Adults with Autism at Higher Risk for Problematic Internet Use & Gaming Disorder

Impulse Control and Response Inhibition Deficits Can Lead to Internet & Gaming Addictions

The majority of the 21 research articles included in a new systematic literature review have found positive associations between problematic internet use (PIU) and gaming disorder (GD) for adults with autism. Immediately into this research, the review’s authors needed to determine abnormal levels of internet use and gaming. The team decided that PIU would be characterized as a lack of control concerning time spent on the internet, a preoccupation with the internet, mood changes and withdrawal symptoms when not using the internet, as well as consequences in personal, social, and professional domains due to excessive internet use. For GD, the team used the DSM-5 ‘s emerging measures and models criteria for defining the disorder. These measures and criteria include: preoccupation with games, withdrawal symptoms, tolerance, a lack of self-control concerning video gameplay, a loss of interest in hobbies, continuation and escalation despite consequences, deception around the amount of time spent gaming, use of gaming to escape negative feelings and consequences including risking or losing a job or relationship due to gaming. The review pointed out that PIU and GD have been previously linked with comorbid conditions experienced with autism such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. The research team speculated that people on the spectrum may use gaming and excessive internet use as a way to avoid face-to-face social interactions, taking out the possibility of misinterpreting social cues. On a positive note, the review pointed to earlier research which demonstrated that adults with autism feel a sense of liberation and felt more equal to their peers while surfing the web. However, on the other hand, the team highlighted the risk individuals on the spectrum have of fixating on the internet and video games due to their tendency to engage in restrictive and repetitive behaviors. This conduct puts people with autism at risk for developing addictions to these technologies. Unfortunately, the review did not disclose many definitive findings, except that males are more likely to exhibit both PIU and GD. The review authors call for more research and feel that identifying PIU and GD is very important so that interventions can be developed to stop these addictions. Ultimately, they hope for a day where preemptive interventions can prevent these conditions from developing in the first place. 

 

Original Study

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