances psychoactives Walker en 1989, Rachlin en 1990.
Pour certains auteurs, les critres similaires peuvent tre appliqus aux troubles du comportement
alimentaire - Lacey en 1993, aux jeux pathologique - Griffiths en 1991 ou Valleur en 1997, aux jeux vido
- Keepers en 1990.
Actuellement le concept d'Internet Addiction - impliquant la prsence de plusieurs critres DSM IV de
l'addiction - est reconnu par plusieurs spcialistes (Brenner, 1996; Griffiths, 1997; Scherer, 1996; Vla,
1997 ; Young, 1996).
Les cyberdpendants, sont des gens qui dans leurs efforts de combler un vide identificatoire, se heurtent
aux obstacles souvent imaginaires, avec des combats quils estiment perdus davance ou sans intrts,
situations qui vont engendrer invitablement des frustrations, des phnomnes anxieux, des troubles de
comportements. Cest la recherche dun refuge, d'une chappatoire la ralit, que cette tendance
sextraire au contexte rel pourrait devenir lune des motivations intimes des conduites des
cyberdpendants. Le groupe des cybriens, essaie de retrouver une famille en tant que milieu affectif
privilgi ou les thmes cosmiques, rotiques et sensuelles sont prpondrants.
Le remplacement du rel par le virtuel est la seule manire concevable de vivre. Selon le psychiatre
amricain, Ivan K. Goldberg : " lAddiction Internet, peut dterminer la ngation ou lvitement dautres
problmes de la vie courante ".
La conduite addictive, traduit limmaturit socio-affective qui dtermine limpossibilit de se construire
une identit psychosociale vritable, solide. La situation est amplifie par la coexistence dun sentiment de
non-valeur personnel, de non-reconnaissance. Ils ont le sentiment dtre seuls, isols, incomplets
narcissiquement, tat qui les amnent investir et accorder un potentiel narcissique rparateur de leur
angoisse prdpressive, aux diffrents objets et situations qui pourront engendrer par la suite diffrentes

conduites addictives (voir aussi en annexe).


Critres diagnostiques de la personnalit dpendante DSM IV
Besoin gnral et excessif dtre pris en charge, qui conduit un comportement soumis et une peur de la
sparation, qui apparat au dbut de lge adulte et est prsent dans des contextes divers, comme en
tmoignent au moins cinq des manifestations suivantes :

1. le sujet a du mal prendre des dcisions dans la vie courante sans tre rassur ou conseill de
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

manire excessive par autrui ;


a besoin que dautres assument les responsabilits dans la plupart des domaines importants de sa
vie ;
a du mal exprimer un dsaccord avec autrui de peur de perdre son soutien et son approbation ;
a du mal initier des projets ou faire des choses seul (par manque de confiance n son propre
jugement ou en ses propres capacits plutt que par manque de confiance et/ou dnergie) ;
cherche outrance obtenir le soutien et lappui dautrui, au point de faire volontairement des
choses dsagrables ;
se sent mal laise ou impuissant quand il est seul par crainte exagre dtre incapable de se
dbrouiller ;
lorsquune relation proche se termine, cherche de manire urgente une autre relation qui puisse
assurer les soins et le soutien dont il a besoin ;
est proccup de manire irraliste par la crainte dtre laiss se dbrouiller tout seul.

Lapparition de ces "Nouvelles Technologies de lInformation et de la Communication " (NTIC), peut


concourir vers un projet de conservation dans la vie veille, dune forme de perception hallucinatoire
comme dans le rve. Les NTIC renvoient des stimuli visuels et auditifs, qui permettent grce aux moyens
technologiques trs sophistiqus - gants, lunettes, combinaisons - de reproduire la sensation de la texture
des matriaux, la temprature dun objet, la sensation de poids, voire mme la sensation davoir serrer la
main dune personne qui se trouve des milliers de kilomtres.
Lavnement de ce nouveau monde virtuel, ne traduit pas simplement une crise profonde de la
reprsentation, mais il touche limage de soi-mme, modifie le sens de la finalit existentielle. Les
reprsentations virtuelles apportent avec elles la contrainte de vivre - parfois de survivre - parmi les
reprsentations de la ralit plutt que dans la ralit elle-mme. LInternet, offre tous les attraits dun
monde liss, parfaitement poli, idalis, dun cadre de vie stable, protecteur. Pourtant, ce cadre de vie est
en permanence dans un mouvement entropique, source de dynamisme et de mobilisation.
La description de ce nouveau monde apparat pour la premire fois dans un roman de science fiction, Le
Neuromancien, W. Gibson: " le cyberespace : une hallucination consensuelle vcue quotidiennement en
toute lgalit par des dizaines de millions doprateurs. Une complexit impensable. Des traits de lumire
disposs dans le non-espace de lesprit, des mas et des constellations de donnes".
La conduite addictive ayant comme objet lInternet, est souvent accompagne dune ou plusieurs autres
conduites, sous forme complte ou partielle, ce qui fait penser une problmatique de type polyaddictive.
La prsence en permanence du facteur communication, peut engendrer le concept de "Conversation
Assiste par Ordinateur" et daddiction communicationnelle. Limage type des cyberdpendants, est celle
de personnes qui ont des difficults de communication, qui ont une notion spatio-temporelle altre et qui
cherchent sans cesse un moyen pour exprimer leur mal de vivre. Cela pourrait tre une des explications de
ces longues heures passes en connexion. Selon le Dr. Jeffrey Goldsmith, directeur de lAlcoholism Clinic
- University of Cincinatti, les gens qui ont du mal communiquer dans la vie relle avec les autres, sont les

