Internet Addiction, ADHD and Depression

Internet Addiction, ADHD and Depression

Dr Shelley Hyman

As the ease as well as need to access the internet increases in the age of technology due to academic and recreational reasons, it impacts extensively on multiple aspects of daily life. Internet addiction is now a recognised phenomenon, with various scales being developed in order to define the diagnostic criteria.

This addiction may impact specific target groups differently, and of particular interest to this article is the relationship it has regarding adolescents with Attention Hyperactivity/Impulsivity Disorder (ADHD) and depression.

A study by Yen and colleagues (2007) aimed to investigate this relationship, using 2114 school students (average age of 16.26 years and 1204 were male) from Taiwan, 338 of which were classified as having an internet addiction (according to the Chen Internet Addiction Scale). Each adolescent completed self-report measure of ADHD symptoms and depression.

What Yen and colleagues found was that those with the internet addiction were more likely to be male, have higher educational grades, use the internet more than 20 hours/week and have online gaming habits.

Additionally, they found that those classified as having internet addiction had higher self-report measures of ADHD symptoms and depressive levels. These associations may be explained in various ways.

It has been suggested that those with ADHD have increased sensitivity to reward. The internet may provide them with feelings of being in control and freedom of self-representation that subsequently provide high incentive motivation, which is rewarding for them.

Furthermore, the internet may satisfy the desire for immediate response that this target group often displays, and they may find it difficult to limit their internet use because of a shortage of self-control.

Higher levels of depression may be associated with internet addiction as adolescents create a “virtual self” online which separates them from the real world and allows them to adjust their emotional condition.

The positive feelings they may get from this action may compensate the imperfection in real life, and subsequently an internet addiction may develop as they spend more and more time online.

There appears to be some relationship between internet addiction and ADHD as well as depression. The factors contributing to the development of this addiction may differ depending on the disorder and should be taken into account when considering treatment of individuals.

Emma Waite


  • Yen, J. Y., Ko, C. H., Yen, C. F., Wu, H. Y., & Yang, M. J. (2007). The comorbid psychiatric symptoms of Internet addiction: attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, social phobia, and hostility. Journal of adolescent health41(1), 93-98.
Dr Shelley Hyman

About Dr Shelley Hyman

Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist. BSc (psychol) Hons, MClinNeuropsych, PhD (Med) MAPS CCN. Founder and director of the centre that was founded in 2006.