Technology/Digital Addiction

What is a Technology Addiction?

technology-digital-addiction With technology woven into nearly every aspect of modern life, it can be challenging to decipher when it’s become too much. Whether you believe you may be addicted to technology, or you simply want to reduce your use, we are here to help.

Technology addiction is a form of behavioral addiction which involves excessive problematic use of technology. It can refer to any type of electronic device, often being associated with gaming devices, computers and laptops, and smartphones. Problematic use refers to use that is unable to be controlled and is persistent despite having negative consequences on the person’s personal and professional lives.

Like with any addiction, it is complex and many factors can influence it. Risk factors include things such as a family history of addiction, trauma, grief, social isolation, low self-esteem, being bullied or socially rejected, relationship challenges with family and friends, difficulties at school or work, and more.

Quite often the individual overusing technology may be getting something positive from the experience, such as socialization with peers online, a sense of mastery and achievement, or an escape from reality. However, the negative impact of technology addiction can be felt in all aspects of life. For example, physical impacts could be deconditioning, inadequate nutrition, or poor sleep; mental emotional aspects may include anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.

Signs and Symptoms of Problematic Technology Use:

Just because you sit at a computer for much of the day, doesn’t mean you are addicted. Here are some of the signs and symptoms that you or someone you love may be experiencing problematic technology use:

  • Spending longer than intended engaged in use
  • Persistent or compulsive use, often despite negative consequences
  • Denial of a problem
  • Failed attempts to quit or reduce use
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, or anger with restricted use
  • Preference to be immersed in technology than engaged in the real world
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Technology use that interferes with off-line activities, such as neglecting work or school
  • Strained personal relationships with family and friends due to use

Dopamine and Addiction

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is a key driver in behavioral addictions because of its role in our reward pathways. It provides a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction- think immediate gratification. Each time you get a hit of dopamine, it’s like striking a mini jackpot. Many things can cause dopamine release, such as gaming and scrolling social media. Each time you see a video that evokes a smile or unlock a new level in your game, you get a hit of dopamine. It’s through these repeated bursts of pleasure triggered by technology, that we become addicted to it.

Sustainable Use

technology-digital-addiction1 Each individual and each type of addiction is unique, and carries its own unique challenges. Technology addiction carries the challenge of technology being a necessary feature in most everyone’s lives. For many struggling with technology addiction it may be unrealistic to encourage long term abstinence. Eventually you will need to have a cell phone and an email in order to engage with the modern world. Therefore, we need to look at recovery from technology addiction through the lens of sustainable use. By sustainable use we mean, use that is functional and adds benefit to your life in a manner that can be maintained long term, in healthy balance alongside other activities of daily living.

Recognition of the Problem in the Psychiatric World

In 2018 the WHO classified gaming disorder as a health concern. It will also be included in the upcoming ICD-11 diagnostic codes. The DSM 5 called Internet Gaming Disorder a condition for further study in 2013 and will likely include it in the upcoming DSM 6.

Psychoeducational Support Group

Join our psychoeducational support group to learn more about the various aspects of technology addiction and recovery as they relate to your physical, mental, and emotional health. We run a 10 week series covering the following topics: The Neurobiology of Addiction and Mental Health, Stress Management (2 parts), Nutrition and Digestive Health, Sleep, Movement, Nature, Creating a Sustainable Environment with Tech, Social Connections, Healthy Relationships and Communication.

Join for as long as it is helpful to you! Some members find the support valuable and stay with the group for longer than 10 weeks; so long as it continues to be an effective space of healing for you and the group, we welcome the continued participation.