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Let us begin by defining computer addiction. Computer addiction is a dependency on computers in which someone uses computers so much as to compromise one's physical and/or psychological health.

The first question that one might ponder upon hearing a strong expression like “computer addiction” is whether or not computer dependency is serious enough to warrant the use of such a term. A few paragraphs taken from Peter Mitchell of The Lancet offer an explanation:

The existence of internet addiction as a discrete disorder was first proposed, albeit not entirely seriously, in 1995 by Ivan Goldberg, a New York psychiatrist. But it was a 1996 study by Kimberly Young of the University of Pittsburgh ( Bradford , PA , USA ) that triggered the controversy. Young reported that 396 out of 496 self-selected regular internet users were dependent on the internet (CyberPsychology and Behavior 1998; 1: 237-42; www.netaddiction.com/articles/newdisorder.htm).

One should read Young's study with skepticism because her sample sample was "self-selected." Statistical studies should be carried out randomly so as to prevent a response bias. It is highly likely that those who chose to respond to this survey were not accurately representative of the population as a whole because those who responded had some vested interest in the subject. Mitchell, however, continutes:

Oliver Seemann of Ludwig-Maximilians University Psychiatric Clinic ( Munich , Germany ) believes that internet addiction is a real psychological disorder that--like all dependencies--is often linked with serious co-morbidities. "Yes, there is a lot of scepticism about the diagnosis", he says. "The main argument used against it is that other psychiatric illnesses lead to a misuse of the internet. But that is also true of other addictions."

In a recent, more rigorous online survey of 809 internet users, Seemann, Ulrich Hegerl, and colleagues found only 20 people who fulfilled the ICD-10 criteria of an addiction syndrome (such as withdrawal symptoms, increasing tolerance, and loss of control). "Our patients often complain about typical withdrawal symptoms such as nervousness, agitation, and aggression", he explains. In addition, some studies have shown that playing games on the internet, a frequent internet addiction mode, leads to dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens. This is thought to be an important neurochemical event in the generation of addiction, says Seemann...

Just as there are different reasons for retreating into an internet-centred world, so the nature of internet over-use varies. Older addicts and women, says Orzack, are usually drawn to "chat rooms"--conversation groups in which people can anonymously exchange private messages, often for many hours, and often on sexual themes. Younger patients and men are more often drawn to games--for example, interactive role-playing games--and to pornographic websites. (Mitchell, 632, 2000)

Psychologists have yet to reach a consensus about computer addiction. "As yet, there is no official psychological or psychiatric diagnosis of an "Internet" or "Computer" addiction. The most recent (4th) edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (aka, DSM-IV)," (Suler, 359, 2004).