How do you draw the line between ‘addiction’ and heavy use when it comes to using technology like games and the internet?
Since 2011, I have focussed on improving the definition and assessment of these addictive disorders for both research and clinical contexts.
This was an area that first grabbed my attention when I was a psychology undergraduate student at the Institute of Applied Psychology in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010. It led to my masters research which was the first study of internet addiction ever conducted in Portugal. Of course, I still had more questions than answers, so I took on this challenge by doing a PhD at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom. Here, I was lucky to work with Professor Mark Griffiths, and my work focussed on addictive disorders in relation to both excessive internet and games.
The way that we think about ‘addiction’ is rapidly changing. Traditionally, the focus has been on problems from repeatedly taking substances. However, we are now increasingly recognising that potentially addictive behaviours can include use of the internet and social media, videogames, gambling, eating, sex, love, exercise, study, and work.
A key “components model of addiction” (Griffiths, 2005) argues that all addictive disorders, whether they come from substances or behaviours, includes six key components: salience (particularly prominent), a mood modification role, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, conflict and relapse. Of course, addiction is more than just these components and arises from the way that a person’s biology, cognition and their social context interacts. Certain structural aspects of activities (such as gaming) can also make them more likely to cause addictions – such as availability, anonymity and reward schedules. As such, we need to take into account the way that all of these individual, environmental and structural factors combine to understand addictive disorders.
It is clear that addictive disorders relating to both substances and behaviours share a great number of neurobiological commonalities – and this indicates that there are common causes underpinning all types of addictive behaviours. Although each ‘type’ of addiction will present with particular behaviours and course, understanding these similarities is critical for developing effective treatment and preventative measures.
Don’t forget to check my website in case you are interested in knowing more about the work I do here at the University of Tasmania on the psychology of addictive behaviours. Feel free to get in touch by email if you want to ask me something that was not discussed here: email@example.com