personnes les plus susceptibles de devenir dpendantes aux possibilits de communications offertes par le
Web.
Les grands cyberaddictifs internautes, rpondent aux critres dinclusion dans la catgorie des joueurs
pathologiques. Certains de leurs comportements prsentent ces caractres addictifs : avidit, extrme
plaisir tir de lacte, dpendance, rptition et surtout perte de contrle. Ltat que le DSM-IV classe parmi
les "Troubles du contrle des impulsions non classs ailleurs", est caractris par la proccupation pour le
jeu, la tendance augmenter la dure, lincapacit mettre un terme la conduite, limpossibilit de
rsister aux impulsions.
A lorigine, lanctre des espaces de parole comme lIRC Internet Relay Chat, tait le MUD
(Multiple User Dungeons), une sorte de jeux de fiction qui se pratique en envoyant diffrents messages aux
autres joueurs, afin de collaborer ou de se confronter dans un espace virtuel. A lheure actuelle on
dnombre sur Internet environ 500 sites de jeux en rseau. En France, deux sites Internet proposant des
jeux virtuels semblent susceptibles de dvelopper une addiction au jeu.Le premier jeu, appel "Le
Deuxime Monde", ralis par Canal+ et Cryo, a comme objectif la cration dun laboratoire politique pour
dmocratie virtuelle. Le jeu consiste dans une transposition virtuelle de la ville de Paris. On peut choisir sa
morphologie, la couleur de sa peau, son identit, mais galement son logement, avec la possibilit de le
personnaliser. Les joueurs citoyens peuvent se rencontrer, organiser des visites et des discussions entre
eux. Ce qui semble intressant, cest la possibilit de vote lectronique installe sur le Web, les citoyens
tant appels dcider eux-mmes du sort de ce monde virtuel.
Le deuxime jeu, "LePalace", proposent des cadres de vie virtuelle, des changes entre des joueurs qui
peuvent choisir galement leurs apparences, des situations et des tableaux de vie virtuels. Ce genre de jeux,
apparu depuis longtemps aux Etats-Unis, mlant la fiction, la virtualit, le ludique, a cre dj des
aficionados, des inconditionnels qui vivent dans cet espace, qui ne communiquent que dans le cadre des
IRC qui leurs sont ddis, leurs manires de vie tant conditionnes par le jeu qui les occupent la plupart de
leurs temps.
Lachat compulsif est un comportement permanent ou intermittent, caractris par une irrsistible
envie dacheter, une tension avant le comportement et sa rsolution par la ralisation dachats. Ce qui est
plus ou moins spcifique pour ce genre de comportement, cest lacte dacheter par rapport la simple
possession de lobjet.
La place de ce comportement addictif dans un essai de prsentation de la cyberaddiction, semble justifi
par le fait que lInternet offre une facilit immense pour effectuer des achats, avec une composante
nouvelle : lachat en direct. Cela a engendr aux Etats-Unis un vritable flau social, appel buying spree frnsie dacheter.
Il semble important de souligner le rapport qui stablit actuellement entre notre socit, qui est par
dfinition une socit de consommation, qui provoque et impulse les gens acheter par le biais de la
publicit et de la politique de marketing, et lindividu, incapable de rsister une mise en acte impulsive
dun dsir socialement stimul. Le nombre important des cyber-consommateurs doit nous questionner. A ce
titre, "Le Deuxime Monde", contient tous les coins de rue des affiches publicitaires et offre la possibilit
des visites virtuelles dans des espaces commerciaux qui peuvent se solder par des achats on-line. Ceux-ci
sont bien rels cette fois-ci, et pays avec de largent rel.
Dans larticle de Ph. Spoljar, jai trouv une notion trs intressante, celles de "Sexualit Assiste par
Ordinateur", capable selon lauteur deffacer les frontires entre masturbation et rapport sexuel. P. Virilio,
utilise le terme de cybersexualit : "on invente une perspective nouvelle, la perspective du toucher, qui
permet une sexualit distance, la tlcopulation. Lvnement est inou : jusqualors on navait jamais pu
toucher distance. Or aujourdhui, des milliers de kilomtres je peux non seulement toucher avec des
gants de donnes, mais avec une combinaison spciale je peux faire lamour une fille Tokyo, ses
impulsions mtant transmises par des capteurs me permettant de faire jouir et de jouir moi-mme".
Pour le cybernaute prsentant un comportement addictif sexuel, lunivers sans barrires et sans limites de

