Fear of technology in general and of computers in particular has been shown to be prevalent in the population. This study sets out to explore the experience of computer anxiety and is in two parts. The first part examines computer anxiety in the context of DSM IV criteria for specific phobia by comparing the incidence of underlying beliefs of those high in computer anxiety with people with spider phobia and with a non-anxious group. 185 Participants filled in questionnaires concerning general and specific measures of anxiety. Results provide tentative support for the claim that computer anxiety may reach clinical levels, that some cognitions held by the computer anxious are held in common with the cognitions of those suffering from spider phobia who conform to DSM IV criteria for specific phobia, and that a case may be made for computer anxiety to enter into the framework of problematic fears. However, several of the cognitions core to the experience of spider phobia were not found in the computer anxious participants. Examination of individual cognitions revealed that the kinds of concerns being expressed were more akin to social or test anxiety ('I would make a fool of myself) than to specific phobia ('I would scream', 'I would become hysterical'). In a further exploration of this, the second study with 164 participants compared aspects of computer anxiety and avoidance with measures of social, performance, and test anxiety. These were found to be significantly related to each other. The implications and limitations of the studies are discussed. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.