What is Computer Addiction?
This addiction is characterized by an excessive desire and subsequent use of the internet or the computer that results in negative consequences socially, financially, physically, emotionally or otherwise for the user.
It’s important to recognize that not all people who spend hours each day on the computer are considered addicted. There are many uses for computers and the internet and in many cases, an individual may spend 6 or more hours in a day on the computer but still not be considered an addict. Each individual situation is different and therefore, there is no set number of hours that is (or is not) considered a potential for computer addiction.
•preoccupation with the computer either online or offline
•feeling a burning desire to go online or to use the computer to play a game, to socialize or to develop programming codes
•spending time on the computer despite family functions taking place, special events or other activities that you were once happy to be a part of
•performing actions on the computer that are outside the realm of what your original plans were such as shopping online when you should be working or playing a game when you should be doing homework
•telling lies to your family about the activities that you perform while on the computer, such as saying that you are working on homework when you are actually playing a game
•having anxious feelings when you want to use the computer, know you will be able to use the computer or know that your use of the computer will be limited
•mood swings or irritability when you are not allowed to spend as much time on the computer as you would like to or if your computer time is interrupted
•telling yourself that you will get off the computer at a certain time and then spending more time than you committed
•any use of the computer as an escape from your feelings
Effects of Computer Addiction
•inability to interact social except when on the computer such as online in chat groups or social networking sites
•inability to experience pleasure when performing tasks that are not done on a computer. You may not feel relief or gratification unless you are taking part in a task that involves using a computer
•overspending on hardware, software or other computer items
•loss of relationships due to spending too much time on the computer and not enough time with a friend or loved one
•loss of a job due to a lack of productivity because time was spent on the computer performing other tasks that provided you with satisfaction
•giving up career goals in an effort to spend more time on the computer
•lack of productivity on school assignment because you are distracted by your desire to use the computer
•feelings of failure because you have tried to control your computer usage and despite your efforts have failed at your attempts
•poor self-esteem because you feel socially inept
•poor self-hygiene because you are too “busy” with your involvement with the computer to take time out to shower, eat, brush your teeth and hair or otherwise take care of yourself
The most common causes for computer addiction are:
•anxiety caused by stress at work, relationships, financial problems or other sources
•depression that leads to computer use to escape reality
•inactivity and using the computer instead of working out or otherwise being active
•physical illness that prevents an individual from leaving the home
•boredom and feeling like there is nothing else to do
The most common types of computer addiction are:
•Programming addictions – these addictions result from an individual’s desire to reprogram items or databases or to create new software excessively
•General Computer addictions – this the the result of an individual’s desire to play games such as solitaire or other games on the computer and does not generally include internet usage
•Internet Addiction – internet addiction is the result of an individual’s desire to spend time online performing any one of a number of tasks in excessive. Internet addiction has sub-categories that include:
•Internet compulsions – these may include compulsive shopping online, compulsive gaming online, compulsive gambling online or compulsive stock trading online
•Cybersex – this is a compulsive use of the internet to participate in internet sex through chat rooms, adult websites, fantasy role playing online or watching pornography
•Social Networking addictions – this is the addiction that results when an individual spends more time socializing online than they do socializing with people in real life. These addicts will often find online relationships to be more meaningful than offline relationships.
How much computer use is too much?
•Healthy use of the computer will not directly interfere with other members of your family or their well-being. For instance, if your computer use does not hurt or bother others than it may be ok.
•Healthy use of the computer will not interfere with your obligations at work, home or school. For instance, if you are using a computer in a healthy manner than you are only spending time on the computer performing work or school related tasks or you are spending time on the computer after you have already completed your other obligations.
•Healthy use of the computer will not reduce your interest in other activities. For instance, if you are using the computer in a healthy manner than you are not slacking on your own health, well-being or personal care as a result of your computer use.
•Healthy use of the computer will not lead to negative consequences. If you are using the computer in a way that will lead to relationship problems, financial problems or other problems in your life than you should rethink your computer usage as it may not be healthy.
•Isolation. Do you spend more time online than you do with others or do you make time for computers rather than taking that time to spend with friends, family or to socialize?
•Defensive. Are you defensive to others when they question your activities on the computer? Do you feel like you have to justify your computer use or the time that you spend on the computer?
•Distracted. Are you easily distracted by the computer? Do you find that you can’t focus on your responsibilities at work or at home because you are preoccupied with the computer or a desire to use the computer?
•Late. Are you late for family events, late for work, late comping home or otherwise late because you spent too much time on the computer?
Self-Help for Computer Addiction
•Limit your computer use. You can set a timer, you can have your friends or family members time you or you can come up with another method of timing your computer usage. Make limits for the amount of time that you will spend.
•Commit to only using the computer for work or school. If you have a problem with shopping or gambling or other activities on the computer, make a commitment that you will not use the computer unless you have to perform a task for work or school.
•Place limitations on the location that you will use the computer at. For those who have problems with cybersex, are addicted to gambling or perform other poor tasks on the computer, placing a limitation on the location such as only using the computer in the kitchen or in the dining room may help to put your usage in front of others and reduce risky behaviors.
•Look for social support. If you are addicted to the computer, find others who will understand your addiction and talk to them. Talk with your friends and family members about your condition and your desire to change—they too can help you monitor your usage and to stay on track with your goals.
•Keep a computer diary. By keeping track of the amount of time that you spend on the computer, the activities that you perform and the emotions that lead up to the computer use you can narrow down times or activities that are performed based on emotions and be better prepared to take control of your addiction and prevent relapse.
•Get outside help. While there are advocates for online computer addiction help, this method of treatment seems like it could be rather controversial. This is because, if you are already addicted to the computer, chances are you do not need to go to the computer for help. The best bet is to seek help outside of the home through social support groups, counseling or therapy.
•Counseling and therapy – this may entail behavioral therapy such as CBT which will retrain the mind to perform different actions when it has certain thoughts. Counseling or therapy can also focus on treating underlying mental health conditions that caused the addiction such as anxiety, depression, social trauma or other conditions
•Group Support – many different options for group or community support are available to assist those who are addicted to computers. Just getting out and interacting with others can be very rewarding to the computer addict.
•Changing Interests –one method of getting past a computer addiction is to focus on new interests. For instance, you might take part in a new gym membership, spend time at the movies with friends or go out for a walk. •If you do feel that you must go onto the computer, consider talking yourself out of the computer use unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do go on the computer, make a plan for what you will do when on the computer, how long it will take and what time you will be off of the computer. Placing these limitations on your computer usage when paired with therapy or counseling can lead to recovery from this difficult to cope with addiction.