lInternet, lui offre le choix et la possibilit daccder ses pulsions et ses fantasmes les plus intimes.
Depuis les annes soixante-dix, les chercheurs nord-amricains se sont intresss de prs au monde virtuel
offert par linformatique et ses extensions. Les chercheurs de lquipe de Timothy Leary, lpoque
directeur du Harvard Psychedelic Drug Research Program, ont essays dexplorer ce nouveau monde et le
microsystme qui prend naissance en dehors des normes et des sentiers battus. John Lilly, jeune et brillant
chercheur, crit en 1972 une monographie sur le cerveau en tant quunit de stockage de toutes les bases
dinformations contenant le savoir et les connaissances du monde - " Programming and Meta-Programming
in the Human Bio-Computer ". Cette tude, dun contenu purement scientifique, est passe presque
inaperue dans les milieux universitaires, son auteur tant assimil par certains un jeune espoir de la
science-fiction. Dans larticle cit, Timothy Leary, tablit une liaison entre linvention de la typographie
par Gutenberg en 1456 et lapparition du Personal Book et linvention de Steve Jobs et Steven Wozniak celle du Personnel Computer, avec la constatation que lapparition du livre personnel et de lordinateur
individuel a gnr le passage un niveau suprieur de la conscience humaine - qui acquiert un accs de
qualit aux connaissances du monde, avec une vlocit, une possibilit de partage et de liaison
extraordinaire - source dune rvolution dans la socit. Pour lui, le problme de la cyberaddiction sinscrit
dans un processus dvolution symbiotique, interactive avec le microsystme form par lhomme et loutil
informatique. Dans ce processus, certains individus se relvent incapables de dcrocher du monde virtuel,
incapables de vivre sans lchange continue de signaux lectroniques entre leur cerveau et lordinateur.
La collaboration et l'intrication entre l'homme et sa machine hypercybernetique, dote de la parole et d'une
intelligence artificielle, qui possde une indpendance d'analyse confrant un pouvoir propre d'action et de
dcision, ont dj t mentionnes par les auteurs de science-fiction.
Les nouvelles recherches et projets sur le dveloppement de lintelligence artificielle, vont ouvrir au monde
cyberntique des perspectives inimaginables, avec des consquences sur le progrs des sciences, sur les
ralisations en tout genre dans le domaine de llectronique industrielle, mais aussi dans la domotique,
dans les loisirs et lexploration du monde virtuel.
Pour les cyberaddictifs, cela reprsentera un grand carrefour dans leurs habitudes, cette nouvelle prouesse
technologique tant de nature changer leurs reprsentations sur le monde virtuel, qui est dj de nos
jours, leur seul centre dintrt. Ce concept de ralit virtuelle dpasse actuellement les sphres de la
science-fiction ; lapparition des outils hypersophistiqus, font penser au ralisme et la capacit
danthologie qui dborde du texte suivant : "Une ralit virtuelle, cest un monde cre par ordinateur qui
change le sens de la pense...Lide des systmes avancs de ralit virtuelle comme substituts futurs du
sexe, des drogues s'est le nouvel apanage de la science fiction moderne, de lcriture cyberntique " - Bart
Kosko ( Fuzzy Thinking, 1993).
Au dbut des annes quatre-vingt-dix, avec le dveloppement des techniques du multimdia et surtout avec
la monte du Web, les universits amricaines ont pu constater, avec une relle inquitude, le nombre
grandissant des jeunes tudiants prsentant les signes de cette nouvelle forme de comportement addictif : la
cyberdpendance. Les articles traitant de ce sujet sont peu nombreux aussi bien sur le vieux continent,
quaux Etats-Unis ou Canada, bien que dans ces pays, des associations et des universits ont des
programmes de recherche trs avancs dans le domaine des conduites addictives.
Les enqutes publies aux USA par les enseignants du cycle universitaire, font part des cas concrets,
rpondant tous les critres de classification des dpendances. Ainsi, une association daide aux
cyberdpendants cre par le psychiatre nord-amricain Ivan K. Goldberg, affiche dans sa page
dinformation sur le Web les critres typiques de l'Internet Addiction Disorders (IAD), critres qui sont
calqus sur ceux de la DSM-IV. La dpendance est manifeste dans le cas dune utilisation
disproportionne, mal adapte de lInternet, conduisant une perturbation dfinie par trois (ou plus) des
critres suivants, sur une priode dau moins 12 mois :

