Even though computer and internet addiction has only risen and been acknowledged recently, it has already been responsible for the end of many marriages and relationships over the last ten years. Much like addictions to other things like sex, drugs, or gambling, computer addiction can seriously affect a person's quality of life as well as the lives of the people around them. The online and computer world can often seem more appealing than the real world, so the use of the computer can quickly and quietly become an addiction. Most people who are addicted to using their computers are almost completely unaware of it. However, as with most addictions, acknowledging there is a problem and taking responsibility for it is a major step in recovering from this new breed of addiction.
Commonly known as cyberaddiction, internet addiction disorder, or simply computer addiction, this growing epidemic has plagued thousands of people and continues to increase in impact. As computers become cheaper, faster, and more accessible, the possibility of growing an unhealthy attachment to them becomes more and more likely.
Computers, with the addition of the internet, gives people access to information on anything a person could think of. No matter what kind of interests you enjoy, you will be able to find websites and groups of people online who are just as dedicated to it, if not more so. Furthermore, people who have addictive personalities and have other kinds of addictions can be pulled even further into those already difficult problems. From gambling to sex, humans can find what they want online.
Unfortunately, many addictions are not formed until an unhealthy use of computers begins. For example, a bored and lonely wife who stays at home during the day might develop an addiction to gambling because she has such quick and easy access to it online when she is at home. A teenager might develop an early, unhealthy view of sex because of the easy access to pornography on the internet. Computer addiction can definitely lead to other problems, but addiction to the computer use and the internet itself can become the worst problem of all. Many families and romantic partners are disappointed and depressed every day because their loved ones are spending more time on the computer than they are spending with them.
Whether it involves free online games, social networking, chatting, or simply browsing the news, the computer addict's time is still being focused on the computer instead of the real-life people and problems surrounding them in real life. Computer addiction generally stems from a need or deep desire to escape the reality surrounding that person. From stresses at work to misbehaving children, the difficulties of life have unfortunately led many people to escape online a bit too often. Again, quick and easy access to the internet, as well as its mass appeal, make computers a dangerous new "drug."
Causes of Computer Addiction
Some common traits and attributes are found in most people who find themselves addicted to using their computers. Usually, people who spend too much time online have had problems in the past with issues like loneliness, low self-esteem, and depression. Although these are commonly found in cyberaddicts, there are other more specific issues that can cause them, unconsciously, to keep spending time on the computer. For example, a woman who is dealing with a frustrating and difficult marriage is more likely to become addicted to using her computer to escape. A single father with three daughters might start using the internet to escape the stresses and tasks involved in his lifestyle. Even a wife who is bored because her husband works too much will believe she finds more excitement online than she finds at home in her own daily life.
As you can see, computer addiction, along with almost any other kind of addiction, often stems from problems that already exist. By analyzing the situation and discovering where the true issues lie, an addict can start moving away from the negative behavior and start fixing the problems that caused the addiction in the first place. Once a person can acknowledge they have an addiction problem, they will find it easier to realize the actual problems plaguing their life.
Types of Computer Addiction
Many people have a basic addiction to using the internet. Social interaction, whether the addict is involved in an in-person romantic relationship or not, is one of the main reasons people become addicted to the internet. People who are shy or have some social problems find it easy to be themselves online. Instead of being forced to speak on the spot and come up with responses in person, the internet allows some level of censorship and planning in communication. A man who has spent most of his life working and studying to become a doctor might have trouble being himself when he meets attractive women. Therefore, that doctor might find more comfort in meeting women online. This is fine and healthy. However, when the doctor begins to spend an unhealthy amount of time online and rarely partakes in activities outside of the computer, he might have a problem. This aspect of social networking provided by the internet and computers offers people a fresh and successful new way to meet others. However, people who deal with social anxiety, shyness, low self-esteem or depression are at risk of becoming addicted to the internet and online social interaction.
Gambling is also a common problem that has only gotten worse with the introduction of online gambling. Anybody with a debit card can log online, visit a gambling website, download the software, and be gambling their money within minutes. On top of that simple joining process, it is even simpler to transfer more money from your bank account into your gambling account. This way, once a person has run out of money, they can return right back to the "table" by transferring more money. The sties even have a minimum transfer so people must transfer a certain amount of money in order to gamble at all. These features are what make online gambling so easy to become addicted to. The idea of turning money into more money right from the comfort of your own home is appealing, but many people turn this idea into an addiction without realizing it. Gambling online can be a fun and entertaining way to spend free time at home, but people with gambling problems or people at risk for computer addiction should try to avoid it.
The internet offers something that is hard to find these days: privacy. When you combine this privacy with the accessibility and range of content online, it is no wonder that people become addicted to sex and/or pornography through the internet. Many men and women who are involved in struggling relationships find the internet a private and convenient way to meet new people, create secretive online relationships, and possibly partake in "cyber sex." Many people begin relationships online with intentions of nothing else, but eventually find themselves in full-blown, in-person affairs. Others keep the relationship online, but find themselves more emotionally attached to their online partner than the person with whom they live or are married to. People who are sexually frustrated within their relationships often find satisfaction through watching online pornography or meeting "no strings attached" partners online. Unfortunately, many people who are addicted to online sex and pornography eventually stop looking to their partner for sexual satisfaction and, in turn, damage the relationship.
