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Computer Addiction

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Ten years ago, the only people who spent a majority of their leisure time on the computer were paid members of the technology industry. Today, however, surfing the Web has become a pastime as social and marketable as bar hopping or going to the movies. As the web has become a part of mainstream life, some mental health professionals have noted that a percentage of people using the web do so in a compulsive and out-of-control manner. In one extreme (1997) Cincinnati case, unemployed mother Sandra Hacker allegedly spent over 12 hours a day secluded from her three young and neglected children while she surfed the Web. For better or for worse, this phenomena of compulsive Internet use has been termed 'Internet Addiction' based on its superficial similarity to common addictions such as smoking, drinking, and gambling. Internet Addiction has even been championed as an actual disorder, notably by psychologists Kimberly Young, Ph.D and David Greenfield, Ph.D.. However, at this time the true nature of Internet Addiction is not yet determined.
In a true addiction, a person becomes compulsively dependent upon a particular kind of stimulation to the point where obtaining a steady supply of that stimulation becomes the sole and central focus of their lives. The addict increasingly neglects his work duties, relationships and ultimately even his health in his drive to remain stimulated. In some cases of addiction (such as addiction to alcohol or to heroin), a phenomenon known as tolerance occurs, wherein more and more stimulation is required to produce the same pleasurable effect. A related phenomena, withdrawal, can also occur, wherein the addicted person comes to be dependent upon their source of stimulation and experiences dramatically unpleasant (and even potentially lethal -- as can be the case with alcohol) reactions when he goes without it. Sources of addictive stimulation can be chemical (as is the case with addictive drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, nicotine and heroin), sensual (as in sex) or even informational (as in gambling or workaholism). What all sources of addictive stimulation have in common is that they provoke a strong, usually positive (at first) reaction in the potential addict, who then seeks out the source of that stimulation so as to obtain that feeling on a regular basis.
While many people like to engage in sexual relations, or gamble, or have the occasionally drink because of the pleasure to be had, clearly not all people who do so are addicts. Rather, the term addiction only applies when someone's stimulation seeking gets to the point where it starts interfering with their ability to function normally and non-neglectfully at work and in relationships.
Mental health professionals are split as to whether or not Internet addiction is real. No one disputes that some people use the Internet in a compulsive manner even to a point where it interferes with their their ability to function at work and in social relationships. What is disputed is whether people can become addicted to the Internet itself, or rather to the stimulation and information that the web provides. The controversy surrounding Internet Addiction is precisely whether people become addicted to the net itself, or to the stimulation to be had via the net (such as online gambling, pornography or even simple communication with others via chat and bulletin boards).
Some psychologists do not believe in addiction to the Internet itself, but rather in addiction to stimulation that the Internet provides. They suggests that new Internet users often show an initial infatuation with the novelty of the Web, but eventually lose interest and decrease their time spent online back to a normal, healthy amount. Those users who do go on to show compulsive Internet utilization, for the most part become compulsive only with regard to particular types of information to be had online, most often gambling, pornography, chat room or shopping sites. This is not an addiction to the Internet itself, but rather to risk-taking, sex, socializing or shopping. In essence then, the chief addictive characteristic of the Internet is its ability to enable instant and relatively anonymous social stimulation. “Addicted” Internet users are addicted to a favored kind of social stimulation and not to the Internet itself, although it is also true that the Internet has made it vastly easier and more convenient for someone to develop such a compulsion.
Because the Internet is used by many people as a normal part of their career or education, knowing how to separate excessive from normal use becomes difficult and cannot be accomplished using simple measures such as amount of time spent online in a given period. Most fundamental in differentiating normal from problem Internet use is the experience of compulsion to use the net. Normal users, no matter how heavy their usage, do not need to get online and do not neglect their occupational duties or their relationships with family and friends to get online.
Help for Internet related addiction is available from multiple sources. Anyone concerned about serious problem Internet usage should consider consulting with a local licensed psychologist, social worker or counselor, specifically one with experience treating addictions. Cognitive therapy based approaches are recommendable due to their systematic and direct focus on reducing problem use and preventing relapse, and the strong scientific support for the approach. Marital and or family therapy approaches may be useful as well when an individual's Internet Addiction is affecting their larger family system (such as might be the case when a husband uses Internet-based pornography as his sole sexual outlet, leaving his wife frozen out). More than a few books and self-help resources (such as audio tape sets) are also available for those who want to educate themselves on the problem. Our Internet Addiction Treatment article provides further detail.
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.[1] 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".[2] 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.[3] The concept of Computer Addiction is broadly divided in two types, namely offline and online Computer Addiction. The term offline Computer Addiction is normally used when speaking about excessive gaming behavior, which can both be practiced offline and online.[4] Online computer Addiction is also known asInternet addiction and gets in general more attention from scientific research than Offline Computer Addiction, mainly because most cases of Computer Addiction are related to the excessive use of the internet.[1]
Although addiction is usually used to describe 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.[5] 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[edit]
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.[6]
Effects[edit]
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.
Most Common Causes for Computer Addiction[edit] 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[6]
The most Common Types of Computer Addiction[edit]
General Computer addictions – this the result of an individual’s desire to play games such as solitaire or other games 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.[6]
Treatments for Computer Addiction[edit]
Counseling and therapy – this may entail behavioral therapy such as CBT 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. Just getting out 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. 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.[6]
Origin of the term and history[edit]
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.

The term became more widespread with the explosive growth of the internet, as well the availability of the Personal Computer.[7] Computers and 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. Hypothesized was 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.[8] 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.[7]

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.[9]

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.[citation needed] Press reports[citation needed] 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][10] [11…...

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