Critres de la dpendance Internet (adaptation DSM - IV)


I. Tolrance, comme dfinie par une des propositions suivantes :
A. une augmentation progressive, marque du temps pass en connexion, afin dobtenir
satisfaction.
B. une diminution marque de leffet, si le temps pass pour la connexion Internet est toujours le
mme.
II. Syndrome de manque, manifest par lune des propositions suivantes :
A. le syndrome classique de manque
1. arrt ou rduction de lInternet qui est difficile supporter et semble prolong
2. deux ou plus des propositions suivantes, dapparition aprs plusieurs jours jusqu' un
mois par rapport au critre 1.
a.agitation psychomotrice
b.fantasmes et rves au sujet de lInternet
c.des mouvements anormaux et involontaires des doigts de la main

3. les symptmes du critre B gnrent un dysfonctionnement dordre social, dans le travail


ou d'autres domaines importants
B. lutilisation dInternet ou dun service similaire on-line, est en mesure deffacer ou dviter les
symptmes du syndrome de manque.

III. Laccs lInternet est ralis presque toujours, plus longtemps et plus souvent, que dans
lintention initiale.
IV. Il existe un dsir permanent ou des efforts sans succs darrter la connexion ou de contrler
lusage de lInternet.
V.Une grande partie de son temps libre est passe dans des activits concernant lusage de lInternet
(achats de livres spcialiss, essai sans arrt des nouveaux moteurs de recherche, la recherche de
nouveaux providers...)
VI. Les activits sociales, les hobbies, les activits rcratives, sont rduites ou abandonnes cause
de lutilisation de lInternet.
VII. Lusage de lInternet persiste, en dpit de la prise de conscience sur les problmes sociaux,
occupationnels, relationnels et psychologiques, occasionns ou entretenus par lemploi de lInternet
(privation de sommeil, difficults de couple, retard dans les rendez-vous, surtout matinaux,
ngligemment des activits habituelles, ou sentiment dabandon de la part des proches).

Dans le groupe de parole et daide on-line du site IAD, se trouve aussi un espace dauto-valuation de son

degr de cyberdpendance et de la motivation pour en finir avec cette dpendance.


La Socit Amricaine de Psychologie, a prsente une tude ralise par Kimberly Young, Universit de
Pittsburgh-Bradford, portant sur 396 hommes et femmes, qui se connectent en moyenne sur Internet
pendant 38 heures par semaine. Larticle dresse le constat de lexistence dune vraie addiction, qui peut
dtruire les relations personnelles et de travail de ces utilisateurs obsessionnels, en les amenant la perte de
leur travail et une dsinsertion socio-professionnelle. Les personnes atteintes des conduites addictives
rapportes lInternet, ne sont pas des "ados farfelus", mais la plupart sont dge moyen, donnant
limpression dtre au sommet de leurs rendements et capacits. Les grands usagers on-line, prsentent
tous les critres psychiatriques du DSM-IV applicables aux alcooliques et aux grands toxicomanes. Les
dialogues et les thrapies arrivent dceler, par rapport aux descriptions des sensations ressenties, trois
aspects prdominant :
lide de communaut - rencontrer des " amis " on-line
les fantasmes - ladoption des nouvelles personnalits et les fantaisies sexuelles
le pouvoir - laccs instantan linformation et vers des nouvelles personnes.
David Brocato, animateur despace de conversation IRC sur le thme des comportements addictifs, pensait
avoir affaire aux alcooliques et toxicomanes classiques, mais il dcouvre que la plupart des gens qui
rentrent dans le cercle de conversation, expriment une problmatique lie " lInternet Addiction". Ainsi,
une de ces personnes, raconte comment elle a perdu son travail et comment sa vie familiale a t dtruite,
la seule occupation capable de laccaparer pendant des heures tant la connexion on-line et la participation
au groupes de paroles. Lanimateur lui demande alors sil est prt lui renvoyer son modem (le moyen de
connexion entre lordinateur et le service Internet, via les voies de transmission tlphoniques). La
rponse tombe instantanment: ABSOLUMENT PAS , puis en se dconnectant, la personne met fin la
conversation.
Ce cas rassemble beaucoup aux situations quon rencontre gnralement dans la pratique quotidienne avec
les toxicomanes, compte tenu des traits psychologiques des sujets et des effets obtenus par la prise dune
substance psychotrope. Ces effets pourraient tre une tentative de rsolution dun problme, la recherche
rptitive du plaisir.
Les recherches effectues par Zuckerman dans les annes soixante, essaient dtablir un lien entre les
phnomnes dactivation psychique et la recherche de sensations. Celle-ci correspond au besoin
dexpriences nouvelles, complexes et varies et la volont de prendre des risques physiques et sociaux
dans le but dobtenir et de maintenir un niveau optimal lev dactivation crbrale.
Lchelle de recherche de sensations, - Sensation Seeker Scale - (SSS), comporte quatre facteurs qui
dfinissent ce phnomne :
1. recherche de danger/aventure - attrait pour les sports et les conduites risques, impliquant vitesse et
danger.
2. recherche dexprience - attrait pour des activits intellectuelles ou sensorielles.
3. desinhibition - attrait pour la boisson, lalcool, les excs sexuels.
4. susceptibilit lennui.
Il existe une relation troite - mais non-spcifique et non-exclusive - entre addictions et recherche de
sensations.
Une tude ralise par Bridget Murray, enseignante dans une grande cole amricaine, analyse le
phnomne des conversations on-line sur lInternet Relay Chat - lIRC -, moyens de conversation en ligne

