Is internet addiction a real condition?

Addiction to the internet may be a real problem and not simply a figment of a person's imagination. This is the suggestion of new research from the University of Bonn, which found some individuals exhibit problematic behaviour when it comes to how they handle the medium of being online.

It was demonstrated that these people believe their wellbeing suffers whenever they go a certain length of time without logging on, while their thoughts often centre on the web throughout the day.

Investigators from the University of Bonn and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim discovered these individuals often carry the CHRNA4 gene variation - something that also impacts nicotine addiction.

Dr Christian Montag from the Department for Differential and Biological Psychology at the learning institute noted: "A mutation on the related gene promotes addictive behaviour ... It seems that this connection is not only essential for nicotine addiction, but also for internet addiction."

Chartered Psychologist Professor Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University comments:

"This latest study from Christian Montag and his colleagues at the University of Bonn and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim provides some biological evidence that ‘internet addiction’ exists.

"This supports the general findings of an upcoming review paper ("Internet and gaming addiction: A systematic literature review of neuroimaging studies. ") that Daria Kuss and I have coming out in the journal Brain Sciences on neuroimaging studies examining online excess.

"However, definitions of ‘internet addiction’ differ widely from study to study, and there is a fundamental difference between addictions to the internet (such as people addicted to online chat rooms who can’t engage in their behaviour in any other place than on the internet), and addictions on the internet (such as online gambling addicts or online video gamers who if the internet is unavailable can still engage in their behaviour offline).

"Overall, the results of this study suggest something I have long advocated that genes may have a contributory effect for addiction in general rather than very specific addictive behaviours."