Technology Addiction

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Technology Addiction

What is technology addiction?

Technology addiction occurs when an individual experiences frequent and obsessive interaction with technology. In today’s fast-paced world of modern technology, it can be difficult to distinguish between normal technology use and dependent use. An individual who suffers from technology addiction may experience severe consequences as a result of their habits. For example, personal relationships, work-life, and more may be pushed aside in favor of technology.

Is technology addiction a real addiction?

Technically, there is no designation of technology addiction in the DSM-5, the manual of mental disorders referenced by medical professionals. There is a great deal of debate surrounding whether or not an internet addiction disorder should be treated the same way other addictions are treated. With how intricately technology is woven into our lives, studies indicate the average American spends 11 hours a day in front of a screen. This amount of time would surely amount to addiction in any other context but is difficult to define as such when it comes to technology. Furthermore, the line between habit and addiction can be blurry, making it difficult to distinguish between habitual and dependent usage patterns.

Causes

How can technology addiction be prevented?

Prevention can be difficult or impossible for some conditions, but luckily that’s not the case for technology addiction. There are concrete steps you can take to prevent children and young adults from developing such an addiction, including:

  • Encouraging positive use of technology: Along with discouraging negative uses of technology, it’s important to remember technology is also a valuable and necessary tool in our society. It’s impossible to refrain from using it entirely, so unlike those with substance abuse issues, users dependent on technology will face the source of their addictions daily. There is usually no option to go cold turkey. That’s why it’s essential to promote technology for its assets, like its use as a learning aid or a tool to express creativity.
  • Provide immersive offline experiences: Young people should use technology the same way they participate in other recreational activities, not as a way to escape their current reality. By providing your kids plenty of access to fun offline activities, you can help reduce their reliance on technology as a source of happiness.
  • Teach healthy stress management: Today’s teens are often incredibly stressed and return home from school looking for a way to replenish their energy stores. Technology is an easy quick-fix when someone is looking for a stress outlet. By promoting health behaviors for stress reduction, you can encourage your children to recharge elsewhere. Try things like yoga, meditation, walks in nature, or similar activities. Each child is different, so understanding how to best help them is a highly individualized task.
  • Help teens discover their passions: When teens are looking to fit in over the Internet, they’re unlikely to find fulfillment. Where they are likely to find joy and purpose is in their own hobbies and interests. Encourage your child to try new things, join local community groups, and pursue passions that make them feel alive.

What causes addiction to technology?

Because technology is a quick way to fulfill the basic human needs for interaction and stimulation, it’s not hard to see how technological addiction can arise. After all, we need technology to navigate our daily lives. We always have our phones and laptops at our fingertips, making dependency all the more tempting. 

These brief boosts of energy afforded by technology are a mark of addiction, as they stimulate the brain in the same way as other addictive substances, like drugs and alcohol. This temporary reward can serve as an escape from reality.

Who is affected by technology addiction?

In today’s modern world, anyone can be impacted by technology addiction. However, children, teens, and young adults are particularly susceptible. Young people are at a particularly formative stage in their lives, eager for approval and instant gratification. Add to that an increasingly digital world, and today’s teens are prime targets for technology addiction.

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Symptoms

What are the symptoms of technology addiction?

If you’re addicted to technology, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • You spend long periods of time playing video games, browsing the web, or simply being online.
  • A fear of missing out when you’re not online.
  • Irritability and anxiety when not around technological devices.
  • A decline in academic or athletic performance.
  • Mood swings.
  • Sleep disorders.
  • A lapse in health.
  • Weight gain or loss.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Vision problems.
  • The negative impacts of poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Problems in social situations.

As you can tell, technology addiction has a wide array of consequences. Still, it’s important to be aware of your addiction. These symptoms can all easily be attributed to other illnesses and imbalances, so recognizing they stem from the overuse of technology is the first step toward treatment.

What are some types of technology addiction?

With all the various types of technology available today, technology addiction can come in many forms. Some of the most common variations include:

  • Internet addiction: It’s common for those with technology addiction to feel afraid of missing out on online happenings when they’re not logged in. They don’t want to be the last to hear about a news story or the latest hot topic. Because of the vast amounts of information the Internet provides at our fingertips, it’s easy to get sucked in.
  • Video game/computer game addiction: Teens who feel a lack of control in their own lives may turn to video games as a way to feel accomplished and autonomous. While the gaming community does provide genuine opportunities for developing human connections, more often than not, users hide behind their false online identities as a way to escape their current realities.
  • Social media addiction: Social media is notable for its ability to cater to our need for human connection. It gives us the ability to video chat with a friend thousands of miles away or discover the likes and dislikes of a potential love interest. Its uses are vast, but when you misuse social media, you may be bypassing real human interactions and simply interacting with online facades.
  • Smartphone and lifestyle technology addiction: Devices like the Apple Watch and the Amazon Echo mean that technology now accompanies us at every step of our lives. These devices make developing an addiction easier because they reduce our downtime between being online.

A person may be prone to a singular form of technology addiction, or they may be affected by more than one form. Understanding the root causes of your technology addiction is key to overcoming it.

How does technology addiction impact the brain?

Researchers have discovered that technology addiction has physical impacts on the brain similar to those of substance addiction. There are also correlations that show teens with an unhealthy relationship to technology are more likely than their peers to develop unhealthy relationships with substances like cigarettes and alcohol. Brain scans demonstrate that substance addicts and technology addicts both suffer from damage to neural processing, brain chemistry, and attention-centers of the brain, among other things.

Diagnosis

How is technology addiction diagnosed?

Because technology addiction is not officially recognized as a disorder in the DSM-5, diagnosis can be a bit tricky. Some doctors still recognize the condition and classify it as an impulse control disorder or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you suspect you or your child may have a technology addiction, seek the appropriate help to get started on the path to treatment.

Treatment

How can technology addiction be treated?

Because technology addiction is treated as a compulsive behavior, key components of treatment include education, recognition of consequences, limit-setting, and the finding of alternative outlets. Technology addiction is often treated alongside other conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Therefore, a comprehensive approach to treating these illnesses is generally best. Some common treatment methods include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy

No matter what kind of technology addiction you have, therapy and additional treatment options can help you get back to the activities you love. Seeking treatment is the first step in improving your relationship to technology, and a skilled mental health professional can assist you in reaching these goals.

Information

Medically reviewed by:

Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Dr Zenon Andreou studied medicine at University College London, graduating in 2006. His postgraduate training was in hospitals in and around London and he trained for four years in Otolaryngology before completing his training in General practice

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