Excessive and pathological Internet use – Risk-behavior or psychopathology?

Michael Kaess, Johanna Klar, Jochen Kindler, Peter Parzer, Romuald Brunner, Vladimir Carli, Marco Sarchiapone, Christina W. Hoven, Alan Apter, Judit Balazs, Shira Barzilay, Julio Bobes, Doina Cozman, Vanja Gomboc, Christian Haring, Jean Pierre Kahn, Helen Keeley, Gergely Meszaros, George J. Musa, Vita PostuvanPilar Saiz, Merike Sisask, Peeter Varnik, Franz Resch, Danuta Wasserman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Pathological Internet use (but only with respect to gaming) is classified as mental disorder in the ICD-11. However, there is a large group of adolescents showing excessive Internet use, which may rather be considered adolescent risk-behavior. The aim was to test whether pathological and excessive Internet use should be considered as “psychopathology” or “risk-behavior”. A representative, cross-sectional sample of 11.110 students from 10 European Union countries was analyzed. Structural equation models, including the factors “risk-behavior” and “psychopathology” and the variables excessive and pathological Internet use, were tested against each other. “Risk-behavior” was operationalized by several risk-behaviors (e.g. drug abuse, truancy, etc). “Psychopathology” included measures of several mental disorders (e.g. depression, hyperactivity, etc). Excessive Internet use was assessed as the duration and frequency of Internet use. Pathological Internet use was assessed with the Young Diagnostic Questionnaire (i.e., presence of addiction criteria). Excessive Internet use loaded on “risk-behavior” (λ = 0.484, p < .001) and on “psychopathology” (λ = 0.071, p < .007). Pathological Internet use loaded on “risk-behavior” (λ = 0.333, p < .001) and on “psychopathology” (λ = 0.852, p < .001). Chi-square tests determined that the loadings of excessive Internet use (χ2 (1) = 81.98, p < .001) were significantly stronger on “risk-behavior” than “psychopathology”. Vice versa, pathological Internet use loaded significantly stronger on “psychopathology” (χ2 (1) = 107.10, p < .001). The results indicate that pathological Internet use should rather be considered as psychopathology. Excessive Internet use on the other hand, should be classified as adolescent risk-behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107045
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Excessive Internet use
  • Internet addiction
  • Pathological Internet use
  • Psychopathology
  • Risk-behavior


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