Although computer addiction is not yet a recognized official mental health diagnosis, emerging research shows it is an addiction similar to a gambling addiction. The addiction is sometimes referred to as an internet addiction, cyber addiction, or internet addictive disorder. People with a computer addiction may be looking at pornography or may be playing games, blogging, using social media sites, or just doing research online. It does not necessarily have to be a computer that people are addicted to. A video game system may cause similar problems. What separates normal use from a computer addiction is that an addiction impacts people’s social lives, their work, their family, or education.
Symptoms of a computer addiction include both psychological and physical problems. People feel an inability to stop using the computer. They may feel irritable, anxious, or depressed when not on the computer. Their addiction impacts them socially as they neglect friends and family to spend time online. It may cause problems at work as well. The addicted person may call in sick or use paid work time to use a company computer for personal use. Physical problems may include difficulty sleeping, headaches, dry eyes, and carpal tunnel. People sometimes don’t eat regularly due to their computer use as well and they may skip meals altogether. Their hygiene may also become poor as they spend all the time on the computer instead of showering and caring for themselves.
A parent with a computer addiction often does not follow through with ensuring children complete their homework or do their chores. It becomes difficult to manage a child’s behaviors from behind the computer. Marriages suffer as well. The other partner tends to feel neglected. The person with the addiction may lie about their computer use and make excuses, creating more conflicts in the relationship. Such an addiction can cause serious problems and can lead to separation or divorce if not sufficiently dealt with.
There is treatment for computer addiction. People can benefit from therapy to learn new coping skills and to practice healthier ways to care for themselves. If you or your partner have signs of a computer addiction, seek professional help. If your partner has the addiction and won’t seek help, consider help for yourself.