Archive for March 9th, 2011
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 or Internet Addiction has come into use. While anyone who uses a computer could be vulnerable, those people who are lonely, shy, easily bored, or suffering from another addiction or impulse control disorder as especially vulnerable to computer abuse.
Computer abuse can result from people using it repeatedly as their main stress reliever, instead of having a variety of ways to cope with negative events and feelings. Other misuses can include procrastination from undesirable responsibilities, distraction from being upset, and attempts to meet needs for companionship and belonging. While discussions are ongoing about whether excessive use of the computer/Internet is an addiction, the potential problematic behaviors and effects on the users seem to be clear.
A person who is “addicted” to the computer is likely to have several of the experiences and feelings on the list below:
- Mixed feelings of well-being and guilt while at the computer.
- Make unsuccessful efforts to quit or limit your computer use.
- Lose track of time while on the computer.
- Neglect friends, family and/or responsibilities in order to be online.
- Lying to your boss and family about the amount of time spent on the computer and what you do while on it.
- Feel anxious, depressed, or irritable when your computer time is shortened or interrupted.
- Use the computer repeatedly as an outlet when sad, upset, or for sexual gratification.
- Develop problems on the job as a result of the time spent and the type of activities accessed on the computer.
Being “addicted” to the computer can cause physical discomfort, such as:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (pain, numbness, and burning in your hands that can radiate up the wrists, elbows, and shoulders)
- Dry eyes or strained vision
- Back aches and neck aches
- Severe headaches
- Sleep disturbances
The first step in coping effectively with Internet dependence is recognizing that the problem exists. As with other kinds of behavior that have become habitual or compulsive, the individual suffering from Internet dependence may not be conscious of the extent to which his or her behavior has become problematic. The fact that the costs of Internet use have come to outweigh its benefits may at first be denied, but this fact needs to be acknowledged.
On one level, Internet dependence is a behavioral, time-management problem. Most individuals dealing with Internet dependence find that it is helpful to alter their routines. They often need to limit the time they stay online and make an effort to devote time to other activities. They may need outside help of some sort in adhering to the limits they set for themselves.
On a deeper, more significant level, Internet dependence is a problem of human disconnection. It would be most helpful—though it may seem extremely difficult at first—to cultivate flesh-and-blood relationships in addition to cyber-relationships. Avoidance of face-to-face relationships is often a part of Internet dependence. It is also often the case that Internet dependence has been driven by feelings such as boredom, anxiety, emptiness, or loneliness. It is important for each individual to consider what has led to the dependence and what has been keeping it in place. Counseling can be a very useful way of getting support, exploring the issues and feelings involved in the dependence, and deciding what specific options would be most appropriate.
How to Help Computer Obsessed Friends/Coworkers
- Be a good role model. Manage the computer use in your own life well.
- Introduce them to some other people who handle their computer use sensibly.
- Get them involved in some non-computer related fun.
- Talk to them about your concerns with their computer use.
- Support their desire for change if they think they have a problem.
- Encourage them to seek professional counseling.