Technology Addiction: How Real Is This?

By Efosa Airuehia | 2431 Comments | Other Addictions,

Technology Addiction: How Real Is This?

Technology addiction. Phone addiction. Internet addiction. These are all used to refer to an overuse of the internet and technology gadgets. Does this, however, exist as a disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not recognize technology addiction as a disorder. Gambling disorder is the only behavioral disorder in the DSM-5. However, some other behavioral disorders show similarities to drug and alcohol addiction. For such conditions, the word “addiction” is commonly used in nonmedical settings. Technology addiction is one of them.

Also, Internet Gaming Disorder is now present in the DSM-5 as a “condition for further study.” As we know, there are many specialist centers treating people who struggle with obsessive use of technology and the internet.

The internet and technology are now the order of the day. Kids are kept calm by having them watch and play on tablets and phones. Teenagers text back and forth, even when sitting in the same room. Some play video games for hours on end, thereby depriving themselves of sleep.

Drivers check their social media pages while waiting at a red light. Many people still text and drive, despite the dire consequences. We can go on and on with numerous examples, most of which come with adverse effects.

Currently, there is an integration of technology into our daily lives. So, at what point are we at risk for crossing the fine line from normal use to problematic use?

Technology is here to stay, and this is a good thing – when used right. On the other hand, there can be many negative consequences with overusing the internet and technology-related gadgets.

 

What is Technology Addiction?

Technology addiction is a behavioral addiction that causes excessive and prolonged interaction with technology. As a result, people become dependent on the use of technology or the internet. Such actions continue despite the negative consequences that follow such behaviors.

Griffiths, MD, defines technological addictions as non-chemical (behavioral) addictions that involve human-machine interaction. They can be passive (e.g., television) or active (e.g., computer games).

In some countries, these problems are growing at epidemic proportions. South Korea, for example, currently regards internet addiction as a national health problem. Indeed, there are numerous researches on this subject in Asia. At the same time, it is a problem in the U.S., Europe, and the world as a whole.

The misuse of technology and the internet comes in various ways. Some examples are:

  • Excessive use of cell phones, tablets, and computers
  • Obsession with social networking sites
  • Video and computer gaming
  • Cybersex
  • Sexting (sending sexually explicit texts)
  • Online gambling

According to some researchers, dopamine and cortisol are the drivers. There is also dysfunction in a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. Unfortunately, children are more vulnerable to all forms of addiction. This risk is because their brains are still developing.

 

Why Do People Struggle?

It is thought that technology affects the pleasure system in the brain, similar to drugs and alcohol. Some studies have shown brain scan similarities in people who overuse technology and people who abuse drugs. It appears that the overuse of technology also affects attention, emotional processing, and decision making.

In addition, technology can help with a different type of social interaction, with boredom, and to help people escape from reality.

Many access points promote dependence on technology. The most common are:

The Internet

The worldwide web exposes us to vast amounts of information at exceptional speeds. This easy access to a wealth of information can lead to problematic use. Moreso, when you consider the ease of internet access with smartphones. Essentially, cell phones mean we have the internet in our pockets.

Cell phones and tablets

Cell phones have become mobile mini-computers. This mobility enhances the ease of access to the internet. The constant connection to the web makes checking our sites of interest a breeze. Faster networks also mean better browsing and quick downloads.

Video and computer games

Games provide a vast choice for players. As a result, there is an appealing game out there for every gamer. Even though gaming tends to decrease interpersonal interactions, gamers experience online socialization. Some people find this indirect interaction better than in-person relations. Unfortunately. Gaming can provide a potential escape from the real world. In the virtual world, gamers can obtain more appealing identities. Better than they have in the real world. This feeling can perpetuate itself and lead to even more isolation.

Social media

There are several social media platforms. We currently have enough to appeal to almost everyone across generations. The ease of use, connectivity, and personalization makes social media widely acceptable. Hence, the increase in memberships across the board. One of the appeals of social media is that it helps to fill social needs but without the need for direct contact with others.

Lifestyle technologies

These lifestyle devices include many other gadgets that are technology-driven. A typical example of this is the smart wristwatch. This gadget further enhances the need to check as it is always visible. Besides, it is just a swipe away.

