Problematic Use of the Internet (PUI) is a considerable issue of the modern era, but its risk factors are still poorly understood. Impulsivity and obsessive-compulsive symptoms have been associated with PUI, but this relationship is still debated. In this article we focus on the relationships of PUI with obsessive-compulsive and impulsive symptoms in a cohort of Italian young adults, in order to identify possible vulnerability factors for PUI.
A sample of 772 Italian individuals aged 18-30 (mean age 23.3 ± 3.3 years old; 38% males and 62% females) was assessed via online survey using the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) Screen, the Padua Inventory-Washington State University Revision (PI-WSUR) and the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11).
Ninety-seven subjects (12.6% of the sample) reported IAT scores at risk for PUI. PUI participants reported higher levels of impulsivity, obsessive-compulsive symptoms and a higher burden of co-occurrent psychiatric symptoms. In a logistic regression model, obsessional impulses to harm (OR = 1.108, p < 0.001), attentional impulsivity (OR = 1.155, p < 0.001) and depressive symptomatology (OR = 1.246, p = 0.012) had significant association with PUI. Finally, higher severity of PUI has been associated with manic/psychotic symptoms and with attentional impulsivity.
Our findings confirmed the role of impulsivity in PUI, while also underling the association of obsessional impulses with this pathological behavior. We could hypothesize a trigger role of obsessive impulses for the engagement in PUI, together with factors as negative affective states. Further research is needed with respect to more severe forms of PUI, also for establishing tailored interventions.