You have just spent all of the hours you needed for sleep on the Internet. Your body is crying for sleep but you still wonder if you got any reaction from your followers about your latest post or tweet. You have to check your email one last time, too. Welcome to the world of a computer addict. The Computer addiction affects all ages and nationalities.
There have been jokes about Internet addiction since desktop computers first became affordable back in the mid-1990s. However, internet addition is no laughing matter. The need to be online or in front of a computer screen is just as strong as a drug addict’s withdrawal pains. In order to help a computer addict, you first have to realize how serious the problem is.
What is Computer Addiction?
Computer addiction is also called computer game addiction, social media addiction, technology addiction or Internet addiction disorder. No matter what you call it, it’s a real addiction. It’s not some disease of the month. It is a real problem. According to a 2014 study of British children by the business Family Kids & Youth, four out of every ten were computer or Internet addicts.
Computer addiction is a problem in many countries, not just Great Britain. In America, it has become so bad that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) included a new mental illness: Internet addiction disorder.
Chasing the High
What causes an addiction? Basically, it’s when someone craves something so strongly, like going online, that nothing else will do. It’s sometimes called “chasing the high” or “getting a fix.” Suppose you had been looking forward to going see a new movie but suddenly your plans are cancelled. You get cranky, right? This is partly why computer addicts tend to get moody, because they are very disappointed when they can’t get their fix.
Why is the fix so powerful? This is because of a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. When an addict gets a fix, dopamine rushes throughout the brain. This brings intense pleasure. Not only can that, but floods of dopamine make even an exhausted body tolerate extreme conditions like not eating or sleeping. Dopamine is pleasurable enough so that it overrides the body’s strong signals that it needs to eat, sleep or otherwise get comfortable.
It’s Not As Bad As Other Addictions, Is It?
Addiction to anything creates an extremely negative impact on the addict’s life. Just because playing computer games or checking out social media is legal does not mean that it cannot destroy your life. Let’s say your loved one suffers from computer game addiction. The only priority in the addict’s life is chasing the high. Everything else is considered inconsequential. That includes work, school or you.
A computer addict also suffers physical problems caused by his or her addiction. A computer addict may:
- Stop or cut back on personal grooming
- Stop sleeping
- Cut back on eating
- Cuts back on socializing with friends
- Cuts back or stops hobbies that the person once enjoyed
- Increase in chronic pains like backaches, headaches or dry eyes.
Bathing, sleeping and eating takes time. For the addict, this is time that could be spent in front of a computer screen or on a smart phone. According to Psychology Today, excessive time in front of computer screens can cause brain damage, especially for kids undergoing puberty. This is the time that the frontal lobes in their brains are most susceptible to becoming damaged because they complete growing.
Treatment: First Steps
How to stop computer addiction differs for each addict. Some may succeed with counseling and a strong support base from family and friends. Others may need medication as well as counseling. The most important thing to do is not ignore this problem, especially if you are the parent of a technology addict. This is not a “phase.” This is addiction. It’s time to get professional help.
The first thing to do is get the addict to a doctor. This can be a general practitioner or a therapist. The addict may be suffering from other mental disorders like major depression. Internet addiction may help the addict to deal with his or her symptoms of mental illness. Internet use becomes a way of coping. Addicts may or may not know what they are doing.
Progressing in Treatment
How treatment progresses depends on the addict’s first visit to the doctor or mental health specialist. Some addicts need to hit rock bottom before they seek help. Adult computer addicts have been known to literally game themselves to death because they stop eating or sleeping. Parents are able to get their children medical help before their kids hit rock bottom.
Some computer addicts may need to go into a hospital or a full-fledged rehabilitation program in order to curb their addiction. Some may need therapy on an out-patient basis. There are many support groups so addicts can meet, tell their stories and swap tips. Avoid online support groups, for obvious reasons. Check out hospitals, libraries or your doctor to find out about support groups meeting in your area.
Being a Role Model for Kids
Parents of computer addicts may feel helpless about their children’s addiction. However, there is one big that they can do in order to help. They can act as good role models for their kids. They can also monitor how long their kids are on the Internet. Setting strict time limits is essential, no matter how large of a tantrum the child throws. Show your kids how you manage stress. Get your kids interested in other things.
Computer addicts turn to their addiction partly to help them deal with stress. You need to show your kids how to handle stress without sitting in front of a computer screen all night. You may need to enter therapy with your child to so you can help your child cope with stress and anxiety.
Sources: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-bootcamp/200907/techno-addicts