 

Symptoms of Technology Addiction

It is improbable you will get this diagnosis as it is not formally recognized as an addiction. Nevertheless, the following three conditions are common in people who struggle with the overuse of technology:

  1. Excessive use of technology
  2. Tolerance (the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaging in the technology-related behavior)
  3. Negative consequences

In addition, excessive technology use causes many issues. Some examples are:

  • Mental health conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression)
  • Loneliness
  • Boredom
  • Fear
  • Mood swings
  • Avoidance of work
  • Agitation
  • Poor sense of time
  • Poor social interaction and isolation
  • Inability to keep schedules
  • Dishonesty
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Feelings of guilt

Furthermore, physical symptoms can occur in users:

  • Vision problems (from eye strain)
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Poor nutrition
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Weight gain
  • Injuries and even death (e.g., texting and driving)
Unlike drugs, technology does not cause physiologic effects on users. Thus, there are no clearcut withdrawal effects. It is, however, common for people to present with anger and irritability when they stop.Click To Tweet

 

Internet Gaming Disorder

This disorder involves a pattern of excessive and prolonged internet gaming. It results in many cognitive and behavioral symptoms, which are similar to drug and alcohol addiction.

Internet Gaming Disorder is not yet an official DSM-5 diagnosis. It is, however, included as a “condition for further study.” Such focus must mean we are beginning to see this as a problem. An issue worthy of consideration as a disorder.

Internet gaming has been reportedly defined as an “addiction” by the Chinese government. They have also set up a treatment system for this condition.

Proposed criteria for internet gaming disorder

Persistent and recurrent use of the internet to engage in games. This engagement is often with other players. It also leads to significant impairment or distress. These can manifest as:

  1. Preoccupation with internet games.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms when internet gaming is taken away.
  3. Tolerance – the need to spend increasing amounts of time gaming.
  4. Unsuccessful attempts to control participation in internet games.
  5. Loss of interest in previous hobbies and entertainment.
  6. Excessive use of internet games despite psychosocial problems
  7. Deceives family members, therapists, or others regarding the amount of internet gaming.
  8. Use of internet games to escape or relieve a negative mood.
  9. Jeopardizing or losing significant relationships, job, or educational or career opportunity because of participation in internet games.

 

How To Stop Technology Addiction

There is no consensus on treating technology addiction. One reason being there are still different schools of thought on this disorder. It is also not an official DSM-5 diagnosis. There are, however, numerous treatment centers specializing in this disorder.

The first step in treating technology addiction is recognizing that a problem exists. People who do not feel they have a problem are unlikely to seek help.Click To Tweet

Therapy is the cornerstone of treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is helpful for this disorder. It changes the cognitions, expectations, and behaviors that promote technology dependence. A focus on thought processes and stress management skills helps the recovery process.

Medication-Assisted Treatment does not seem to be effective. So, medications that help with cravings are usually not a component of treatment. On the other hand, some professionals recommend treating with drugs that help with obsessions.

Treating underlying mental disorders is, however, a vital component of treatment. Psychiatric conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are treatable with medications.

 

Technology addiction
Technology Addiction

 

Conclusion

Technology addiction is a behavioral addiction that causes excessive and prolonged interaction with technology. It is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-5. Many researchers, however, believe addiction to technology is real. They also liken it to other drug addictions. A brain chemical called dopamine is the main driver.

It is thought that technology affects the pleasure system in the brain, similar to drugs and alcohol. Some studies have shown brain scan similarities in people who overuse technology and people who abuse drugs. It appears that the overuse of technology also affects attention, emotional processing, and decision making.

Many access points promote dependence on technology. These include the internet, cell phones, tablets, video and computer games, social media, and lifestyle technologies.

Technology addiction can lead to many issues. Some of these include loneliness, anxiety, depression, isolation, sleep deprivation, vision problems, back pain, headaches, and weight gain.

There is no general consensus on treating technology addiction. One reason is that there are still different schools of thought on this disorder. However, recognizing you have a problem is the first step. Therapy is the cornerstone of treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps with modifying cognitions and behaviors. Treating underlying mental health disorders is also vital.

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    The entire content of AddictionBlueprint, including content on drugs and alcohol, medications, therapies, facilities, spotlights, recommendations, and other features is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This does not constitute a physician-patient relationship. Please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers regarding your addiction, mental and medical issues.

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