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The imperative of integrating empirical and theoretical considerations when developing policy responses to Internet-gaming disorder

Commentary on: Policy responses to problematic video game use: A systematic review of current measures and future possibilities (Király et al., 2018)

Authors: Elisa Wegmann and Matthias Brand

This commentary proposes an integrative approach of theoretical and empirical considerations when developing policy responses to Internet-gaming disorder and when evaluating their efficacy. It complements the overview by Király et al. (2018) about preventive and treatment programs by referring to a lack of inclusion of internal factors, such as individual aspects and cognitions, and missing empirical evidence. This commentary claims the integration of current research addressing individual predisposing and maintaining factors in order to evaluate existing programs and to enhance the exchange between actors including policy. This integrative approach has the potential to develop successful preventive strategies, which could be implemented realistically and socially responsible.

Open access

Background and Aims

Most people use the Internet in a functional way to achieve certain goals and needs. However, there is an increasing number of people who experience negative consequences like loss of control and distress based on an excessive use of the Internet and its specific online applications. Some approaches postulate similarities with behavioral addictions as well as substance dependencies. They differentiate between a generalized and a specific Internet addiction, such as the pathological use of social networking sites (SIA–SNS). Prior studies particularly identified the use of applications, personal characteristics, and psychopathological symptoms as significant predictors for the development and maintenance of this phenomenon. So far, it remains unclear how psychopathological symptoms like depression and social anxiety interact with individual expectancies of Internet use and capabilities of handling the Internet, summarized as Internet literacy.

Methods

The current study (N = 334) investigated the interaction of these components in a structural equation model.

Results

The results indicate that the effects of depression and social anxiety on SIA–SNS were mediated by Internet use expectancies and self-regulation.

Discussion

Thus, Internet use expectancies seem to be crucial for SIA–SNS, which is in line with prior models.

Conclusions

SNS use may be reinforced by experienced gratification and relief from negative feelings. Individual competences in handling the Internet may be preventive for the development of SIA–SNS.

Open access
Authors: Christian Montag, Elisa Wegmann, Rayna Sariyska, Zsolt Demetrovics and Matthias Brand

Aims

The present theoretical paper introduces the smartphone technology as a challenge for diagnostics in the study of Internet use disorders and reflects on the term “smartphone addiction.”

Methods

Such a reflection is carried out against the background of a literature review and the inclusion of Gaming Disorder in ICD-11.

Results

We believe that it is necessary to divide research on Internet use disorder (IUD) into a mobile and non-mobile IUD branch. This is important because certain applications such as the messenger application WhatsApp have originally been developed for smartphones and enfold their power and attractiveness mainly on mobile devices.

Discussion and conclusions

Going beyond the argumentation for distinguishing between mobile and non-mobile IUD, it is of high relevance for scientists to better describe and understand what persons are actually (over-)using. This is stressed by a number of examples, explicitly targeting not only the diverse contents used in the online world, but also the exact behavior on each platform. Among others, it matters if a person is more of an active producer of content or passive consumer of social media.

Open access
Authors: Stephanie Antons, Silke M. Mueller, Elisa Wegmann, Patrick Trotzke, Max M. Schulte and Matthias Brand

Background and aims

Unregulated Internet pornography (IP) use is discussed as a clinically significant disorder. Because of its primarily rewarding nature, IP is a predestinated target for addictive behaviors. However, not every user develops an unregulated usage pattern. In fact, most users tend to use IP recreationally. Impulsivity-related constructs have been identified as promoters of addictive behaviors. It is unclear whether these impulsivity-related constructs are specific for unregulated IP use or also play a role in recreational but frequent behaviors. In this study, we investigated impulsive tendencies (trait impulsivity, delay discounting, and cognitive style), craving toward IP, attitude regarding IP, and coping styles in individuals with recreational–occasional, recreational–frequent, and unregulated IP use.

Methods

A total of 1,498 heterosexual males participated in an online survey. Groups of individuals with recreational–occasional use (n = 333), recreational–frequent use (n = 394), and unregulated use (n = 225) of IP were identified by screening instruments.

Results

Craving and attitude regarding IP as well as delay discounting and cognitive and coping styles differed between groups. Individuals with unregulated use showed the highest scores for craving, attentional impulsivity, delay discounting, and dysfunctional coping, and lowest scores for functional coping and need for cognition. Recreational–frequent users had the most positive attitude toward IP. Motor and non-planning impulsivity did not differ between groups.

Discussion and conclusions

The results indicate that some facets of impulsivity and related factors such as craving and a more negative attitude are specific for unregulated IP users. The results are also consistent with models on specific Internet use disorders and addictive behaviors.

Open access
Authors: Matthias Brand, Hans-JÜrgen Rumpf, Zsolt Demetrovics, Astrid MÜller, Rudolf Stark, Daniel L. King, Anna E. Goudriaan, Karl Mann, Patrick Trotzke, Naomi A. Fineberg, Samuel R. Chamberlain, Shane W. Kraus, Elisa Wegmann, JoËl Billieux and Marc N. Potenza

Abstract

Background

Gambling and gaming disorders have been included as “disorders due to addictive behaviors” in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Other problematic behaviors may be considered as “other specified disorders due to addictive behaviors (6C5Y).”

Methods

Narrative review, experts' opinions.

Results

We suggest the following meta-level criteria for considering potential addictive behaviors as fulfilling the category of “other specified disorders due to addictive behaviors”:

1. Clinical relevance: Empirical evidence from multiple scientific studies demonstrates that the specific potential addictive behavior is clinically relevant and individuals experience negative consequences and functional impairments in daily life due to the problematic and potentially addictive behavior.

2. Theoretical embedding: Current theories and theoretical models belonging to the field of research on addictive behaviors describe and explain most appropriately the candidate phenomenon of a potential addictive behavior.

3. Empirical evidence: Data based on self-reports, clinical interviews, surveys, behavioral experiments, and, if available, biological investigations (neural, physiological, genetic) suggest that psychological (and neurobiological) mechanisms involved in other addictive behaviors are also valid for the candidate phenomenon. Varying degrees of support for problematic forms of pornography use, buying and shopping, and use of social networks are available. These conditions may fit the category of “other specified disorders due to addictive behaviors”.

Conclusion

It is important not to over-pathologize everyday-life behavior while concurrently not trivializing conditions that are of clinical importance and that deserve public health considerations. The proposed meta-level-criteria may help guide both research efforts and clinical practice.

Open access