Cyberspace Psychopathology

“Mental dislocations, avatar-mediate personalities, autistic behaviors and out of control attitudes”

di Tonino Cantelmi e Massimo Talli

Abstract

In this review the authors, after a first description of the “Internet phenomenon” and particularly of the psychological and psychopathological risks related to its use, propose the reader a series of unpublished papers on this theme, developed during the last year. In this review a lot of interesting aspects are discussed: the problem of defining the syndrome and the possible criteria; the explanatory models proposed by various authors and the possible therapy of the syndrome.

Introduction

It was around 10 years ago when we studied the so-called Internet Addiction for the first time. (Cantelmi e Talli, 1998). Our interest in this unique pathology appeared when a lady from Northern Italy came to our department showing clear dissociative signs after a prolonged exposure to the Net. We could not identify the precise role played by the Net. Even though we analyzed in detail her clinical picture we could not understand if it was just an accidental coincidence or a cause of the same symptomathology. In 1998 the pioneering studies performed by Young in Pittsburgh and other few researchers  (Young, 1996; Suler, 1996; Brenner, 1997, Griffith, 1997) represented all we knew about this problem until that time. In Italy, very few people could benefit from Net connection and it was not very common to talk about “strange” psychological influences. Since then, the “Queen of the Nets” spread at global level by becoming the best mean of communication among all the others. From one side, its spreading increased scientific knowledge related to the Net psychopathologic aspects and from the other it made possible to get every kind of information from it. The technology, on which the Net is based, has changed. The broadband has enabled safer and faster connections, at the same time the arrival of the telephony and digital TV made Internet more useful and attractive. Nevertheless, its anarchic spirit remained pleasantly integral, just like its capability to stimulate fresh mental paths. This review intends to examine the most important scientific contributions obtained so far. English authors, who outlined an ideal route marked by the following contents, have provided most of the contributions as:  definitions, diagnostic criteria, impact of disorder, theoretical patterns, tendency, Net services and toxicity, means of assessment, treatment. As conventionally agreed, we will use the expression Internet Related Psychopathology (IRP) in order to indicate a series of online disorders and behaviors (cyber-sex addiction, cyber- relationship addiction, muds addiction and so on…) (Cantelmi et al., 2000).

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