Is internet addiction a sign of PSYCHOPATHY? Study claims obsession to be online is 'masking deeper problems'

  • Internet-addicted teens 'are anxious, depressed, with poor attention span'
  • Researchers warn the addiction could be masking underlying problems 

Internet addiction is simply a smokescreen for more severe psychological issues, a new study reveals.

Researchers also believe this obsession fuels depression, anxiety, impulsiveness, and short attention span.

And yet, experts warn, 24-hour connectedness remains socially acceptable.

The researchers insist we need to be more vigilant about the way people - particularly teenagers - use the internet, looking out for signs of desperation and anger. 

To explore the issue, a team of psychiatrists monitored 254 freshmen at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

They used a tool called the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), which was developed in 1998.

To account for changes in the way we use the internet, researchers also conducted their own assessments of addiction.

They found 33 were addicted to the internet, and 107 were on the spectrum.

Those who were addicted could not extract themselves from social network sites, impulsively watching streamed videos and messaging friends.

They also struggled to efficiently carry out their daily routine, falling into dips of depression, failing to pay attention, and poor time management.

Chief researcher Dr Michael Van Ameringen says more studies need to be done to learn if these mental health issues are caused by internet addiction, or if internet addiction is a symptom of someone's underlying psychological issues.

The study is due to be presented in Vienna this Sunday at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

It has been hailed as a key step in understanding mental illness in the 21st century.  

Dr Jan Buitelaar, a professor of psychiatry at Holland's Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, told HealthDay: 'Excessive use of the internet is an understudied phenomenon that may disguise mild or severe psychopathology; excessive use of the internet may be strongly linked to compulsive behavior and addiction.'