COMPUTER ADDICTION

Since I am a computer illiterate, it is hard for me to understand how people can find computers so amazing. I use computers to type my homework and to do some research but that is it. My husband spends hours sitting in front of the computers playing games and exploring Internet sites. Recently we have been experiencing problems because he neglects us by spending too much time on the computer. I see the computer at home as my enemy because it takes my husband away from me. The computer is destroying my family's life. My children do not have their father's attention and they are growing wild. The first thing my husband does when he gets in the house is to turn on the computer. He even forgets to say hi to us. Sometimes I sit close to him to talk to him or to ask him something and he completely ignores me. When I get desperate of his obsessive behavior I yell at him and he moves away from the computer, just to come back a few minutes later. He seems to be attached to the computer. When I am using the computer to do my homework, he makes fun of me. If I move away from the computer to do something quick in the kitchen, when I go back he is already sitting in front of it with the excuse of checking his e-mail. Since he has the computer, he has never use used the phone, no even to call his old mom who lives far away. He is always worried about the computer and spends lots of money fixing it and getting new attachments for it. Lately I have been thinking that my husband's compulsive behavior can be called addiction, but I am not sure. The only thing I am sure of is that his attachment to the computer is creating disagreements between us.

According to Maressa Hecht Orzack, Ph.D. from McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA. our society is becoming more and more "computer dependent" not only for information but for fun also. Computer dependency affects people from all ages. Kids get hooked up with games and adults with chats and pornographic sites. Some persons look in the computer a solution to their overwhelming problems and they become addicts to it. They usually turn to the Internet to play games in an attempt to overcome their anxiety, to change moods or to distract themselves for their problems. Instead of solving problems computers create more. Mothers have difficulties getting their children to do chores when computers occupy all theirs after school time. Wives find their husbands neglecting their families and their phone bills get high by using the on-line service number.

Computers are useful devices that using them in excess creates problems at home, at school and at work. At home people can experiment the same problems I have plus many more. A husband whom his first priority is to check his email leaving his family life to last, and as extreme case they could cause divorce. At school the problems are also critical. Some kids don't turn in their homework because they didn't have time to do it. They fell sleep in classes because they stay up late playing games in the computer, and their grades start falling down, the lose interest in any thing that doesn't have to do with computer games. People also have problems at work related with the computer dependency. Employees start to fall behind at work and they start missing days often because they don't want to move away from the computer. According to Ph.D. Maressa Hetch these are all examples of a condition called "computer addiction", "Internet Addictive Disorder or Cyberaddiction". It affects family, friends and co-workers. Computer addicts are like gamblers. They compulsively keep investing their money and time. They think that the next connection they make will solve all their problems. (http://www.computeraddiction.com/).

The Computer Addiction Service at McLean Hospital,has found out the reasons why people become computer and Internet addicts. They recognized that persons with computer addiction turn to the Internet or play computer games for different reasons: attempting to change moods, to overcome anxiety, to deal with depression, to reduce their loneliness, to distract themselves from the overwhelming problems and sometimes like my husband just to have fun. This problem affects people from all ages. Elderly as well as children and adolescents become computer addict because they may not realize the extent of their dependency. Many times people with addiction to computers seek help to treat another condition such as depression and phobias and after that evaluation they find out that a diagnosis of computer addiction is rendered. The evaluation of those behaviors related to computer addition involve the use of standard measures of stress, depression and anxiety as well as especially designed scales for the evaluation of computer addiction. (http://www.mclean.harvard.edu/brochures/br-compu_outpt.htm).

According to James Fearing Ph.D., there exist lots of symptoms of computer addiction, and they are easy to detect. People addicted lose control when trying to stop and they keep on playing, braking promises to self or others. They become dishonest to recognize the amount of time spent on the computer and about the type of activities they where participating on the computer. They possess an overdeveloped sense of importance for the computer in ones life, and defend the right to use the computer as much as desired, regardless of the fact that people in their life are feeling neglected. Those with computer addiction experiment feeling of euphoria, combined with feelings of guilt brought on by the excessive time spent on the computer or by the abnormal behavior acted out while using the computer. Feelings of depression or anxiety are also shown when someone shortens their time or interrupts their plans to use the computer. They are always worried with the computer activities when they are not using them or when they are doing something else. Sometimes they find themselves using the computers at times when they feel uncomfortable, irritated or sad about something happening in their lives. They hide out on the computer trying to relieve their pains.