et en temps rel par lintermde dun groupe de discussion. Laccs est libre, conditionn par le simple
choix dun pseudonyme - garantissant un anonymat total. Son crateur, le finlandais Jarkko Oikarinen, luimme un ancien cyberdpendant, dcrit lIRC comme un moyen de conversation envotant, accaparant,
vecteur dune fausse socialisation. LIRC reprsente "une passerelle" du rel vers la "ralit virtuelle", et
surtout vite le contact direct dans un face--face. Lemprise de ce moyen de communication est immense
sur certains des cyberaddictifs, capables de rsister devant leur cran et clavier pendant des longues heures,
afin de pouvoir communiquer avec dautres passionns, presque toujours dans le dtriment de leur vie
sociale, familiale, professionnelle. En conclusion, l'tude souligne limportance de ces passages artificiels,
qui permettent finalement linstallation de la communication sans la contrainte daffronter la ralit.
Pour Jonathan Kendall, University of Maryland-College Park, cette emprise est celle dun "vide descendant
en spirale, avec un fort pouvoir daspiration". Dailleurs, le surnom de lInternet, est le Web, mot signifiant
en anglais toile daraigne. Cette toile, tisse linfini, peut fort bien devenir envotante, accaparante
pour celui qui lapproche de trop prs.
Ces exemples montrent la difficult de la prise en charge des conduites addictives. Les psychologues, les
mdecins sont daccord sur le fait que les cyberdpendants, chacun avec sa spcificit et sa personnalit,
ont droit un regard diffrent, une approche thrapeutique adapte au cas par cas. Lexprience confirme
que ltape la plus importante dans le dclenchement dune prise en charge et qui aura les meilleures
chances daboutissement, passe dabord par la reconnaissance de sa dpendance.
Une partie des thrapeutes, considre que les thrapies les mieux adaptes sont les psychothrapies de type
analytiques, qui utilisent comme support principal le langage verbal en tant quexpression sonore de la
pense. Un tel langage doit tre rhabilit dans sa fonctionnalit. La fonction de penser, qui est dans le cas
des cyberaddictifs plus importante que lexpression orale, doit tre investie afin daboutir la restauration
de la parole. Nouer ou renouer des liens de solidarit et dentraide, rtablir des relations humaines, aidera
les gens parler deux-mmes et de leurs problmes.
Pour certains, il faut soutenir les sujets afin de grer leurs comportements en les aidant prendre
conscience des facteurs qui contribuent lapparition de laddiction (ractions aux stress, traits de
personnalit...), des effets de leurs comportements et de les aider amnager leurs rponses dune manire
plus pertinente. La resocialisation des sujets peut se faire par la mise en place des groupes de paroles
directes, en face face, en associant des ex-internautes dpendants, avec un suivi au long cours. Cela
implique galement un rseau dintervenants prpars comprendre leur mode particulier de relation aux
objets.
Sur ce sujet, les expriences nord-amricaines sont assez compltes, avec cependant une critique
concernant la faible importance accorde la prise en charge thrapeutique individuelle, laccent tant mis
sur les thrapies de groupe. La partie sur laquelle ils ont une avance, cest la mise en place de sites
Internet (peut-on oser lutilisation du terme substitution ?!) reprsentant des groupes de paroles but
thrapeutique, sadressant dune manire anonyme aux cyberdpendants. Les groupes de paroles, cres par
les ex-dpendants, ou par les familles et les gens de lentourage, ont la qualit et lavantage de faciliter le
dialogue, dans un premier temps laide des groupes IRC et par la suite en encourageant les dialogues
face--face.
Kathleen Scherer, psychologue amricaine, a dirige une session dinformation et un groupe de parole dans
le cadre de lUniversit de Texas. Lexprience tait suivie par 60 tudiants, qui ont essay dapprendre
contrler leur temps de connexion dans les IRC ou dans les groupes de jeux virtuels. Cet apprentissage
allait jusqu' la suppression de leurs abonnements Internet. Pour une meilleure valuation de cette
exprience, Scherer, en collaboration avec Jane Morgan Bost, psychologue dans le Centre de Sant
Mentale de Texas, a conduit une enqute de type cohorte sur 1000 tudiants, les uns utilisateurs
dInternet, les autres non-utilisateurs. Cette enqute avait comme objectif ltablissement des formes
cliniques de dpendance et les meilleures prises en charge psychothrapeutiques. Le rsultat, aussi

