The definition of addiction has expanded over the years to include several behavioral addictions. Gambling addiction is now included in the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders, and while it’s not officially recognized by the APA, many mental health experts now diagnose and treat for sex addiction.
“Cyber addiction” is gaining steam, too (it’s currently being considered for inclusion in the DSM), and one infamous troll is now trying to use it to excuse his behavior.
HanAssholeSolo, the Reddit user behind the infamous “Trump wrestles CNN” GIF, issued a lengthy apology to his fellow Redditors last week for his years of “racist, bigoted, and anti-semitic” trolling. The original post has since been deleted (and reposted in an anti-Trump subreddit), but in his explanation, Mr. AssholeSolo likened his trolling to an addiction. It started out innocently enough, with HanAssholeSolo trying to get a rise out of people just for the sake of it. But the thrill of provocation soon developed into full-blown addiction, he says. He was consumed with how far he could push it, both in terms of the offensiveness of his posts and their popularity.
Conciliatory as HanAssholeSolo may be—and his apology does read as genuine—he likely wasn’t addicted to trolling in the technical sense, according to Christopher Mulligan, an L.A.-based social worker who specializes in cyber addiction.
Mulligan is founder of the Cyber Addiction Recovery Center, and he says cyber addiction is typically marked by watching unhealthy amounts of porn or playing video games for ungodly periods of time, and often afflicts young men, many of them with autism spectrum disorder. But at no point in his practice has he encountered a patient who’s specifically addicted to trolling, and he doubts whether such an addiction even exists.
“I’ve never read anything about it or encountered any literature on it or anything,” he says. “I would be happy to hear from someone who thought they were addicted to trolling. I would take them seriously enough to listen. … But it’s more likely a compulsion than a true addiction. Someone who does something compulsively isn’t addicted, necessarily.”
Compulsive behaviors are ones people engage in ritualistically, without rational motivation and often to relieve stress, according to the public health department at Columbia University. Being a dick to strangers on the internet certainly fits this description.
But a compulsion falls short of an addiction. Case in point: The hallmarks of a professionally recognized addiction include withdrawal symptoms, needing to increase your usage to achieve the same level of high and continuing the behavior despite its having negative consequences in your life.
Mulligan offers a different explanation for HanAssholeSolo’s trolling and subsequent apology: “Maybe he’s just saying ‘addiction’ to justify his bad behavior.”