Researchers have indicated that Internet addiction is a wide-spread problem, impacting the lives of an estimated 4-10% of all Internet users. Researchers have also indicated that Internet addiction has a social component, with Internet addicts using the Internet to build and maintain new social relationships at a much higher rate than nonaddicts. This study explored Internet addiction in the context of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). Data were drawn from MMORPG players and from mental health counselors to determine incidence rates of Internet addiction among MMORPG players, social needs that were predictive of Internet addiction, rates of treatment seeking behaviors by MMORPG players for Internet addiction, and how Internet addiction is diagnosed and treated by mental health counselors. For this study, the MMORPG Player Survey and the Counselor Surve y were used to collect data from MMORPG players and mental health counselors. The MMORPG Player Survey was administered to 513 MMORPG players. The Counselor Survey was administered to 80 mental health counselors.
Results from the MMORPG Player Survey indicated that approximately 15% (n=78) of MMORPG players met criteria for Internet addiction, as defined by the Diagnostic Questionnaire (DQ). A stepwise regression analysis of loneliness, online confidence, online liberation, validation, and support found that loneliness and online confidence were both positively predictive of Internet addiction among participants. Of MMORPG players surveyed, less than 1% (n=3) indicated that they have sought professional help for Internet addiction. Mental health counselors reported that Internet addiction was most likely to be diagnosed as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or impulse control disorder. Furthermore, mental health counselors reported that they were most likely to treat Internet addiction using one of the following theoretical orientations: cognitive, reality, family systems, or solution focused. These findings highlight a subpopulation of the online community who are in need of mental health services and are not receiving them. Recommendations for future research include qualitative studies exploring the social aspects of MMORPG gaming among Internet addicts, as well as research exploring potential deterrents to mental health services among this population.
Advances in Internet technologies have resulted in an unprecedented level of accessibility to informatio n, products, services, communication, and entertainment. The opportunities offered by the Internet are accompanied by unique psychosocial phenomena, many of which challenge the counseling profession. These phenomena are unique in the sense that they are relatively new to the lives of clients, leaving clinicians with a limited base of experience from which to draw when dealing with these issues. One psychosocial concern that arises with the advent of the Internet is problematic Internet use (Young, 1996). Problematic Internet use can occur in a variety of settings, impacting the social, vocational, and academic functioning of affected Internet users (Beard, 2002; Browne, 2002; Griffiths, 2000; Hansen, 2002). Problematic Internet use is characterized by a core set of attributes, including a pre-occupation with Internet use, mood modification, need for increasing amounts of Internet use, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse (Griffiths, 1998). The effects of problematic Internet use are varied but often include loss of sleep, strained relationships, and reduced levels of productivity in vocational and academic settings. These effects are associated with not only the amount of Internet use, but the prioritization of Internet use over other life commitments (Griffiths, 2000; Kandell, 1998; Morahan-Martin & Schumacher, 2000; Young & Case, 2004).
Research indicates that some forms of problematic Internet use may be driven by a desire for social interaction...
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