Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Health Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Health Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Substance-Related Disorders, Uncategorized.

Description: Saying someone is “addicted” to something is quite a common statement. People are said to be addicted to work, to sex, or to their smart phones or to the Internet. Are these sorts of “addictions” real? These articles have a look at this question.


Date: Released March 6, 2015

Cell Phone

Photo Source:

Links:     See sources above

So have you ever worried about the amount of time you or a friend spend doing stuff on a smartphone? Have you ever told a friend they seem to be addicted to their smartphone, or to the Internet or to gaming (League of Legends? World of Warcraft?) or ever worried about the amount of time you spend doing, or your “need to do,” such things? When we use the term addiction in such instances is that different than how psychologists or psychiatrists would use it? Let’s have a look. Can smartphone use interfere with you daily life and adjustment? Maybe. A study by Pearson and Hussain (2015) suggests that the average user spends 3.6 hours a day on their device (and many spend FAR more). 35% say their use their phone in banned areas. 25% said their device created communication issues in “real life.” The authors report that the highest rates of potentially addictive use are associated with moodiness, loneliness, jealousy and significantly higher scores on the personality dimension of narcissism (marked by excessive selfie-taking). These lead the researchers to suggest that smartphone overuse can impact psychological well-being (a symptom of maladjustment or, perhaps, addiction).

Ronald Pies (2009) provides an overview of the criteria that were used as part of the discussion leading up to the decision to the decision not to include “Internet Addiction” in the new 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). He points out that “psychiatric disorders have proliferated like rabbits in recent years.” Pies weighs the evidence and concludes there is not sufficient grounds to include internet addiction in the DSM-5. Internet Gaming Disorder WAS included in the DSM-5 in an appendix of potential disorders for further consideration and research.

Note: this post was edited following  thoughtful comments offered by Ronald Pies shortly after the blog was originally posted (see comment below). I thank him for his correction and input — Mike Boyes.


Questions for Discussion:

  1. What criteria might we use to identify behaviours as reflecting underlying addictions?
  2. Should excessive smartphone use be considered a possible addiction?
  3. How might we distinguish between new addictions and behaviours that simply reflect new social trends that many people do not yet understand?

References (Read Further):

Pearson, Claire and Hussain, Zaheer (2015) Smartphone use, addiction, narcissism, and personality: A mixed methods in investigation, Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning, 5(1), 16 pages

Adiele, Ikenna and Olatokun, Wole (2014) Prevelance and determnants of Internet addiction among adolescents. Computers in Human Behavior, 31, 100-110.

Weinstein, Ava, Feder, Laura, Rosenberg, Kenneth P., and Dannon, Pinhas (2014) Internet addiction disorders: Overview and controversies, in Feder, Laura and Rosenberg, Kenneth P. (Eds.) Behavioral Addictions: Criteria Evidence and Treatment. Academic Press. Pp 99-117.

One Response to “Smartphone Addiction? Potential Disorders have Proliferated like Rabbits”

  1. Ronald Pies MD

    The topic of “behavioral addiction” is important and controversial. And, while I appreciate the citation of my 2009 article, I would like to correct a significant inaccuracy in the posting on “Smartphone addiction.” The piece states that “Internet Addiction IS now a part of the DSM-V…”, which is not really the case–at least as “Internet Addiction” (IA) is generally defined.

    Perhaps the writer was confused by the inclusion of “Internet Gaming Disorder” (IGD) in the section of DSM-5 titled, “Conditions for Further Study.” IGD is described there (p. 795) specifically with reference to preoccupation with internet games–not with excessive use of the internet as such, such as time spent on social media, news, or even pornography. As the article by Weinstein et al (referenced above) points out:

    “IAD [Internet Addiction Disorder] was initially proposed for inclusion in the 2013 DSM-5 but was not…recognized as a disorder; however, Internet Gaming Disorder was included in the DSM-5 appendix of disorders for further consideration and study.”

    The questions I explore in my 2009 article are (1) whether IA is a disorder in its own right, or the reflection of another underlying psychiatric problem; and (2) whether the term “addiction” applies in the same way to so-called IA as it does to conditions of clear-cut physical
    addiction, such as barbiturate or opioid addiction. On these two points,
    I think the jury is still out, and more research is needed. That said–and despite my arguments against including “internet addiction” (IA) in the DSM-5–there are certainly individuals whose constant use of the internet leads to serious problems in their social and vocational function.

    Ronald Pies MD
    SUNY Upstate Medical University
    and Tufts University

Comments are closed.