Health Magazine

Autism and Computer Addiction

By Gbollard @gbollard

Computer addiction is not an exclusively Asperger's or Autism condition. Not all autistics develop it and not all people with computer addiction issues have autism.

One of the key issues is that when autistic people have a special interest in any subject, they tend to give that subject their entire focus. In cases where those subjects are computer-based, this can lead to addiction.

Autism and Computer Addiction

Image by Alexandr Podvalny from Pixabay

What is Computer Addiction?

Internet or computer addiction is a very real problem. It especially affects young people, particularly children and there are studies suggesting that it is widespread enough to affect one in four children. 

Computer addiction is so widely recognised that it has been included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). 

The most common ways that computer addiction affects individuals are:

  • Information Overload: Where people become involved in internet research that it impacts their relationships with others. 
  • Cyber-relationships: Where people get so caught up in profile and relationship management (facebook, instagram etc) that they neglect their real-world relationships. 
  • Cyber-sex: Where addiction to porn sites impacts real-world relationships.
  • Compulsion: Where online gaming and gambling sites affect real world relationships and finances.
  • Gaming: Computing can be addictive even without the internet. Computer games, particularly modern ones are specifically designed to drag people in and keep them there. 

Any form of overuse behavior where a computer or internet-based hobby begins to affect a person's mental or physical health - and where the "victim" cannot stop that behaviour, is computer addiction. 

Why is Computer Addiction bad?

Computer addiction can lead to a wider variety of physical and mental issues including the following:

Physical Issues: Carpal tunnel syndrome, or wrist over-use, vitamin D deficiency,  headaches, back issues, weight issues, (gain from immobility or loss from not eating), vision issues and eyestrain, poor diet and insomnia. 

Mental Issues: Depression, Overdependence upon the computer, Anger issues (particularly common with gamers), disengagement issues leading to general lateness, inability to keep schedules and overall tiredness. Feelings of isolation, general dishonesty and agitation. Many computer games and sites can also create post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Studies also suggest that there are connections between substance abuse and computer addiction. 

How Do you Stop?

The first step in stopping any kind of addiction is to recognize it in yourself. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of diagnostic tools (quizzes) to determine if you have internet addiction, there are not many that test general computer addiction (for example, to games). 

In order to stop the addiction from taking over your life, you'll need a plan. Your plan will be different depending upon your circumstances but one of the key components will be "being aware of the time you're spending on the computer". 
Going "cold turkey" and stopping computer usage altogether will probably not work. You should instead aim to reduce your hours. Start by dropping an hour or two per day for the first week, then see if you can drop another hour in the second week and so on. 
The aim probably shouldn't be to drop your hours to zero unless computing is not essential to your life. Instead, you should try to fill those extra hours with the key items that excessive computing is taking from your life, starting with sleep. You should aim for about six to eight hours of sleep.
Once your sleep patterns are under control, you should be starting to improve your interactions with family and friends by spending more "in-person" time with them, particularly outdoors and away from home.
If you need supporting medication, it's most likely that your doctor will prescribe Anti-Anxiety or Anti-Depression Medications. 

As with any kind of addiction-breaking routine, you will need support. Don't attempt to do it entirely by yourself. Get someone reliable to act as a sponsor for you. Someone who can help you find ways to reduce the pull of the addiction. 

Can parents help you to stop?

There's no doubt that parents may be able to assist individuals in reducing their computer addiction but it really depends on the kind of help that is being given (positive reinforcement is welcome but negative reinforcement is unlikely to be well received) -- and whether it is being sought by the individual. 
One thing that is clear is that external people generally can't force a person to give up their addiction. The individual first has to recognize that they have a problem and then decide to do something about it. Without these initial steps, parental involvement will have no effect. 

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