Cyberphobia (Fear of Computers)
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What is cyberphobia?
Cyberphobia is an extreme fear of computers. Someone with computer phobia has an intense fear of using a computer or being around computers. They may avoid going places (like an office or school) where computers might be.
Providers also call this phobia logizomechanophobia. This name comes from the Greek words “log,” which means word, and “machano,” which means machine. People with this condition may also feel anxious or worried about using the internet. In severe cases, cyberphobia can cause people to stop using computers or the internet completely. They may also avoid smartphones, which are actually mini computers.
Because technology plays a major role in modern life and computers are everywhere, extreme cyberphobia can cause significant problems. People with severe cyberphobia may avoid going to work, school or public places — wherever computers might be. Therapy can help people with this disorder manage symptoms and learn to accept and use this technology.
What is a phobia?
Phobias are anxiety disorders. They cause people to have extreme, unrealistic fears. People with phobias are afraid of things that other people don’t find scary or troubling.
Cyberphobia is a type of specific phobia disorder. These disorders cause people to have a reaction to a specific situation or object. The object or situation may be harmless, but the person with the phobia has an unusually strong reaction to it. People with a specific phobia disorder go to great lengths to avoid encountering the object that scares or upsets them.
How common is cyberphobia?
About 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives. But providers don’t know exactly how many people have cyberphobia. They believe people over age 65 are more likely to get this phobia because they didn’t grow up with computers and they may not understand how to use them. Advanced technology can be overwhelming and may cause confusion, which can be scary.
Cyberphobia is a type of technophobia, which is an extreme fear of technology. This phobia is closely related to mechanophobia (fear of machines). Telephonophobia (or telephobia) is a condition that causes anxiety when talking on the phone. It can occur along with cyberphobia, especially among people who fear smartphones.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes cyberphobia?
Providers believe that phobias result from a combination of genetics, environmental factors and personal history. People who have anxiety disorders, other phobias or mental illnesses are more likely to develop a phobia. People with these conditions may be more vulnerable to developing cyberphobia if they have an unpleasant experience with a computer or smartphone.
You’re more likely to have a specific phobia disorder such as cyberphobia if you have:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
- Mental illness such as delusional disorder or schizophrenia.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Other phobias or a history of phobias in your family.
- Panic attacks or panic disorder.
- Substance abuse disorder.
What are the triggers of cyberphobia?
People with this disorder can become extremely anxious when they see, think about or use a computer. Even being in the same room with a computer or smartphone can cause distress. The idea of learning to use a computer may seem too complex, which can cause anxiety.
People with cyberphobia may have concerns about using the internet. They might worry about sharing personal information online. This concern can lead to feelings of vulnerability and anxiety about protecting their privacy and security. They might worry about getting “hacked” or having a computer steal their financial information.
These views cause people to see computers as dangerous. They may fear for their safety or feel as if someone is watching or spying on them.
What are the symptoms of cyberphobia?
People with this disorder get extremely anxious or afraid when they think about, see or have to use a computer or the internet. Signs of cyberphobia include:
- Dizziness and lightheadedness.
- Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).
- Heart palpitations.
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea).
- Trembling or shaking.
- Upset stomach or indigestion (dyspepsia).
Diagnosis and Tests
How do healthcare providers diagnose cyberphobia?
Your provider will ask you several questions about your fear of computers. They may ask when you have symptoms, how often they occur and what triggers them. They will ask if you have other phobias or anxiety disorders.
Tell your provider if your symptoms affect your sleep, daily activities, work or school. To confirm a diagnosis, your provider may refer you to a mental health professional. These specialists have specific training in diagnosing phobias and other anxiety disorders.
Management and Treatment
How do providers treat cyberphobia?
Therapy is the main treatment for cyberphobia. To help you feel comfortable with this technology, it’s important to learn how to use it properly. Learning the basics of computer use and internet safety can help you see these technologies in a positive way.
Several types of therapy can help people with this disorder, including:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you change the way you respond to fear when you see or think about a computer.
- Exposure therapy, which gradually increases your exposure to computers. Your provider may also recommend a one-on-one tutor who can teach you how to use a computer in a compassionate environment.
- Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, to help you understand your fears and where they’re coming from.
- Hypnotherapy, which includes guided relaxation exercises while your mind is in a calm state. Hypnotherapy can help you see computers as helpful, not harmful.
- Mindfulness exercises, yoga, breathing exercises and meditation to teach you to control your anxiety and your body’s response to it.
If you have other mental health concerns, your provider may recommend medications. Although there aren’t medications to treat cyberphobia, you may benefit from medications to treat depression. Other drugs can relieve anxiety or control panic attacks.
What are the complications of cyberphobia?
Without treatment, people with this condition can withdraw from everyday life. They may become paranoid about their information getting stolen through the internet. This intense paranoia or fear can cause them to stop sending or responding to emails or using a smartphone.
To avoid coming into contact with a computer, people with severe cyberphobia may stop going to work or school. They might fear leaving their house (agoraphobia). They may choose to stay home where they can control their exposure to computers. Damaged relationships, financial problems, isolation and depression can result from this disorder.
How can I reduce my risk of cyberphobia?
There isn’t a way to prevent cyberphobia. But you can lower your risk by talking to a therapist or counselor. If you have other phobias or a family history of phobias or mental illness, talk to your provider. They can connect you with a mental health professional who can work with you to address symptoms and help you manage them.
What is the prognosis (outlook) for people who have cyberphobia?
Therapy and technological education can help many people manage this phobia. But the outlook depends on several factors, including how severe the phobia is. You might need long-term therapy as computer technology continues to evolve, or you may need a combination of therapies.
When should I see my healthcare provider about cyberphobia?
Talk to your provider if you have severe signs of cyberphobia. If you avoid going to work or school, or if your anxiety affects your daily life, see your provider.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
To gain a better understanding of cyberphobia, ask your provider:
- What is the cause of cyberphobia?
- How is this disorder related to other phobias?
- What type of therapy or treatment is right for me?
- What experience do you have with exposure therapy and CBT?
- What relaxation techniques can I do on my own to control my anxiety around computers?
- Can you recommend a computer instructor who has experience helping people with phobias?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Computers, smartphones and the internet are a major part of modern life. Being afraid of computers can severely impact your life. If you’re going out of your way to avoid computers or other technology, talk to your provider. Several types of therapy and relaxation techniques can help people with this disorder. It’s also important to learn how to use a computer and understand internet safety. An experienced instructor can help you learn the basics so you’ll feel more comfortable with this technology.
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