Computer addiction is a relatively new term used to describe a dependency on one's computer. It is not limited to personal computers, but covers video games and the Internet as well. This addiction has already been given a label by psychologists: Internet addiction disorder (IAD).
People can grow addicted to a variety of substances, and there is usually a substantial amount of help available to treat them. Alcohol, drugs, and sex have all been known to bring out the addictive personality trait in some people, but other forms of addictive behavior, such as exercise, watching television, or spending too much time on a computer, have only recently been recognized. Computer addiction, like any addiction, can creep up on a person without him being aware of it. Talk shows are full of people whose relationships have been torn apart by one partner's addiction. Spending hours chatting online, surfing the web, or playing computer games can cause relationships to deteriorate as other parts of a person's life are neglected.
This newly named addiction has gained much press attention recently, as children have also been affected. A recent research study showed that some children experience rage when they are forbidden to play computer games. The results are temper tantrums and behavioral traits similar to those of an addict going cold turkey.
As with most other dependencies, specific questions can be asked to assess whether or not someone may suffer from computer addiction. These questions include assessing how much time is spent on the PC or playing video games, sometimes relative to how much time is spent interacting with real people.
Another way to assess this addiction is to assess a person's quality of life before and after the computer arrived. Many people have lost jobs because they cannot force themselves away from the computer. Constantly logging onto the Internet at work has caused many people to be dismissed, often after repeated warnings were issued. Money is another factor, and some people have gone into debt and lost great amounts of money using online services and chatrooms.
Computer addiction is also sometimes linked to computer gambling. Some people only have access to gambling services through a computer. Not only do such people spend countless hours playing online poker, but they often lose thousands of dollars while playing.
As with any addiction, steps can be taken to treat this problem. Limiting the amount of time spent on the computer or playing video games is a simple step. If a computer is on all the time at home, individuals can switch it off. Guidelines for children suggest allowing no more than one hour per night on the PC or playing video games.
This form of addiction is said to be on the increase. More and more people are spending time in cyberspace in a virtual world of their own making. If not treated, this condition can lead to diminished social skills and deterioration in the addict's quality of life.