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Computer Addiction

Using the computer is a common occurrence in today’s age but for some, use of the computer can interfere with everyday routines and may cause mass disruption in their lives. When using the computer shifts from a regular and routine method of handling everyday tasks to an obsession that controls your life, computer addiction is to blame. This behavioral disorder, like other similar disorders, can result in a number of consequences in your life and may require professional treatment if you ever want to quit.

What is Computer Addiction?

addicted to internet

Compulsive computer use and feeling anxious when not on the computer may indicate an addiction to the computer.

According to the University of Texas at Dallas, “some people develop bad habits in their computer use that cause them significant problems in their lives. The types of behavior and negative consequences are similar to those of known addictive disorders; therefore, the term computer addiction has come into use.” While anyone who uses the computer could potentially be at risk of becoming addicted, the majority of the time, people who are shy, lonely or who suffer from another impulse control disorder are most likely to fall victim to computer addiction.

Who is at Risk?

According to CyberPsychology and Behavior, “anecdotal evidence indicates that the typical “addict” is a teenager, usually male, with little or no social life, and little or no self-confidence.” While there is no single element that places an individual at risk of computer addiction, certain factors do seem to figure in to the increased risk:

  • low self-esteem
  • low social interaction
  • shyness
  • becoming bored easily
  • suffering from mental illness
  • suffering from an impulse control disorder
  • having underdeveloped social skills
  • having a desire to hide personal appearance
  • socially challenged

Signs of Computer Addiction

Many different signs of computer addiction may become present when you are suffering from this condition. Some of the most common signs that there is a problem with computer use include:

  • feeling guilty when using the computer
  • lying about the computer use
  • lying about what you are doing while on the computer
  • losing track of time while on the computer
  • neglecting friends or family when using the computer
  • neglecting other responsibilities while using the computer
  • feeling anxious or upset when unable to use the computer
  • feeling upset if your computer use is cut short or interrupted
  • feeling like you cannot go a single day without using the computer
  • using the computer for sexual gratification, when upset or sad
  • developing problems at work, school or otherwise as a result of time spent on the computer
  • having a desire to cut back time spent on the computer but excessively going back to old habits of computer use

Is it Computer Addiction?

Addiction is characterized by both physical and psychological elements of computer use that interfere or interrupt with regular routines and healthy living. Often times, people who are addicted to a computer will have:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • dry eyes
  • pain in the eyes
  • poor vision
  • body aches and pains from sitting at a computer desk
  • insomnia or inability to sleep because the focus is on the computer
  • headaches

Effects of Computer Addiction

Computer addiction causes an array of side effects and complications in the individual’s life. From the above listed complications that can arise physically such as back ache and carpel tunnel syndrome, to the social disintegration that occurs because all of your time is spent on the computer rather than interacting with others, the effects of compulsive computer use can be devastating.

Additional effects of computer use include:

  • problems interacting with others in real time
  • inability to feel comfortable, happy or pleasured without the use of the computer
  • loss of productivity due to computer use
  • poor self-esteem
  • loss of or giving up on goals in order to spend time on the computer
  • feeling like a failure because you spent so much time on the computer and missed out on other important matters
  • feeling like a failure because you genuinely want to stop using the computer but despite your good intentions you continue to use it
  • overspending on computer components
  • troubled relationships as a result of the computer use
  • poor nutrition or eating habits because your time is spent on the computer
  • poor hygiene because you spend your time on the computer and not focused on taking care of yourself

Types of Computer Addiction

There are many different types of computer addiction that can arise as a result of excessive computer use. In fact, studies have found that there is no real need to be technologically inclined in order to become addicted to the computer. Some people actually become addicted to gaming, playing on social networks, or taking part in cybersex activities on the computer—none of these activities require technological advances beyond the scope of an average user.

The most common types of computer addiction include:

  • cyber-sex
  • social networking addiction
  • programming addiction
  • gaming addiction
  • internet addiction
  • shopping addiction
  • gambling addiction
  • general computer addiction

Treatment for Computer Addiction

While there is no set treatment for computer addiction, this condition is usually treated like any other impulse control disorder–

  • consultations
  • diagnostic assessments
  • pharmacological management
  • individual psychotherapy
  • family therapy
  • behavioral therapy
  • group therapy
  • support
  • follow up care

Finding help for computer addiction involves admitting that you have a problem and that you genuinely are ready to get help. Most of the time, behavioral therapy and counseling are the most effective means of treatment for computer addiction but in some cases, especially when there is an underlying case of depression, anxiety or a similar mental illness, medication can also be used to help curb the underlying problem and promote and more secure sense for recovery.

According to the University of Texas at Dallas, “treatment must begin with recognizing that there is a problem. Overcoming denial should be followed by other treatment steps.” These steps can include:

  • taking steps to modify behaviors
  • matching the amount of time spent on the computer with time spent off the computer too
  • focusing on enhancing other areas of life such as relationships or socially
  • seeking assessment and, when needed, treatment for other disorders such as depression, anxiety or similar conditions
  • seeking support in a 12 step group, online or in another area
  • finding other ways to spend time without being on the computer

Each of the steps that you take toward this recovery will help you to prevent possible relapse and to heal. While computer addiction is a terrible situation to have to go through, healing is possible.