Definition of Cyberaddiction/Cyberdependence

What is cyberaddiction/cyberdependence?

The terms most often used to define problematic video game or Internet use are "cyberaddiction" or "cyberdependence" The "cyber" in these terms relates to the different possible uses of the Internet (see FAQ: Types of Internet activity). The concepts of addiction and dependence are often used synonymously. However, the clinical characteristics belonging to each term are somewhat different. Strictly speaking, we consider dependence to be present when a person has two types of symptoms. The first is irritability or nervousness when the behaviour (playing or substance use) is stopped. These are known as withdrawal symptoms. The second symptom is tolerance, or the need to increase the behaviour in order to gain satisfaction. We consider addiction to be present when we find elements of compulsion (repeating behaviour in order to escape negative feelings) and impulsiveness (loss of control over playing, negative consequences etc.), in addition of withdrawal and tolerance symptoms.

Not all problematic video game or Internet users will show these characteristics. In some situations, excessive use could be one symptom among many, within the context of an adjustment disorder (difficulties in adapting to a new context within one`s life). Such difficulties may be linked to major changes for example leaving the family home during adolescence or early adulthood.  Alternatively, problematic use could be indicative of other emotional difficulties (anxiety, depression, personality disorders).

Given the current understanding it may be wise to avoid using the terms cyberaddiction or addiction. These terms seems appropriate for only certain people who experience difficulties in controlling their video game or Internet use.

bandeau bottom CJE - Centre du jeu excessif UNIGE - Université de Genève IMSP - Institut de Médecine Sociale et Préventive CHUV - Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois

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