"The use of Facebook has increased rapidly. We are dealing with a subdivision of Internet addiction connected to social media," said Cecilie Schou Andreassen, who conducted the study.
Andreassen heads the research project "Facebook Addiction" at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway. The results of her research have just been published in the journal Psychological Reports.
Andreassen said she sees some clear patterns in Facebook addiction.
"It occurs more regularly among younger than older users. We have also found that people who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more than those with lower scores on those traits, probably because those who are anxious find it easier to communicate via social media than face-to-face," she said.
People who are organized and more ambitious tend to be less at risk from Facebook addiction. They will often use social media as an integral part of work and networking.
"Women are more at risk of developing Facebook addiction, probably due to the social nature of Facebook," Andreassen said.
Andreassen said the research also shows that Facebook addiction was related to extroversion. People with high scores on the new scale further tend to have a somewhat delayed sleep-wake rhythm.
The study was based on 423 students — 227 women and 196 men.
Despite Andreassen's findings, others are not as convinced about Internet-based addictions.
"There are often underlying or co-occurring psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression or a disturbance in interpersonal relationships, all of which may explain the person's Internet problems,” Ronald W. Pies, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Tufts University told BusinessNewsDaily sister site LiveScience for a 2009 article. "The question is, do we need another 'disorder' in the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), if the manifestations of Internet addiction can already be accounted for by well-described and better-validated conditions?"
That, however, doesn’t mean that Pies is writing off the possibility of Internet-based addictions. Rather, he believes that better research is needed to quantify these behaviors.
"We may eventually come around to the view that Internet addiction is a discrete mental disorder, but that will require carefully designed research aimed at linking Internet addiction with family and genetic factors, biological concomitants and responses to specific treatments," Pies said.