paradoxale que ce soit, souligne le rle et limportance des groupes de paroles IRC ayant comme thme la
dpendance et laide on-line, mais aussi le rle du facteur ducationnel, la seule contrainte tant celle de la
capacit de faire la diffrence sur la valeur des sites et surtout, de bien connatre ses propres limites. Le
paradoxe, est lutilisation du facteur incrimin dans le dclenchement de la conduite addictive, en tant que
moyen de lutte contre celle-ci. Lacceptation de ce moyen est rciproque, aussi par les thrapeutes que par
les addicts.
Le concepteur du site Internet Stress Scale, le Dr.Orman, essaie de venir en aide avec des textes explicatifs,
qui traitent les situations de stress rsultant du travail sur ordinateur. La tendance de devenir dpendant
lInternet, est teste laide de neufs items. Le but, est de rpondre par oui ou par non ces questions, le
score total obtenu illustrant le degr de dpendance ou de non-dpendance. (annexe 1). Un tel test un ct
un peu trop simpliste, qui ne tient pas compte des facteurs fragilisants, des facteurs de la personnalit ou
des situations de dpressions dans lesquelles se trouvent les personnes addictes. Nanmoins, cest un test
facile pratiquer, qui permet de dmarrer une ventuelle prise en charge. En outre, il souligne dune
manire assez prcise limportance dune meilleure gestion et dun meilleur contrle de son temps.
Interneters Anonymous, est un groupe dhommes et de femmes qui partagent leurs expriences, afin de
renforcer la motivation de ceux qui ont envie de retrouver une vie normale aprs les comportements
cyberaddictifs . Leur programme est calqu sur le modle utilis par les Alcooliques Anonymes, avec les
douze tapes de reconnaissance de limpuissance devant lobjet ou le sujet de laddiction : Internet. Leur
manire de rentrer en contact utilise le Web, avec une page qui contient des exemples personnels, des
tmoignage et les adresses dautres personnes qui ont besoin ou qui peuvent aider. La seule condition
requise dans le cadre de leur programme, est la reconnaissance sans ambigut de ltat de dpendance et
de la perte de libert. Lexprience et la rputation des groupes de paroles constitus sur le principe des
Alcooliques Anonymes ou des Narcotiques Anonymes, donne une caution de valeur un site de ce style.
(annexe 2).
*
En conclusion, on peut considrer que si la ralit clinique des addictions est un fait unanimement accept,
les nouvelles addictions - jeu pathologique, sexualit pathologique, achats compulsifs - sont encore dans la
phase dacceptation par la communaut scientifique. La difficult principale est celle de ltablissement des
critres valables de dfinition. Dans la classification de rfrence lheure actuelle (le DSM-IV) ces
conduites figurent parmi des "Troubles du contrle des impulsions ", catgorie pouvant englober aussi le
concept d"Internet Addiction". Ce dernier, est trs peu connu dans le milieu professionnel, les quelques
tudes faites aux Etats-Unis ou au Canada tant de date rcente, avec une casuistique restreinte, les critres
de laddiction tant prsents. Lexprience des mdecins et psychologues qui ont effectu ces enqutes
prouvent le bien fond de lutilisation du terme de conduite addictive par rapport lusage rptitif,
intensif, qui chappe tout contrle, par rapport aux signes de dpendance psychologique et lexistence
d'un syndrome de sevrage et par rapport aux consquences socio-professionnelles et familiales. Une des
spcificits de ce problme, cest la possibilit de rencontrer une polyaddiction, lassociation entre la
cyberaddiction, la sexualit assiste par ordinateur, le jeu pathologique et les conduites dachats
compulsifs, tant courante dans les troubles de comportements des personnes impliques.
Les cyberaddictifs - ces accros de la connexion et de la communication, ces drogus du virtuel, expriment
peut-tre la raction du consommateur lambda au flux dinformation, au changement de la reprsentation et
la modification du sens de la finalit existentielle. On peut penser que le rapport la ralit change de
nature : le virtuel devient aussi rel que le rel, lespce humaine devenant contrainte de vivre de plus en
plus dans des reprsentations de la ralit plutt que dans la ralit elle-mme.
Le Web avec sa toile invisible qui se rpand dans lespace plantaire, devient un lieu de refuge par
excellence pour ces personnes qui narrivent pas sexprimer, pour qui la parole et le contact humain nont
plus de valeur vritable. La ngation de leurs problmes, les poussent se cacher derrire la toile du Web,

