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Computer Anxiety

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Computer Anxiety

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This presentation was given to students and staff of the University of the Philippines (Manila) College of Medicine, May 30, 2015. Computer anxiety is an intense fear of using computers. Computers are avoided at all cost, and exposure to computers induces a panic attack. This presentation goes into detail about what it is, how it evolves, and how to treat it.

This presentation was given to students and staff of the University of the Philippines (Manila) College of Medicine, May 30, 2015. Computer anxiety is an intense fear of using computers. Computers are avoided at all cost, and exposure to computers induces a panic attack. This presentation goes into detail about what it is, how it evolves, and how to treat it.


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Computer Anxiety

  1. 1. Computer Anxiety University of the Philippines (Manila) College of Medicine May 30, 2015 Carlo Carandang, MD, FAPA Psychiatrist
  2. 2. Specific Phobia  Computer anxiety is a type of specific phobia  A specific phobia is an intense fear of an object or situation  The feared object is avoided at all cost  Exposure to the feared object induces panic attack
  3. 3. What is Computer Anxiety?  Computer anxiety is an intense fear of using computers  Computers are avoided at all cost  Exposure to computers induces panic attack – Racing heart beat, heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, sweaty palms, muscle tension, headaches, nausea, and chills
  4. 4. What are the Fears?  Fear of breaking the computer or pushing the wrong key  Fear of losing data  Embarrassment that they are not familiar with computers  Computer hassles and frustrations with bugs and databases changing (Kohrman 2003)
  5. 5. Prevalence  5% of general population – Weinberg and Fuerust, 1984  21.3% of managers and professionals – Bozionelos, 1996
  6. 6. Bozionelos 2001 Study  Prevalence of computer anxiety – Sample 1 (managers): 21.1% – Sample 2 (graduate students): 40.3% – Sample 3 (undergrads): 46.4%  Significant difference between managers and younger samples – P<0.01 Sample 1 and 2 – P<0.001 Sample 1 and 3 – P>0.05 Sample 2 and 3
  7. 7. Prevalence  Youngest cohort with earliest exposure to computers reported highest rate of computer anxiety  Take home message- even with conservative estimate of 5%, computer anxiety affects many people, with resultant disability considering the ubiquity of computers
  8. 8. Screening for Computer Anxiety  6-Item Computer Anxiety Scale  Mean 13.4 (SD 5.1)  If score above 18, then you may have computer anxiety Lester et al., 2005
  9. 9. Triggers  You have Computer Anxiety  Triggers: – See feared object or situation – Hear (talking about) feared object or situation – Think about feared object or situation  Event induces thoughts about the event
  10. 10. Thoughts  Thoughts: – “I will break the computer” – “I will push the wrong key” – “I will lose data” – “I will embarrass myself using a computer” – “Computers are a hassle”
  11. 11. Anxiety  Thoughts induce anxiety  Feelings – Anxiety – Fear – Physical effects of adrenaline response, fight or flight response
  12. 12. Avoidance  Anxiety makes you avoid  Behaviors – Avoid feared object or situation – Flee, escape
  13. 13. Avoidance  Although the avoidant behaviors decrease your anxiety over the short-term, the behaviors actually maintain your overall anxiety from the feared stimulus  Avoidance maintains the belief in the danger and direness of events
  14. 14. Vicious, negative cycle continues  Feared stimulus induces thoughts, which induces anxiety, which compels you to avoid  Instead of just exposing yourself to the trigger and finding out nothing bad will occur, you avoid the trigger and this maintains your belief in the danger  With avoidance, you never get to find out that the anxiety will go away naturally if you just stay with your trigger
  15. 15. Solution: CBT  CBT helps to break the negative cycle of Computer Anxiety by changing how you think and what you do  It is difficult to change the way you feel, so the focus is on changing the way you think and the way you do things  Avoidance is addressed via graduated exposure therapy – Systematic desensitization
  16. 16. Fear Hierarchy
  17. 17. Treatment  Prescription medications are not effective for specific phobia, and therefore not effective for computer anxiety  Exposure therapy is the most effective clinical intervention for computer anxiety  Complementary interventions – Progressive muscle relaxation – Diaphragmatic breathing – Yoga
  18. 18. Computer Anxiety in Classroom  Computer anxiety can be reduced by providing a comfortable learning environment  To create comfortable learning environment, teachers should: – Use humor, make it fun – Use basic concepts – Avoid computer jargon – Make all computer lessons hands-on (Ayersman & Reed, 1995)
  19. 19.  For more information and help on Computer Anxiety and other anxiety problems, please visit

