Computer addiction sounds like an absurd concept when considering the technology-based age we live in. But, identifying where the line between normal usage and addiction falls can keep problems at bay.
The Origins of Computer Addiction
A person becomes addicted to the computer in seemingly innocuous ways. It begins as a game of solitaire during work or chatting online with strangers sharing the same hobby. A person will come home from work and immediately jump on the computer to continue where he/she left off. Children and teenagers spend after-school hours listening to music and playing games instead of going outside.
Most people who own or work with computers engage in these activities at one time or another. However, a problem begins when the computer is the first, last, and only thing they think about. Being on the computer becomes the most consuming thing in a person's life. An addiction to computers is frequently related to Internet addiction and video game addiction.
Symptoms of an Addiction to Computers
Computer addiction has two distinct categories of symptoms. Many psychological and emotional symptoms are consistent with other addictions. They include:
- Neglect of family and friends
- Becoming annoyed when real-life situations or problems interrupt computer time
- Denial of a problem
- Thinking about computers, computer games, or websites when doing other activities
- Being unable to limit usage time on the computer
- Using the computer to get a "high" feeling
- Using the Internet for gambling, viewing pornography, or engaging in otherwise inappropriate behaviors
- Spending significant amounts of money on computer hardware, updates, programming, and games
Additionally, physical symptoms of computer addiction can appear. These may include carpal tunnel syndrome, back aches, eye problems, stiff necks, or headaches. Addicted users also may have trouble eating regularly and maintaining their personal hygiene.
Treatment for Computer Addicts
Treatments for people addicted to their computer revolve mostly around behavior modification. Learning to use the computer for appropriate things for a reasonable amount of time is key. Computer addicts should be first evaluated by a therapist or counselor, because they may have other addictions or problems (like depression) that will need to be treated in connection with their addiction to computers.
One of the most common forms of therapy in treating computer addiction is the use of cognitive behavior therapy. This is a specialized therapy that focuses on how a person's thoughts influence his/her feelings and actions. Cognitive behavior therapy changes how we think and therefore how we act. Exercises and small homework assignments are emphasized as part of the treatment, rather than stressing talk-based therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy focuses on the patient learning to monitor his/her own behavior.
Another form of treatment utilizes a 12-step program similar to the one used by Alcoholics Anonymous. Almost all experts agree that computer addiction therapy should be conducted in person and/or via the telephone, rather than over the Internet.
Computer technology is not going to disappear in our lifetimes. As a society, we have become dependent upon computers to help us in our daily lives. Everyone needs to make sure that this help in our school, work, and private lives does not become a hindrance.