Unifying Concepts

Diagnostic Criteria for Internet Addiction

Behavioural addiction affects a vast number of individuals and occurs when people find themselves unable to control the frequency or amount of a previously harmless behavior such as love, sex, gambling, work, internet and chatroom usage, shopping or exercise. Behavioural addictions are considered impulse-control disorders and share many underlying similarities to substance addictions, including aspects of tolerance, withdrawal, repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit and impairment in everyday life functioning.

Proposed Diagnostic Criteria for Internet Addiction

(a) Symptom criterion
All the following must be present:

  1. Preoccupation with the internet (thinks about previous online activity or anticipates next online session)
  2. Withdrawal, as manifested by a dysphoric mood, anxiety, irritability and boredom after several days without internet activity

At least one (or more) of the following:

  1. Tolerance, marked increase in internet use required to achieve satisfaction
  2. Persistent desire and/or unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back or discontinue internet use
  3. Continued excessive use of internet despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem likely to have been caused or exacerbated by internet use
  4. Loss of interests, previous hobbies, entertainment as a direct result of, and with the exception of, internet use
  5. Uses the internet to escape or relieve a dysphoric mood (e.g. feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety)

(b) Exclusion criterion:
Excessive internet use is not better accounted for by psychotic disorders or bipolar I disorder

(c) Clinically significant impairment criterion:
Functional impairments (reduced social, academic, working ability), including loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunities

(d) Course criterion
Duration of internet addiction must have lasted for an excess of 3 months, with at least 6 hours of internet usage(non-business/non-academic) per day



  1. Tao R, Huang X, Wang J, Zhang H, Zhang Y, Li M. Proposed diagnostic criteria for internet addiction. Addiction. 2010 Mar;105(3):556-64. [Medline]
  2. Jorgenson AG, Hsiao RC, Yen CF. Internet Addiction and Other Behavioral Addictions. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2016 Jul;25(3):509-20. [Medline]


Created Mar 5, 2020

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