Mood Problems Increase Risk for Internet Addiction

The research on Internet addiction has grown rapidly in recent years. Some evidence suggests that people who are addicted to the Internet demonstrate symptoms similar to those found in other addictions. For instance, existing psychological problems and maladaptive behaviors such as depression, low self-esteem, attention deficit hyperactivity, impulsivity, risk-taking, and sensation-seeking are all common risk factors for addiction to gambling, pornography, and even sex. But until now, no study has looked the direct emotional effect of Internet use on people with these risk factors, in comparison to people without. Michela Romano of the University of Milan in Italy decided to study people addicted to the Internet during and after Internet use compared to those who were not addicted.

Romano enlisted 60 young adult men and women to participate in the study. The participants were assessed for addiction, anxiety, mood, autism, depression, and psychosis. They were allowed to use the Internet for 15 minutes, after which time they were reevaluated for anxiety and mood. Romano found that those with addictive traits were more likely to have impulsive behavior, depression, or autistic characteristics. They also had sharp drops in mood after they stopped using the Internet, compared to those who had no Internet addiction. The results suggest that perhaps these individuals use the Internet to return their moods to positive states, similar to how individuals addicted to pornography, gambling, and sex continually engage in negative behaviors.

The results also showed a link between autism and Internet addiction. Romano believes that isolation, which is common for people with autism, may increase Internet use for these individuals. Additionally, depression, which was also found to be higher in those addicted to the Internet, has an isolation element and could increase risk for Internet addiction. One final interesting finding was the finding relating to gender. Romano added, “The gender split of those with problematic Internet use versus those without was even, suggesting that typical views of Internet addiction as a male problem are (certainly, now) unfounded.” Overall, these findings provide new insight into risk factors for and behaviors associated with Internet addiction. Future work should extend these findings and focus also on ways to decrease the negative impact of Internet use on those at risk for addiction.

Romano, M., Osborne, L.A., Truzoli, R., Reed, P. (2013). Differential psychological impact of Internet exposure on Internet addicts. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55162.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055162

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  • ronald


    May 7th, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    true?yes.unexpected?not really.

    when your mood is off and you are low you would obviously look for things that help you feel better.that is true with all addictions or if we can call them indulgences if they do not exceed a limit.same is true for the internet.if it helps cheer me up I will use it more often.its as simple as that.

  • Libba


    May 8th, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    I guess I have thought in the past that internet addiction wasn’t something that was real, it was just an excuse to goof off and play around on the computer all day. I would like to thank the contributors here for opening my eyes, that this is something that is real, maybe not something that many of us understand but indeed something that does afflict a whole lot of people apparently and that needs to be treated in the same way that others addictions are handled. It doesn’t need to be brushed off just because some think that it isn’t real.

  • Marilyn Lancelot

    Marilyn Lancelot

    May 8th, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Gripped by Gambling. Sure, everyone loves to gamble . . . if they win. But, the person sitting next to you in church, the man in line at the grocery store, or one of your co-workers; any one of these could be involved with a gambling problem. Imagine your grandmother committing a crime to support her gambling addiction. I am a recovering alcoholic, gambler, and have recovered from other addictive behaviors. I published a book, Gripped by Gambling, where the readers can follow the destructive path of the compulsive gambler, a prison sentence, and then on to the recovery road.

    I also publish a free online newsletter, Women Helping Women, which has been on-line for more than twelve years and is read by hundreds of women (and men) from around the world. ( I have been interviewed many times, and appeared on the 60 Minutes show in January 2011, which was moderated by Leslie Stahl.


    Marilyn Lancelot

  • martin


    May 8th, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    wow these people sure are addicted.if being online brings their mood up then they can easily become dependent.this is no less than drugs!just wow!

  • Bob


    May 8th, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    Thanks for publishing this article, I found it particularly interesting that both men and women are equally affected. I was under the misguided perception that it’s mainly a male problem.

  • Mark Dempster Addiction Counselling

    Mark Dempster Addiction Counselling

    August 16th, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    The growing number of people I help with internet addiction is taking over more and more. There is a lot of depression surrounding the cases and working on these underlying issues tends to be what is the key driver and solution for their addiction to internet. Although for gambling online addiction it is a bit different, for the technology obsessed the key to breaking addiction and head towards a strong recovery is to unpack the issues surrounding what is typically a symptom.

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