Another aspect of technology that is rapidly changing and improving is video games. Along with this constant elevation in quality is a constant elevation in addiction. As video games become more expansive, detailed, and entertaining, they also become more addictive. While some console games are addictive, most video game addicts spend their time with computer-based games. Instead of more basic video games, many people choose to play online "Role-Playing Games," also known as RPG's. In these games, the player takes control of a customized character that can be developed and improved over time. By achieving certain goals within the game, that character "levels up," becoming more powerful and receiving more respect from other players online. While this may seem like a silly thing to be addicted to, it is a huge industry and provides online social environments for people with social issues to feel comfortable and omit confidence. Today, online RPG's involve millions of players and have become social communities where players can connect and communicate about the game, life, and everything in between. Unfortunately, these rich worlds and social advantages cause a much higher rate of addiction. People who have trouble in their real social lives find confidence when their character receives respect and interest from other players online. Many people addicted to games would rather live as their fantasy war hero than themselves. The connection they grow to their characters, and other players, is very real. For example, one man literally sued his wife, in real life, for going to their online "world" and murdering his online, virtual wife. If you don't believe that this could be a real problem, visit the online communities of wives who are neglected due to their husbands' video game playing. Examples of these groups are the "Everquest Widows Club" and the "WoW (World of Warcraft) Widows Club." Video game addiction is a serious problem today and many families are suffering because of it.
Symptoms of Computer Addiction
Quite often, people who are addicted to computers or the internet are unaware of the addictive behavior. If you live with someone or know someone who is showing signs of computer or internet addiction, don't just stand idly by. Approach your friend or family member with love and concern, but let them know that their behavior is damaging both themselves as well as your relationship with them. Help them become aware of their obvious symptoms and offer your ongoing support in their efforts to change. Never push or coerce someone into stopping, as that will only cause problems between the two of you and make that person continue their addictive behavior.
There are many symptoms of unhealthy, addictive computer use that involve both the psychological and physical aspects of the person. The psychological symptoms of computer addiction usually involve the person's desire to keep using the computer throughout the day and night. The addict feels a sense of euphoria or bliss when using the computer. The computer is their comfort zone and a sense of well-being comes over them when they surf the internet or chat with friends. People who are addicted to computers often feel that they cannot step away from the computer and constantly crave it when they are away. Essentially, they are always craving more time with it.
Furthermore, the psychological effects of computer addiction can seriously affect the interpersonal relationships of the addicted person. As the addiction becomes worse and the subject spends more and more time on the computer, they will naturally spend less time with their family and friends. The neglect and frustration arising from computer addiction can break apart families, disrupt marriages, and actually ruin lives. People just in recent years have lost their jobs, homes and families due to addiction to technology. People begin to replace the good feelings they would get when spending time with family and friends with the feelings they have when using their computer. As they become more attached to the computer, it seems less and less problematic to use it more.
Another major symptom of computer addiction is lying. Similar to other addictions, people who are addicted tend to lie about their behavior involving the addicting object. For example, someone addicted to the internet might tell their spouse they have only used the computer for an hour today when, in reality, they have used the computer for five hours. Computer addicts might also lie by telling their spouse they have to work late, just so they can stay and use their computer and internet. These little white lies may seem harmless on the surface, but they begin to repeat and become habit. Soon, the addicted person is forced to constantly make up lies to cover up their bad behavior in order to avoid arguments or consequences. That is one of the most defining features of an addict: someone who does something for immediate pleasure without acknowledgement, worry, or care about the consequences. Since the consequences don't immediately affect the addict, they feel the freedom to partake in that activity again and again. As mentioned above, lying about how much or how often you are using an addictive object is a major symptom of addiction.
The sadness and frustration that comes hand-in-hand with computer and internet addiction can affect more than just your personal relationships. An addiction such as this one, if it gets bad enough, can begin to affect you at work, school, and other important places. At work, for example, a computer addict might find himself way behind on projects and assignments, might take more sick days than other employees, or might stay late at work to "finish working" while in reality he is just surfing the net. People have also been known to resign from their job in order to have the freedom during the day to explore online as much as they want. Unfortunately, many people have and continue to lose their jobs over computer addiction.
At school, students who are addicted might fall behind with homework, get bad scores on tests and quizzes, and even fall asleep during class because of staying up into the night to chat with friends. Teenagers and college students are at high risk for addiction to computers simply because they have grown up with them and are used to being around them all of the time. It is a difficult situation for students, particularly those who have a computer addiction problem, because contemporary schooling often requires students to access the internet and work on computers repeatedly. This can also cause problems in growing adolescents who begin to think that social life only involves computer use and social networking online. Particularly teens and young adults who are shy or have high social anxiety can end up creating their entire social network online. They then miss out on the joys and excitement of personal interaction, social gatherings, and comforting groups of friends. People of this age group are also very susceptible to become addicted to video games and computer games simply because their generation has become accustomed to them.
