Preventing problematic internet use during the COVID-19 pandemic: Consensus guidance

Orsolya Király, Marc N Potenza, Dan J Stein, Daniel L King, David C Hodgins, John B Saunders, Mark D Griffiths, Biljana Gjoneska, Joël Billieux, Matthias Brand, Max W Abbott, Samuel R Chamberlain, Ornella Corazza, Julius Burkauskas, Célia M D Sales, Christian Montag, Christine Lochner, Edna Grünblatt, Elisa Wegmann, Giovanni MartinottiHae Kook Lee, Hans-Jürgen Rumpf, Jesús Castro-Calvo, Afarin Rahimi-Movaghar, Susumu Higuchi, Jose M Menchon, Joseph Zohar, Luca Pellegrini, Susanne Walitza, Naomi A Fineberg, Zsolt Demetrovics

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As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments have introduced steps such as spatial distancing and "staying at home" to curb its spread and impact. The fear resulting from the disease, the 'lockdown' situation, high levels of uncertainty regarding the future, and financial insecurity raise the level of stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by people all around the world. Psychoactive substances and other reinforcing behaviors (e.g., gambling, video gaming, watching pornography) are often used to reduce stress and anxiety and/or to alleviate depressed mood. The tendency to use such substances and engage in such behaviors in an excessive manner as putative coping strategies in crises like the COVID-19 pandemic is considerable. Moreover, the importance of information and communications technology (ICT) is even higher in the present crisis than usual. ICT has been crucial in keeping parts of the economy going, allowing large groups of people to work and study from home, enhancing social connectedness, providing greatly needed entertainment, etc. Although for the vast majority ICT use is adaptive and should not be pathologized, a subgroup of vulnerable individuals are at risk of developing problematic usage patterns. The present consensus guidance discusses these risks and makes some practical recommendations that may help diminish them.
Original languageEnglish
Article number152180
Number of pages4
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Early online date12 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


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