Theories and Models of Internet Addiction
Scholars have sought to explain the development and maintenance of Internet addiction using a wide range of conceptual and theoretical models, and several theories have been formulated to explain, predict, and further understand Internet addiction as an addictive behavior. It is important to note that all models of Internet addiction complement each other and help us understand the etiology, treatment, and prevention of Internet addiction.
2.1 The Cognitive-Behavioral Model
The cognitive-behavioral model ( Davis, 2001 ) addresses the definition, conceptualization, and treatment of Internet addiction, which is referred to as pathological Internet use within this model. The cognitive-behavioral model of pathological Internet use distinguishes between specific pathological Internet use (SPIU) and generalized pathological Internet use (GPIU).
This distinction comes from the idea that Internet use can serve multiple purposes and goals. For instance, SPIU is broadly defined as a type of pathological Internet use whereby individuals become dependent on using a specific function or application of the Internet, whereas GPIU relates to a more general, multidimensional behavioral overuse pattern of pathological Internet use. According to this model, maladaptive cognitions play a key role in both development and maintenance of pathological Internet use.
The cognitive theory of pathological Internet use utilizes the concepts of distal and proximal contributory causes of pathological Internet use to better illustrate the nature of the cognitive theory of pathological Internet use. Accordingly, distal causes include preexisting psychopathology (depression, social anxiety, substance dependence, etc.) and behavioral reinforcement that is provided by the Internet itself throughout the experience of new functions and situational cues that contribute to conditioned responses. Proximal causes in turn involve maladaptive cognitions, which are regarded as a sufficient condition with the potential to lead to both GPIU and SPIU and also cause the set of symptoms associated with pathological Internet use ( Davis, 2001 ).
The cognitive-behavioral model posits that GPIU involves spending abnormal amounts of time on the Internet, either wasting time with no direct purpose and/or spending excessive amounts of time in online chat rooms. For this reason, procrastination is also assumed to play an important contributory role toward the development and maintenance of GPIU. The cognitive-behavioral 27 model argues that symptoms of pathological Internet use derive primarily from individuals' maladaptive cognitions ( Davis, 2001 ). According to Davis (2001 ), these symptoms relate more to cognitive symptoms and include obsessive thoughts about the Internet, diminished impulse control, inability to cease Internet use, and a generalized feeling that the Internet is the only place where individuals feel good about themselves. Other symptoms may include thinking about the Internet while offline, anticipating future time online, decreasing interest in other activities or hobbies, and social isolation ( Davis, 2001 ).
The cognitive-behavioral model remains a very influential way of understanding Internet addiction at both theoretical and measurement levels. In fact, the cognitive-behavioral model has also received extensive support from scholars in the field who have sought to operationalize the model within a psychometric framework (see Caplan, 2010 ). In addition, the model has been used in, and served as the basis of, treatment protocols for Internet addiction, such as the cognitive behavior therapy for Internet addiction (CBT-IA).
2.2 The Syndrome Model of Addiction
The syndrome model of addiction ( Shaffer et al., 2004