dans la ralit virtuelle des espaces de confrences, des IRC, des jeux en rseau, l o ils vont rencontrer
les autres " cybriens ", prts changer lexpression orale par la transmission de leur penss
informatises. Toutes ces notions, lies aux mouvements continus, en volution rapide et permanente, font
du Web lexpression frappante dun changement, dun monde en pleine dynamique mutante, qui exhorte
limmobilisme et les reprsentations statiques. Cest l, un autre aspect dInternet, qui possde une valeur
symbolique intrinsque propre, avec une connotation despace illimit conqurir et peupler, qui joint la
notion dinfini, mais dans le mme temps est associ un cadre protecteur.
Il faudrait se poser la question si le cyberespace pouvait un jour demander sa reconnaissance en tant
qutat, fort de 37 millions dinternautes qui ont lu domicile, qui vivent selon des normes de vie trs
initiatiques, dune faon artificielle. Les changes et les contacts sont habituellement raliss par
lintermde des groupes de paroles virtuelles, ou dans un proche avenir, laide des outils fort potentiel
virtuel, comme les gants, les combinaisons et les lunettes.
Et pourtant, lInternet c'est le vecteur de la rvolution culturelle et scientifique qui va nous aider devenir
plus performants, mieux informs, avec une qualit et une rapidit de vhiculation de linformation sans
prcdent. Les tudiants, les enseignants, ont la possibilit de communiquer et de se tenir au courant tout
instant de tous les progrs ; dans le domaine des conduites addictives mmes, lInternet offre une base
immense de donnes, des sites de parole et dchange crs par des ex-addictifs, par des universits ou des
associations dentraide.
LInternet fait partie actuellement dune ralit ambientale, le dveloppement futur des autoroutes de
linformation fera du rseau des rseaux un outil trs puissant au service de lhumanit.
Le rel et le virtuel ne sont plus indissociables ; ils se compltent et sexpliquent rciproquement.
Lhumanit doit sefforcer de prendre en compte le besoin dun changement dans ses rapports au rel et au
virtuel, entre le monde de la ralit qui est par dfinition clos et un monde virtuel tourn vers linfini, en
relation avec limaginaire.
*
Liste bibliographique :

1.
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5.
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Bailly D., Venisse J.-L. , Dpendance et conduites de dpendance, 1994, Paris, Masson
Bergeret Jean, Le psychanalyste lcoute du toxicomane, 1981, Paris, Dunod
Bergeret Jean, Les conduites addictives. Approche clinique et thrapeutique, 1991
Dantec Maurice, Les racines du Mal, Gallimard, Srie Noire
Dufour A., Internet, Que sais-je?, 1995, PUF
Finkelkraut Alain - "L'utopie du cybermonde", mission France Culture avec Jol de Rosnay et
Paul Virilio (4/12/1995), article Internet
Goddard M., Goddard P., Internet et la mdecine, 1997, Paris, Masson
Goodman A., Addiction : dfinition and implication, British Journal of Addiction, 1990, 85, 14031408
Jeammet P., Psychopathologie des conduites de dpendance et daddiction, 1995, Clinique
mditerranennes, 47/48
Jolivalt B., La ralit virtuelle, 1995, Paris, PUF
Leary Timothy, Personal computers / Personal freedom, article Internet
Lecourt Dominique, Le savoir en cyberie, Le Monde de l'Education, de la Culture et de la
Formation, avr 1997, 247, 30-31
Levine J.R., Baroudi C., Internet pour les nuls, 1994, Paris, Sybex

