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"Computer addiction" can be described as the excessive or compulsive use of the computer which persists despite serious negative consequences for personal, social or occupational function. Another clear conceptualization is made by Block, who stated that "Conceptually, the diagnosis is a compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder that involves online and/or offline computer usage and consists of at least three subtypes: excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations, and e-mail/text messaging". While it was expected that this new type of addiction would find a place under the compulsive disorders in the DSM 5, the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is still counted as an unofficial disorder. The concept of computer addiction is broadly divided in two types, namely offline computer addiction and online computer addiction. The term offline computer addiction is normally used when speaking about excessive gaming behavior, which can be practiced both offline and online. Online computer addiction, also known as Internet addiction, gets more attention in general from scientific research than offline computer addiction, mainly because most cases of computer addiction are related to the excessive use of the Internet.
Although addiction is usually used to describe dependence on substances, addiction can also be used to describe pathological Internet use. Experts on Internet addiction have described this syndrome as an individual being intensely working on the Internet, prolonged use of the Internet, uncontrollable use of the Internet, unable to use the Internet with efficient time, not being interested in the outside world, not spending time with people from the outside world, and an increase in their loneliness and dejection. However, 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.
Symptoms of computer addiction
- Having a constant preoccupation with the computer either online or offline.
- Feeling an intense desire to go online, play a computer game, or socialize.
- Being drawn by the computer as soon as one wakes up and before one goes to bed.
- Spending time on the computer despite family functions taking place, special events, or other activities that one was once happy to be a part of.
- Replacing old hobbies with excessive use of the computer and using the computer as one's primary source of entertainment and procrastination.
- Performing actions on the computer that are outside the realm of what one's original plans were (such as shopping online).
- Lying to one's family and friends about the activities that one performs while on the computer (e.g., saying that one is working on homework when one is actually playing a game)
- Possessing anxious feelings when wanting to use the computer or knowing that time on the computer is limited.
- Exhibiting mood swings or irritability when one is not allowed to spend as much time on the computer as one would like to.
- Losing track of time while on the computer and spending more time on it than intended.
- Using the computer as a form of escapism from reality.
- Lacking physical exercise and/or outdoor exposure because of constant use of the computer, which could contribute to many health problems such as obesity.
Excessive computer use may result in, or occur with:
- Lack of face to face social interaction.
- Using the computer for pleasure, gratification, or relief from stress.
- Feeling irritable and out of control or depressed when not using it.
- Spending increasing amounts of time and money on hardware, software, magazines, and computer-related activities.
- Neglecting work, school, or family obligations.
- Lying about the amount of time spent on computer activities.
- Failing at repeated efforts to control computer use.
- Health problems such as eye strain, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and obesity.
Most common causes of computer addiction
- anxiety caused by stress at work, relationships, financial problems or other sources
- depression that leads to computer use
- boredom and feeling like there is nothing else to do
The most common types of computer addiction
- General computer addictions – this is the result of an individual’s desire to play games such as Solitaire 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 excess. 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.
Treatments for computer addiction
- Counseling and therapy – This may entail behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, 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. Going outside 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, especially with interests that involve physical exercise and/or exposure to the outdoors in an environment with little or no access to computers and related technologies. For instance, a computer user might take part in a new gym membership, spend time at the movies with friends or go out for a walk.
- If a computer user does feel that he must go onto the computer, consider talking himself out of the computer use unless it is absolutely necessary. If he does go on the computer, he must make a plan for what he 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.
Origin of the term and history
British e-learning academic Nicholas Rushby suggested in his 1979 book, An Introduction to Educational Computing, that people can be addicted to computers and suffer withdrawal symptoms. The term was also used by M. Shotton in 1989 in her book Computer Addiction. However, Shotton concludes in her book that the 'addicts' are not truly addicted. Dependency on computers, she argues, is better understood as a challenging and exiting pastime that can also lead to a professional career in the field. Computers do not turn gregarious, extroverted people into recluses; instead they offer introverts a source of inspiration, excitement and intellectual stimulation. Shotton's work seriously questions the legitimacy of the claim that computers cause addiction.
The term became more widespread with the explosive growth of the Internet, as well the availability of the Personal Computer. Computers and the Internet both started to take shape as a personal and comfortable medium which could be used by anyone who wanted to make use of it. With that explosive growth of individuals making use of PCs and the Internet, the question started to arise whether or not misuse or excessive use of these new technologies could be possible as well. It was hypothesized that, like any technology aimed specifically at human consumption and use, that abuse could have severe consequences for the individual in the short term and for the society in the long term. In the late nineties people who made use of PCs and the internet where already referred to the term webaholics or cyberholics. Pratarelli et al. suggested at that point already to label "a cluster of behaviors potentially causing problems" as computer or Internet addiction.
Computer addiction was used as an effective defence by one of the defendants in the Eight Legged Groove Machine hacking trial in the 1993. The victims allegedly caused £120,00 worth of damage to JANET, BT, Financial Times, European Commission sites. Expert psychiatric evidence of obsessive addiction to hacking. Held - defendant was "addicted to hacking", and lacked criminal intent. Defendant acquitted.
There are other examples of computer overuse that date back to the earliest computer games. Many NetNews users were considered obsessive[who?] in the 1980s. Press reports have furthermore noted that some Finnish Defence Forces conscripts were not mature enough to meet the demands of military life, and were required to interrupt or postpone military service for a year. One reported source of the lack of needed social skills is overuse of computer games or the Internet. Forbes termed this overuse "Web fixations", and stated that they were responsible for 12 such interruptions or deferrals over the 5 years from 2000-2005.[dead link] 
- Information addiction
- Internet addiction disorder
- Video game addiction
- Computer rage
- Facebook addiction
- Underearners Anonymous
- Digital addict
- Virtual reality addiction
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