As we have discussed, problems at home will definitely plague a family when one member of that family is addicted to the computer. One unfortunate story describes a single mother who went through a divorce and gained custody of her children. However, once her ex-husband discovered that she was neglecting the well-being of the children to spend time on the computer, he took legal action. Eventually, the ex-husband gained custody of the children and the woman was left alone with her computer. She might have felt a sense of relief at first, being able to use the computer freely, but as time passed she surely realized her major mistake and, as a result, her major loss. Stories such as this one do occur and, as time passes and technology becomes cheaper, faster, and more accessible, it seems cyberaddiction will only get worse. On top of it all, society seems to be ignoring this rising problem and acting as if it does not exist. Soon, the realities of computer addiction will be more publicized and people will make a much more conscious effort to spend less time checking their Facebook.
Physical problems also plague people who are addicted to computers and the internet. Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, for example, is one of the most common symptoms of computer or internet addiction. This is a problem that occurs when the hands and wrists are used repeatedly over time, particularly in people who type for hours each day. Numbness in the fingers and pain that extends from your hand to your elbow are major signs of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, which is caused by excessive typing, driving, sewing, painting, sports, and other activities that require constant use of the fingers and wrists. Dry eyes and repetitive migraine headaches are also signs of computer or internet addiction. People who suffer from computer addiction also deal with back aches, bad hygiene, lack of appetite, and sleeping problems. Fortunately, these issues should subside quickly once the addictive behavior ends and healthy, natural activities begin occurring on a daily basis again.
How Computer Addiction Affects Family
As with any addiction, it can seriously damage a relationship of any kind. Unfortunately, computer and internet addiction are some of the hardest things to quit simply due to the constant use of technology in society. Computers are everywhere, and cyber addicts can continue their internet use with their cell phones and PDA's.
Addiction takes away from the quality of life for everyone living with the person who is addicted, particularly in a family situation. Parents tend to neglect the needs of their children. This does not only include the simple things like spending time with the children, enjoying conversations, and eating meals together, but can even include necessities that are required for them to live comfortably such as cleaning, playing, and even eating.
In a marriage, computer addiction can be a major downfall. When one spouse spends most of their free time on the computer, the other spouse will go through a large amount of negative thoughts and emotions. They will feel abandoned, rejected, and lonely. As time goes by, the addicted spouse will begin to feel more comforted when spending time with the computer than when spending time with their spouse. Communication, an essential element of a healthy relationship, will suffer. From there, many further problems can arise. It is key for the non-addicted spouse to approach the addicted spouse with care, love and compassion in order to provide support and awareness of the problem.
Solutions for Computer Addiction
The solutions to computer and/or internet addiction are very similar to the common solutions for other addictions such as alcohol, sex or gambling. While quitting cold turkey is a way to ensure your immediate health and adjustment, it doesn't work well with human beings. You will run the risk of relapsing and making the problem worse. People are more successful when they attempt to lessen their usage more and more until it is completely under their control.
Setting a time-limit for computer usage is a very common technique people use to help deal with their addiction. This is a great way to learn self-control. By setting an alarm for the time you should turn off the computer, you are reminded of your commitment to quitting and feel more willing to leave the computer. You can also log your hours into a journal so that you can keep track of your computer use and understand it more specifically.
Pursuing other interests is another successful way a computer-addicted person can work on breaking their habit. This works well because the addicted person does not spend their time thinking about how much they want to be on the computer; instead, they will be focused on the activity at hand. Whether the person enjoys playing a musical instrument or playing tennis, the activity they enjoy will help them to work through their addiction.
Getting help is important, but the most crucial part of the help one receives is that it is IN-PERSON help. Many people who are addicted to their computers or the internet tend to look for help online. However, this only continues with the addiction by requiring more time on the computer. Receiving help from a counselor, or even a friend, not only helps the person to understand their addiction better but also helps them spend less time on their computer. If you or someone you know is seriously struggling with computer and/or internet addiction, please contact a local metal health specialist for help, advice, or to find out how to schedule an appointment.
The problems with computer addiction will only get more common and more difficult to avoid as time moves forward and society continues into an age of technology. Computers are going to become more and more integrated into our lives until it is almost impossible to avoid them on a daily basis.
Although it can be a dangerous tool, it should be viewed as a blessing. As long as we can control our usage and the reasons we spend time with the computer, it can be a helpful aid that improves the quality of life instead of damages it. Try and be aware of the amount of time you spend on the computer and, if you notice it is higher than you want, just use an alarm to limit yourself. If computer use becomes a problem, you can definitely solve it with thorough research, analysis, and self-control.