Adolescents With ADHD And The Risk Of Internet Addiction

It is already established that there is a very high likelihood that those with ADHD will abuse drugs such as alcohol and marijuana. Also, they are more likely to have problems at school because of difficulties with focusing and experience social difficulties except with other youngsters who feel like outsiders. Now, it appears they have another problem confronting them and it's Internet Addiction.

A new study seems to suggest that adolescents with disorders such as ADHD, Depression and Social Phobia, are more likely to become addicted to the Internet as compared to other teenagers. The study appears in the October 2009 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The researchers studied 2,293 youngsters in the 7th grade. Their average age was 12 and they were assessed for the disorders mentioned above. Then, six to twenty four months later, the same youngsters were asked about their usage of the Internet.

The results were very revealing. Some 11 percent of the youngsters were addicted to the Internet. Those with the ADHD diagnosis were most likely to be addicted. Social phobia predicted the addiction for girls but not for boys.

It is thought that youngsters with ADHD become addicted to the Internet because it satisfies their need to speed, immediate gratification and new and stimulating situations.

Definition of Internet Addiction:

However, part of the difficulty with this topic is that there is no clear definition of Internet Addiction. Computers and the availability of the Internet has pervaded every home. People of all ages are using the technology for entertainment and information. With larger amounts of leisure time taken up with the internet, how can this type of addiction be defined?

In the study, being male, spending more than 20 hours a week on the Internet and playing online games were risk factors for Internet obsession.

Most often, Internet addiction is considered to be excessive use of the Internet that negatively impacts grades, family relationships or emotional state. Symptoms include a preoccupation with the Internet, greater use of the Internet than anticipated or desired, an inability to stop, and using the Internet so much that it crowds out other activities.

According to Dr. Harold Koplewicz, director of the Child Study Center at New York University Langone Medical Center:

"Children and teens are spending a tremendous amount of time on the Internet. Activities can range from chatting and using Facebook to participating in online gaming, shopping, pornography or 'Second Life,'" he said.  "Like anything else, when it's done too much and it starts causing dysfunction in other parts of our lives, it qualifies as an addiction, obsession or compulsion."

What parents and teachers need to watch out for, with all children, but, especially those with ADHD, are behaviors such as:

1. Spending vast amounts of time at home playing various internet games.

2. Staying up late at night on the Internet.

3. Sleepiness at school. Of course, this could be a symptom of many problems including drug abuse.

4. Failing to do homework assignments.

5. Deteriorating grades.

6. Choosing the internet instead of spending time with friends, school clubs or sports activities.

7. Loss of time with the family because of time on the internet.

In other words, disruptions in important school and home activities due to computer usage, are signs of a serious problem.

As a therapist I have worked with adult ADHD patients who become entangled in the same addiction. It is not unusual for them to risk loss of their jobs because they are too tired to go to work the next morning or they are wasting their time at work using the computer for other than work activities.

It is important not only that parents be aware of this but that they intervene to get their children help if they do or may have ADHD. There is most definitely help available for children, teens and adults with this disorder.

Your questions and comments are encouraged and, that includes from teenagers who, themselves are so very affected by this whether or not they have ADHD.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

  • Cathy

    Doesn't this just all add up to the same thing, parents just not taking any time with their children to know them, spend time with them, actually participate in the lives of their children as in being there and teaching them how to become an independent adult? I swear that 99% of the population thinks only of themselves first and foremost anymore. I believe that diet has a lot to do with the problems that children are experiencing both mentally and physically. Ever see what people buy at the grocery store? High sugar, high fat and lots of food coloring - a brain is a terrible thing to waste. The world is a mess!

  • Benji

    ADHD is becoming a bluff diagnosis for problems that societies view as problems. Yet those other people see your constant analysis and seeking to change the behaviour of others probably as big a problem. Finding the indoctrination as boring, and defying being told what, when, how, who, what and why, is just as big a part of humanity as the ones that dish it out. Without these people saying that "we don't have a problem thanks" then dictators and control freaks and other general overlords would all be achieving thier ideals.

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


    Unfortunately, ADHD is a very real diagnosis. All you need do is speak to the father and mother of a child with ADHD and you will learn just why it is real. They do not need to be told by me or anyone else about the reality of the diagnosis. The reason is the fact that these children are so hyperactive that they are uncontrollable as home and at school. It is something that goes way beyond being mischievious into an entirely different dimension where chaos reigns.

    That is why we do not "preach to or propagandize them." They come to us, as they should, desperately seeking help."

    Dr. Schwartz

  • Mike Miller, PhD

    I believe that those UNTREATED adolescents w. ADHD ARE at higher risk for substance abuse. I beleive that those who have been effectively treated are NOT at a greater risk.

    Further, there is amble scientific evidence that ADHD IS real. Go to for some evidence. Look at brain scan evidence. Just because Limbaugh doesn't believe in it means nothing. Unfortunately, too many on the right mistakingly take this as a social issue, which it is NOT. ADHD knows no party lines!

    Mike Miller, PhD

  • Jill

    I'm sure i probably have some what of an addiciton as lined out in

    6. Choosing the internet instead of spending time with friends, school clubs or sports activities.

    7. Loss of time with the family because of time on the internet.

    My biggest issue is? That someone like Rush Limbaugh would try and tell me i dont have it.

    If i don't then why does ritalin/other adhd medication work on me like i'm ADHD... it doesnt speed me up, it doesnt cause me to buzz around a room like i'm on drugs!

    Unfortunatley internet addiction comes with a problem that i have anger problems as well- So i constantly battle with my mother who's bipolar, in seeing what's right and what's wrong.

    I think this is a helpful article, and it'll teach me to learn to try and be better at managing my time.

    I think some of my issues lol - are that i moved to a country i can't stand, and had no choice in it almost. I miss living in a country like the US (i'm from the US) where things were a bit more readily available.

    Thanks for a great article!

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    Hi Jill,

    Thank you for your comment. As for Rush Limbaugh, let me put it this way, in my opinion, it is best to simply ignore him. I see him as an embarassment to our nation. I do not care what a person's political, social, religious, ethnic and national identity might be. The man just shoots off his mouth.

    My advice: Take him with a "grain of salt," or, better yet, just do not listen.

    Dr. Schwartz