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avr. 1997, 247, 46-47


Parody Emmanuel, Fantasmes et dmocratie virtuelle, Plante Internet, avr.1997, 18, 18
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1997, 247, 20-21
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fvr. 1997, 144, 42-48
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Wiener Norbert, The Human Use of Human Beings, 2nd edition, 1954, New York, Da Capo Press

ANNEXES :
INTERNET STRESS SCALE
1. Est-ce que vous passez plus de temps connect sur lInternet, que vous auriez penser
initialement ?
OUI
NON
2. Est-ce que a vous drange de limiter le temps pass sur lInternet ?
OUI
NON
3. Est-ce que des amis ou des membres de votre famille se sont plaint par rapport au temps que vous
passez sur lInternet ?
OUI
NON
4. Est-ce que vous trouvez difficile de rester sans tre connect pendant quelques jours ?
OUI
NON
5. Est-ce que le rendement de votre travail professionnel ou les relations personnel, ont souffert
cause du temps que vous passez sur lInternet ?
OUI
NON
6. Est-ce quil y a des zones de lInternet, des sites particuliers, que vous trouvez difficile viter ?
OUI
NON
7. Est-ce que vous avez du mal contrler limpulsion dacheter des produits ou des services tant
en relation avec lInternet ?
OUI
NON
8. Avez-vous essay, sans succs, dcourter lusage de lInternet ?
OUI
NON
9. Est-ce que vous dviez beaucoup de vos champs daction et satisfaction, cause de lInternet ?
OUI
NON
De 0 3 rponses positives, il y a une petite tendance devenir addictif Internet.
Entre 4-6 rponses positives, il y a une chance de dvelopper cette conduite addictive.
LES DOUZE TAPES DE LINTERNET ADDICTION

1. Admettre tre impuissants devant LInternet et les services on-line - on admets que nos
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ordinateurs et nos modems sont surutiliss.


Croire que le tout-puissant webmaster peut nous redonner la sant desprit.
Prendre une dcision pour faire changer nos dsirs, nos vies et nos souris vers le tout
puissant webmaster.
Faire une recherche sans crainte de nos disques durs.
Faire accepter par le tout-puissant webmaster, par nous-mmes la nature exacte de notre
addiction.
On est prts supprimer tous les enregistrements de nos adresses Internet.
On supplie humblement le tout-puissant webmaster de retirer nos pages Web de tous les
moteurs de recherche.
Crer une liste des groupes de parole visits et admettre notre addiction aux membres de
chacun de ces IRC.
Corriger notre apparence devant tous les membres de ces IRC qui on a menti par rapport
cela.
Continuer de faire linventaire de tous nos disques durs et supprimer tous les fichiers quon
a pu tlcharger sur Internet.
Rechercher par cble et par autre moyen Internet damliorer notre contact conscient avec
le tout-puissant webmaster.
Essayer de baisser sa note de connexion lInternet, la facture dlectricit et de tlphonie
comme un rsultat de ces tapes, essayer de faire porter ce message aux autres internautes ,
essayer de maintenir cette conduite dans notre vie courante.

TRAITS DE CARACTRE DES CYBERDPENDANTS


Immaturit socio-affective
Vide identificatoire
Frustration et incapacit de surmonter celle-ci
Anxit
Troubles de comportements et dpendance affective
Sentiment de non-valeur et de non-reconnaissnace
Sentiment d'isolement et caractre solitaire
Incomptence motionnelle

Le rsultat de ces manifestations : une grande difficult d'adaptabilit, un refus d'acceptation du


monde rel, la recherche d'une chappatoire et le refuge dans le monde virtuel.
Le phnomne d'appartenance groupale, est un facteur de renforcement positif.
Il existe un rel fluide motionnel et fantasmatique entre les membres du groupe, qui recherche en
permanence un leader, pour remplacer l'image paternelle ou simplement pour tre dcharg de toute
responsabilit.
La place de leader est objet de convoitise, mais la force de celui-ci peut aller jusqu' bannir les intrus
qui mettrait en jeu son rle.

Le groupe contribue la construction d'un imaginaire collectif, authentifiant les vrits virtuelles.
La cyberdpendance est un mode de rsolution particulire d'un trouble de comportement.
Plusieurs motivations :
Loisirs
Augmentation des performances
Accrotre sa capacit d'adaptabilit
Refuge virtuel
Trouver des compagnons
Reformer un cercle d'initi
Dans une dimension de "culte de la performance", les utilisateurs accros du Web, cherche
renforcer leur potentiel.
Le grand combat des cyberdpendants est celui contre la solitude ; paradoxalement, la connexion
Web serait de nature combler le vide autour de soi, et la prsence virtuelle de compagnons est
rassurante.