Psychologists disagree as to whether computer obsession is even a real addiction. Although many therapists treat “computer addiction" as a disorder, other therapists claim that computer obsession is more like pathological gambling than a true addiction, because it involves a behavioral failure to resist an impulse and not a physical dependence upon some sort of substance.
There have been few studies on the fairly recent phenomenon of computer addiction, so there are few scientific facts to quote. However, there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that seems to suggest that computer addiction not only exists, but may actually be close to an epidemic worldwide. Most heavy computer users are aware of their own problem or know of other people who seem to display all the symptoms of an addicted personality.
Like many drug users, computer addicts have a tendency to lose track of time when they're online. They can spend entire days in cyberspace and not realize it. They go without sleep, they forget to eat, they stay home from work or school, and they ignore their day-to-day responsibilities, all like any other type of addict. They oftentimes find themselves wanting to get up and tend to their lives, but are unable to pull themselves away from their computer chairs.
Given the choice between the real world and the world of cyberspace, the virtual world wins.
Game Play Addiction, Email, Chat Rooms
One large factor for computer addiction involves video games. Some games in particular have notorious reputations for being difficult to walk away from, such as Doom, Lode Runner, and even the lowly game of computer Solitaire. Many colleges are now beginning to include workshops on computer addiction as part of their standard freshman orientation.
Other areas that are very difficult to ignore are email, chat rooms, and newsgroups. Many companies have recognized the potential for losing large amounts of time and are fighting back, denying employees access to the Internet, email, chats, or games while on the job.
Different from TV Watching?
Folks who aren't convinced of the danger of computer addition point to other segments of society, especially that of television viewing, and ask if it's any more dangerous to spend the same amount of time on a computer as sitting on the couch watching whatever is on at the moment. They say it's not the computer that’s at fault, citing heroin addicts, who don't blame the needle for their addiction. After all, the Internet has been a boon to humans, leveling the playing field between small towns and big cities, allowing people to work from home, and putting more information in the hands of more people than any other time in human history.
Since it's a psychological problem and not one of substance abuse, the debate will likely continue for some time to come, especially since the World Wide Web is still a relatively new phenomenon. However, that doesn't change the fact that thousands of students fail their classes because they're spending too much time online and millions of productivity hours are lost every day due to employee surfing in the office.
In one final irony, if you look at your own computer habits and decide that you need to seek help as a potential computer addict, the only support groups you're likely to find will be online.
Free Computer Addiction report and articles at http://www.clickingaddict.com
Author of magazine and encyclopedia articles, Jeanette Fisher also contributes to Computer Addiction Articles .