Editor's Notes

  • Three steps of desensitization[edit]
    There are three main steps that Wolpe identified to successfully desensitize an individual.
    Establish anxiety stimulus hierarchy. The individual must first identify the items that are causing anxiety. Each item that causes anxiety is given a subjective ranking on the severity of induced anxiety. If the individual is experiencing great anxiety to many different triggers, each item is dealt with separately. For each trigger or stimuli, a list is created to rank the events from least anxiety provoking to the greatest anxiety provoking.
    Learn coping mechanism or incompatible response. Relaxation training, such as meditation, is one type of coping strategy. Wolpe taught his patients relaxation responses because it is not possible to be both relaxed and anxious at the same time. In this method, patients practice tensing and relaxing different parts of the body until the patient reaches a state of serenity.[2] This is necessary because it provides the patient with a means of controlling their fear, rather than letting it increase to intolerable levels. Usually only a few sessions are needed for a patient to learn the appropriate coping mechanisms. Additional coping strategies include anti-anxiety medicine and breathing exercises. Another means of relaxation is cognitive reappraisal of imagined outcomes. The therapist might encourage subjects to examine what they imagine happening when exposed to the anxiety-inducing stimulus and allowing for the client to replace the imagined catastrophic situation with imagined positive outcomes.
    Connect the stimulus to the incompatible response or coping method through counter conditioning. In this step the client completely relaxes and is then is presented with the lowest item that was placed on their hierarchy of severity of anxiety. When the client has reached a state of serenity again after being presented with the first stimuli, the second stimuli that should present a higher level of anxiety is presented. Again, the individual practices the coping strategies learned. This activity is completed until all items of the hierarchy of severity of anxiety is completed without inducing anxiety in the client. If at any time during the exercise the coping mechanisms fail or the client fails to complete the coping mechanism due to severe anxiety, the exercise is stopped. Once the individual is calm, the last stimuli that was presented without inducing anxiety is presented again and the exercise is continued.[3]
  • How to Face Your Fears
    Step 1: Make a list
    Make a list of feared objects or situations. If you have a fear of contamination, your list might include touching doorknobs, wearing clothes that have been used before, using the public restrooms, or sleeping in other people’s beds. If you have a fear of public speaking, your list might include presentations in front of an audience, talking via telephone to a group who are phoning into a teleconference, watching a video of yourself give a speech to others, talking in meetings at work, or saying hi to a group of co-workers. If you have different fears, then bundle the same fears together, and write a different list for a different fear.

    Step 2: Build a Fear Hierarchy
    With the list of fears you have made, rate each of the fears from 0 to 10, 0 being no fear, and 10 being the most fearful. Then arrange the list sequentially, from the least scary at the bottom of the list, to the scariest at the top. Build a complete list of a range of fears. Add factors that make it harder or easier for you to do, like: length of time (talking to someone for 30 minutes is more scary than 5 min); time of day (driving at night versus driving in the middle of rush hour); environment (going to a small convenience store rather than a crowded mall); or who is accompanying you (going to the store with your partner or going alone).

    Step 3: Facing fears (exposure)
    Now it is time to start facing your fears. Start with the fear that is at the bottom of your Fear Hierarchy. Now expose yourself to that fear, and stay with the exposure until your anxiety level decreases by 50%. For example, if you have a fear of needles and rated it as a 4 in anxiety level when touching it, then hold the needle until your anxiety level drops to a 2. Remember to not rush the exposures, and be patient and take your time. Once you practice the exposure at a particular level repeatedly, and notice that the anxiety has dropped considerably, then it is time to go on to the next level on the Fear Hierarchy. Please use the following Facing Fear form when doing the exposure work.
  • Methods for Reducing Computer Anxiety
    Extension educators teaching microcomputers to adults should be aware of computer anxiety and its detrimental effects on the learning process. Computer anxiety is a temporary condition that can be reduced through a comfortable learning environment (Ayersman & Reed, 1995). To create an anxiety reduced learning environment, instructors should:
    Use humor to build rapport,
    Start lessons with basic concepts,
    Use computer lingo only when educationally necessary, and
    Make sure all lessons are hands on.
    Use Humor to Build Rapport
    Humor is one of the best tools to help reduce computer anxiety. Laughter builds rapport between instructors and learners, which helps alleviate computer anxiety (Clothier, 1996). Malcolm Knowles underscores the importance of laughter when teaching adults by quoting Ruth Merton, "and so I say again that, if we are really wise . . .despite taxes or indigestion, teach merrily" (1990, p. 36).
    Start Lessons with Basic Concepts
    Instructors should begin with the basics (Adults and Technology, 1996). They should avoid jumping into complicated computer concepts without laying the groundwork for basic computer operation. Although students will have a variety of skill levels, instructors should never assume all students have basic computer skills. If a course requires a certain level of computer proficiency, this should be clearly delineated, and alternatives should be provided for students to gain basic skills.
    Use Computer Lingo Only when Educationally Necessary
    Learning to use computers is hard enough without the added distraction of listening to an instructor speak in a foreign dialect. Instructors should avoid using computer jargon (Adults and Technology, 1996). For adults, learning computer terminology can be as important as learning to use the computer. However, if instructors feel it is educationally necessary to use computer terminology, then the term should be clearly defined.
    Make Sure All Lessons Are Hands-On
    Instructors can help reduce computer anxiety by familiarizing students with computers and making them active learners. Instructors should make all computer lessons hands-on (Adults and Technology, 1996). They should help students with problems by providing verbal guidance or by using a demonstration machine, but they should never grab a student's mouse or keyboard and do their work for them. This student hands-on/instructor hands-off method takes extreme patience, but the reward of students completing tasks on their own is worth the effort.