How Pervasive is the Problem?

Exact statistics on the rate of computer addiction are not available. The problem is not classified as a specific disorder, so there are no diagnostic criteria for determining addiction. Psychology professor Dr. Kimberly S. Young conducted an unscientific survey of Internet users to see how many of them self-identified as Internet addicts. Dr. Young, who is one of the strongest supporters of the "computer addiction as a real addiction" school of thought, found that 80 percent of the people who responded to her survey considered themselves Internet addicts. It is impossible to extrapolate that number into any meaningful statistic, though Young considers it a sign of a "potential epidemic" [source: Young].

Computer Addiction Controversy

There is a great deal of debate in the medical com­munity about the validity of computer addiction. There is no doubt that some people use their computers, look at Internet pornography, play computer games and chat online too much for their own good. There are even some people whose computer use completely consumes their lives. However, many psychologists believe computer addiction is a compulsive behavior linked to an underlying condition, not something that should be classified as an addiction. People who suffer from "computer addiction" are really people who can't control their impulses, say these critics [source: Surratt]. They claim that some people might identify themselves as having Internet Addiction Disorder as part of a complex social reinforcement process. Video-game addiction might be the result of fear-mongering -- scaring parents into thinking there's something wrong with their kids. Some critics even contend that people who are obsessed with online gaming are no different from people who sit on the couch and watch hours of TV every night. In other words, maybe they're just lazy.

In 2007, the American Medical Association decided that video-game addiction (one possible component of computer addiction) should not be declared an actual disease, pending further research. The American Psychiatric Association also resisted a push to include video game addiction as a mental disorder in the fifth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [source: ExtremeTech].