Aboujaoude said he found most concerning the numbers of people who hid their nonessential Internet use or used the Internet to escape a negative mood, much in the same way that alcoholics might. "In a sense, they're using the Internet to 'self-medicate,'" he said. "And obviously something is wrong when people go out of their way to hide their Internet activity."
While the numbers indicate that a subset of people might have a problem with Internet use, Aboujaoude stressed that it's premature to say whether people in the sample actually have a clinical disorder. "We're not saying this is a diagnosis - we still need to learn a lot more," he said. "But this study was a necessary first step toward possibly identifying something clinically significant."
Aboujaoude said the next step is to conduct comprehensive clinical interviews on a large sample of people to better identify clinically relevant markers for problematic Internet use, and to better understand whether this phenomenon constitutes an independent psychological disorder.
Michelle Brandt | EurekAlert!
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