To provide a comprehensive overview of clinical studies on the clinical picture of Internet-use related addictions from a holistic perspective. A literature search was conducted using the database Web of Science.
Over the last 15 years, the number of Internet users has increased by 1000%, and at the same time, research on addictive Internet use has proliferated. Internet addiction has not yet been understood very well, and research on its etiology and natural history is still in its infancy. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association included Internet Gaming Disorder in the appendix of the updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as condition that requires further research prior to official inclusion in the main manual, with important repercussions for research and treatment. To date, reviews have focused on clinical and treatment studies of Internet addiction and Internet Gaming Disorder. This arguably limits the analysis to a specific diagnosis of a potential disorder that has not yet been officially recognised in the Western world, rather than a comprehensive and inclusive investigation of Internet-use related addictions (including problematic Internet use) more generally.
The systematic literature review identified a total of 46 relevant studies. The included studies used clinical samples, and focused on characteristics of treatment seekers and online addiction treatment. Four main types of clinical research studies were identified, namely research involving (1) treatment seeker characteristics; (2) psychopharmacotherapy; (3) psychological therapy; and (4) combined treatment.
A consensus regarding diagnostic criteria and measures is needed to improve reliability across studies and to develop effective and efficient treatment approaches for treatment seekers.