Internet Addiction covers a large variety of behaviors and impulse-control problems. According to the Center for On-Line Addiction almost 6% of 17,251 respondents in an online survey met the criteria for compulsive Internet use and more then 30% report using the Internet to escape from negative feelings. There are five specific types of Internet addiction and the warning signs to detect them are visible. When the addicted person is boring his or her friends, when the person starts making excuses to use the computer. When this person visits frequently the Geek Stores and spends long time there. When the addicted person spend long time sitting in front of the computer and he/she denied it caring less about anything else but his/her task.

From the person surveyed, the vast majority admitted to have feeling of time distortion, accelerated intimacy, and feeling uninhibited when they were at the computer on-line. Among the behaviors we can find Cybersexual Addiction, where the individuals who suffer it are engaged in viewing, downloading, and trading online pornography or involved in adult fantasy role-play chat rooms. Cyber-Relational Addition, is a behavior where the individuals become over involved in online relationships and sometimes they may engage in virtual adultery. These online friends quickly become more important to the individual and this in many instances lead to marital problems and family instability. Net gaming encloses a broad category of behaviors including obsessive gambling, gaming, shopping and stock trading. These individuals use virtual casinos, interactive games, e-brokerage houses and lose large amounts of money which disrupt other job-related duties or important relationships. Information Overload is another type of Internet addiction that affects to certain individuals. Due to the wealth of data available on the Internet, individuals are becoming every time more compulsive web searchers. They spend greater amounts of time searching and collecting information. Obsessive tendencies and reduced work productivity are associated with this behavior. Computer Addiction is the last type of addiction where individuals involved in game playing become problematic in organizational settings. As employees those individuals spend most days playing rather than working. (http://netaddiction.com/whatis.htm)

Besides of the Psychological symptoms there exist also the physical symptoms that warn us about computer addiction. Individuals who spend long hours typing at the computer start experimenting wrist pains or Carpal tunnel syndrome. Dry eyes are the result of spending many hours in front of the computer. Migraine headaches are also experimented for people who have computer addiction. Individuals who are addicted to the computer create bad habits such as eating irregularities and failure to attend to personal hygiene. Those individuals frequently suffer from sleep disturbances and changes in sleep patterns, which on time affect their daily life. (http://visionary2000.com/getalite/index.htm).

Services and treatment are provided for computer and Internet addicts based on a severe evaluation of the symptoms of the patient. The evaluation involves use of standard measures of depression, stress, anxiety, impulse control as well as specially designed scales to measure computer addiction. Cognitive behavioral techniques are used to assess educational performance, work attainments and interpersonal relationships. There exist programs to offer services and treatment to individuals, to business, to schools, and to community organizations.

The programs to provide assistance to computer and Internet addicts offer different services. The primary treatment used for individual cases is cognitive behavior therapy. If necessary, medication treatment may be recommended. Through these treatments, patients learn how to identify the signs and symptoms of computer addiction and learn to copy skills to normalize their behavior. They also learn the appropriate use of computers in work, family, educational and recreational roles. It is also recommended to attend at support groups. These programs train personnel to help troubled employees both individually and trough on site workshops. At school, they train healthcare personnel, teachers, school administrators, student advisers and counselors to watch for signs and symptoms of students at risk. Through these programs information is provided to parents and other concerned individuals to help students learn coping skills to avoid these problems. The programs also give informational lectures and interviews to media, community and religious groups, so they can spread out that information. (http://www.intervention.com/defns.html#compadd).

Computer addiction and Internet addiction has been identified by many professionals and the media. Family therapists hear about those behaviors frequently. Clinical psychiatric news report increasing complains related to computer use. At colleges and Universities, Deans and counselors of students report increases of inappropriate and excessive computer use. Even comics are using computer addiction in their sarcastic jokes to address the problems that many individuals lately face. Some entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the problem to sell some devises that pretend relieve the addiction to the computer. Lawyers find out that compulsive computer use can be a cause of divorce and I personally agree with them. The computer at home is very useful when I need to do research works but my husband behavior related with it is affecting our relationship. Now my doubts regarding of computer behavior problems have disappeared. I learned that computer addiction exists and I also know that there exist some help to anyone who needs it. I also learned that like any other addiction problem this is not going to be easy to solve. There exist barriers such as denial that difficult the rehabilitation but nothing is impossible when we really want to be helped.