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Over the past 30 years, computers have gradually permeated most every area of daily life. Financing, socializing, work, schoolwork and recreational activities are just some of the areas where computers play a central role. As promising as all this has become, there’s a dark side to computer use when time spent on the computer spins out of control.
Like most any other addiction, a computer addict pushes aside essential areas of his or her life in favor of spending more time on the computer. A computer addict mentality can evolve out of occasional computer use much like alcoholics and drug addicts were once merely “recreational” users. Not surprisingly, computer addicts carry many of the same signs and symptoms alcohol/drug addicts do.
Computer addiction can take on different forms depending on the type of preference a person has. In general, five types of computer addiction have been identified:
- Information overload – web surfing, database searching
- Cybersex addiction
- Net compulsions – online games, gambling, auctioning, stock trading
- Computer addiction – offline video gaming, computer programming
Of the five, online gambling, cybersex and cyber-relationships are the most common addictions. A computer addict in any one these areas has a compulsive need to engage in the activity. This need grows increasingly stronger over time.
While no one intends to become a computer addict, people with certain life situations may be especially susceptible. In effect, a compulsive need to use the computer has replaced another unmet need in a person’s life. Life situations involving depression problems, social anxiety and anxiety in general can easily turn a casual computer user into a computer addict.
As with any other type of addiction, a computer addict will continue to use compulsively in the face of negative consequences, according to the University of Texas at Dallas. This is “the” classic sign of addiction.
Risk factors for computer addiction bear a close similarity to those associated with alcohol/drug addiction. Someone with limited or few social interactions in the “real world” may turn to the online world as a way to compensate. A computer addict may be someone who’s under high levels of stress and uses the computer as an escape from real life. A computer addict may also be suffering from other types of addiction, such as drugs and/or alcohol.
Each of these risk factors has to do with a person’s ability to cope with everyday life. In effect, excess computer use becomes an acquired, dysfunctional coping mechanism that enables a person to make it through the day.
Signs You’re a Computer Addict
You may be a computer addict if:
- Problems at work or school due to neglected responsibilities
- Problems at home due to neglected obligations
- Spending more and more time alone
- Feeling irritable, anxious and/or depressed when away from the computer
- Constantly thinking about being on the computer when away from it
- Anticipating the next time you’ll be on the computer
- Inability to limit your time on the computer or stop using it
Over time, a computer addiction will start to impact a person’s lifestyle to the point where responsibilities, obligations and time spent with friends centers around spending more time on the computer.