Problematic internet use is a common phenomenon. The Pathological Internet Use (PIU) scale helps to identify people with pathological Internet use. One of the advantages of the PIU is that it is a short and simple scale.

See also the PsyToolkit implementation of the Problematic Internet Use Questionnaire and the Facebook addiction scale here on PsyToolkit.
If you are concerned about your Internet use, you can find more information about how to seek help here: Internet & Computer Addiction via You can also ask your doctor. If you are a student, visit your school or university counselling service.

In the study by Morahan-Martin and Schumacher (2000), pathological Internet use is defined as follows:

The current study uses the term ``Pathological Internet Use'' (PIU) to describe disturbed patterns of Internet use. PIU is defined in terms of Internet use which causes a specified number of symptoms, including mood-altering use of the Internet, failure to fulfil major role obligations, guilt, and craving.

The participants in the original PIU study were 277 undergraduate students in the USA. Note that the PIU contains 13 yes/no questions (1 point each).

Description How scored % of students

No symptoms of pathological internet use

0 points


Limited symptoms (1 to 3 out of 13)

1 to 3 points


Pathological Internet use

4 to 13 points


Note that the study is more than 15 years old, and it is likely that today’s students use the Internet more. For example, in the study, the following Internet average usage was given (p.16): "Participants had used the Internet for an average of 20.08 months (SD=13.8) and reported average weekly use was 3.45 h (SD=4.24). Computer labs were the most frequent place that participants went online (87.4%) followed by home (42%), dorm (20.9%), work (12.3%), and other (5.4%)."

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The PIU can be used for research, but you need to acknowledge the authors and their research paper when writing about it (Morahan & Schumacher, 2000).


This is a simple yes/no questionnaire (some items are reverse scored).

The survey code for PsyToolkit

Copy and paste this code to your PsyToolkit account if you want to use the scale in your own online research project
scale: piu_yes_no
- {score=1} yes
- {score=0} no

l: piu
t: scale piu_yes_no
o: width 80%
q: Please say whether the following is true for you or not for each item
- {reverse} I have <u><b>never</b></u> gotten into arguments with a signicant other over being online
- I have been told I spend too much time online
- If it has been a while since I last logged on, I find it hard to stop thinking about what will be waiting for me when I do
- {reverse} My work and/or school performance has <u><b>not</b></u> deteriorated since I started going online
- I feel guilty about the amount of time I spend online
- I have gone online to make myself feel better when I was down or anxious
- I have attempted to spend less time online but have not been able to
- I have routinely cut short on sleep to spend more time online
- I have used online to talk to others at times when I was feeling isolated
- I have missed classes or work because of online activities
- I have gotten into trouble with my employer or school because of being online
- I have missed social engagements because of online activities
- I have tried to hide from others how much time I am actually online

l: piu_score
t: set
- sum $piu

l: feedback
t: info
q: You have {$piu} symptoms of pathological Internet use.<br>
If you have 1-3 symptoms, you have "limited symptoms".<br>
If you have 4 or more symptoms, you suffer from pathological Internet use.<br>
If you are concerned about this, you should seek advice,<br>
for example from your doctor, school, university, or employer (via occupational health office).<br>
Please check the PsyToolkit survey link for further information.


  • Morahan-Martin, J. and Schumacher, P. (2000). Incidence and correlates of pathological Internet use among college students. Computers in Human Behavior, 16, 13-29.