Sailesh Yellayi

Digital vs. Detrimental: Understanding the Connection Between Internet Addiction and Mental Health

April 2, 2021   /  

Name: Sailesh Ram Yellayi
Major: Psychology
Minor: Classical Studies
Advisor: Dr. Susan Clayton, Mike Casey (second reader)

Addiction is generally viewed as a grave issue among today’s youth. Most commonly, many fear young people potentially becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. However, there is one form of addiction that is heavily neglected amongst the others. That is cyber addiction. Obsession with constant use of the internet and cellular devices has become more and more frequent and has been argued to be especially common among those who suffer from mental conditions such as anxiety, social isolation, and hyperactivity. As we have become more and more digitally dependent in our daily lives, there is an argument to be made that today’s youth who do suffer from such states risk an even greater level of exposure and vulnerability to internet addiction. This study aimed to see if any underlying connection exists between cyber addiction & ADHD/OCD/social anxiety, and whether that connection shows a greater potential for cyber addiction for these individuals. A 20-question survey constructed from 3 major scales for mental health and one scale for internet addiction was completed by 150 participants. After a careful analysis of the results, the study showed that a strong underlying connection does indeed exist between internet addiction and these 3 mental states: as one grows, so does the other. The findings of this research could prove beneficial to understanding proper diagnosis and treatment of both internet addiction and mental health in the future.

Sailesh will be online to field comments on April 16:
2-4pm EDT (PST: 11am-1pm, Africa/Europe: evening)

30 thoughts on “Digital vs. Detrimental: Understanding the Connection Between Internet Addiction and Mental Health”

  1. Congratulations on completing this project, Sai! I’m glad you were able to collect information to advance our understanding of this under-researched area.

    1. Thank you, Professor Clayton! The feeling on that is mutual! Your assistance and feedback on this work the entire semester was invaluable!

  2. Sailesh – Congratulations on bringing your project to completion! This is such an important area of work…only becoming more important each day! I wish you the best with the remainder of this year and your future!

  3. What an incredibly relevant study you selected. The pandemic has made this issue even more challenging and your work is extremely important, particularly to educators. Congratulations on addressing this ever-increasing problem.

  4. Interesting work, Sai! You found that ADHD was associated with greater social isolation and higher IA scores and OCD was associated with lower IA scores – what do you think might explain this difference in IA?

    1. Hello Professor Abraham! I’m so glad you enjoyed my research, but I think there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding: my hypothesis was that ADHD and social isolation would be associated with greater IA scores and that OCD would be associated with lower IA scores. My reasoning was based on the studies done previously on OCD: whereas social isolation means cutting oneself off from physical interaction with others & ADHD can lead to the need for constant stimulation & activity, OCD is highly associated with paranoia and fear of the unknown. Thus, I believed that when assessing all three mental states at once in association to IA, the correlation for OCD and IA would be lower. What surprised me is that I was wrong: the correlation between the two was very strong, as was the correlation between ADHD and IA, and the one between social isolation and IA. This suggests that OCD symptoms can factor into IA quite neatly.

      1. Thank you for the clarification, Sai! Surprising results can lead to excellent future research questions. Good luck in all that you do after your time at Wooster!

  5. Well done, Sai! I am sure that your research is going to be increasingly important as we navigate how to involve technology in our academic, professional, and personal lives even after the pandemic.

    1. Thank you so much, Gillian! Your aid in the writing center was crucial to my completion of this project & research! I can never thank you enough!

  6. Congratulations, Sailesh! This looks like an interesting study on an important topic–very impressive!

  7. Wonderful to get to see your project, Sai. Important area of research and your findings are compelling. I wish you all the best in what your journey past Wooster holds for you. I’m honored to have had the chance to know you!

    1. Thank you Professor Call! My years in Wooster Singer were unforgettable! Thank you for so many great memories! I’m glad you like my research!

  8. Congratulations, Sailesh, on completing a project on an increasingly important topic! What did you find most interesting or surprising about your findings?

    Best wishes!

    1. Thank you, Professor Mamtora! I would say the most shocking thing about my findings was discovering that a strong positive relationship existed across all four variables: I did not expect that at all! But knowing that now, this will undoubtedly be useful in future research as well as mental treatment.

  9. Excellent work and I love your title! What a modern look at a modern dilemma. I have two questions: How would you go about investigating if this is a causal or just correlational relationship? Could you speculate as to why this relationship exists, and what your intention was behind this research?

    1. Thank you, Alex! Those are great questions, to which I would respond: for the first question, I calculated bivariate correlations for all 4 variables, so I was attempting to see if a correlational relationship did indeed exist. Investigating a potential causal relationship would be quite different and require a bit more time, as it would likely involve simultaneous or rapid one-after-another analysis of both each mental state and then internet addiction.

  10. Congratulations on this major achievement, Sai! Would you tell us a bit more about some backgrounds of your study participants (e.g., US-based?, race/ethnicity, gender, economic status, educational background, etc.)?

    Wishing you the best in your future plans!

    1. Thank you, Professor Park! Unfortunately, I cannot answer those questions: all participants were gathered anonymously via Mturk search, with 60% of the participants identifying as male & 40% of the participants identifying as female. I brought this limitation up in my discussion slide, and suggested that future studies could try to obtain more detailed demographic information from participants.

  11. Congratulations, Sai, on completing your Senior I.S. on this very timely topic! I’d be interested in hearing if your findings suggest that assessment and intervention tools could be useful in academic settings.

    Wishing you much success this semester and life post-Wooster.

  12. Sai, This is really fascinating research. I know that it was not part of this project, but do you have an thoughts on treatment? Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thank you Professor Reeder! That’s an excellent question: I would say that the most effective treatments would include things like monitoring one’s usage of the internet & gradually lowering that amount day by day, counseling to discuss emotional and mental fragility & what the internet does to relieve that pain, and also increasing one’s usage of paper & physical reading material instead of constantly relying on the internet. Several studies have also shown that isolating or restricting addicts access to the source of addiction is a great method, so applying that logic to internet addiction would also likely work well.

  13. Hi Sailesh,
    This is a very interesting topic, and congratulations on completing your IS. I read your summary with a lot of interest. It made me wonder whether internet addiction for sufferers acts as a reinforcement of a place for isolation, hyperactivity, etc. or is it more an escape? I would love your POV. Thanks for sharing…

    1. Hello, Arvind! Thank you for your kind words. I would suggest that those two things are not mutually exclusive: ergo, internet addiction can be both a reinforcement as well as an escape. That being said, I personally feel that prior studies have shown that internet usage spirals into addiction as a result of using it as an escape from the real world more often than not. For individuals with ADHD, internet usage yields a perpetual flow of mental stimulation satisfying the brain’s needs, and thus here acts as a reinforcement. For those suffering from social isolation and/or depression, the internet is more often a place of escape so they do not have to face the real world. I hope this helps! I think future research should definitely look into each possible interpretation.

  14. Awesome job, Sai! This is a very important issue, and quite timely. This is surely a great contribution to the research concerning mental health and the internet, so thank you for that and congratulations! Would you like to continue research on this and, if so, what do you think your next steps would be?

    1. Hello, Dante! Thank you so much! I would absolutely love to continue research on this topic. As for the next step in this research? I would like to go beyond the mental and psychological level & examine the issue from a more physiological perspective: that is, for people with ADHD, OCD, and/or social isolation and depression, how does internet addiction physically impact their brain matter? What parts of the brain are most impacted and why? Once those questions have been investigated, we may be able to gain an even clearer idea for treatment of such patients.

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