Addiction to computers

Finding your way back to real life

Computers and the Internet are part of everyday life for most people these days. But what if everyday life is no longer possible without a computer, smartphone or tablet? While most people mainly use their computers and the Internet in a meaningful and controlled way, some people lose control over how often and for how long they surf the Internet, are active on Facebook or spend their time playing online games. This can result in quite considerable psychosocial problems. 

In our psychosomatic special clinic, consultants and therapists with vast amounts of expertise work in therapy to treat an addition to computers. Our treatment also includes other variants such as addictive uses of the Internet, computer games, mobile phones and smartphones or games consoles. Individual treatment carefully guides the patient back to the real world. 

Causes & symptoms

Causes: How does computer addition develop?

The individual background of excessive computer use is generally comprised of difficulties within the person’s everyday personal environment. Psychological problems, such as low self-esteem, social anxieties or depression, can also be the cause. If those affected are unable to develop alternative solution strategies for these kinds of problems and, at the same time, have a high online affinity, there is a danger that they will continue to flee into the virtual world. This happens subconsciously in many cases.

The risk of an Internet or computer game addiction also increases if those affected do not receive sufficient outside support. Real life with its seemingly unsolvable problems thus falls further and further into the background. Experiences in the virtual world that are pleasant – at least at the start – such as distraction, excitement, joy, confirmation and a feeling of control take its place. A process of increasing dependence begins.

Addiction to computers: Symptoms that indicate an addiction

The main feature of Internet or computer addiction is the increasing loss of control over computer use. Those affected are thus no longer able to sufficiently limit the frequency and duration of use. 

The excessive use of computers takes up more and more time and attention. The other areas of life, such as school, work, hobbies and social contacts, increasingly fall into the background. Symptoms of the disease include excessive chatting, excessive and often pointless surfing on the Internet or excessive playing of what are known as multiplayer games: These include role-playing games or first-person shooters such as World of Warcraft or Doom, which users play together with other users via the Internet.

In the course of the illness, the affected person gradually reduces family and social contact, and general performance decreases. The relationship with the real world is increasingly accompanied by stressful feelings such as loneliness, fear or depression. This, in turn, promotes further retreat into the virtual world and can ultimately lead to the affected person losing himself or herself in it. Despite all the negative social, psychological and physical consequences, he continues his excessive consumption. It is now, at the latest, that he needs professional help.


Diagnosis: How we diagnose computer addition

Our clinical experience and available studies indicate that Internet or computer addiction is often accompanied by other mental disorders. Many of those affected suffer from depression, (social) anxiety disorders, eating disorders with obesity or personality disorders. We at Schoen Clinic take this fact into account with regard to both diagnosis and treatment.

We diagnose an Internet or computer game addiction if there is excessive computer use with at least partial loss of control and relevant psychological, physical and social consequences. Our diagnostics are based on current results and discussions from research and clinical practice and also use standardised test procedures.