Hopelessly Addicted To Messaging
A self-diagnosed addict, Hoffman estimates that she receives up to 500 emails and texts a day — and stubbornly responds to every single one, even at 3 a.m.
“It’s a compulsion, like an itch you have to scratch,” she says. “Like Pavlov’s dog, I hear the bell and I run to the BlackBerry salivating. I think I have carpal tunnel or something. I will keep texting until I’m in pain.”
There’s something very irresistible about an unopened message, Hallowell says. “You do get a dopamine squirt from accessing your messages. The mail used to come once a day,” he says. “Now it comes every second.”
There’s no shut-off switch, says Beth Feldman, a Westchester, N.Y.-based entrepreneur who juggles a BlackBerry, iPhone, and cell phone from 7 a.m. to midnight and works with clients across different time zones. “There used to be boundaries,” she says, “but now there are no boundaries.”
This free-for-all frenzy has a real impact on relationships and families, knocking our work-life balance off-kilter.
Feldman, who is also the co-author of Peeing in Peace: Tales and Tips for Type A Moms, has caught herself checking messages during her kids’ musical performances and Little League games. Her kids will ask her afterward: “Mommy, why were you on your BlackBerry?”
Could You Be Addicted To The Internet
Many of us know that feeling: your eyes are glazed over, your back is hunched, youre staring at a screen and you just cant seem to stop. If you spend so much time online on a phone, computer, gaming platform, or other device that it negatively affects your health, job, finances, or relationships, could that be considered an addiction?
Experts debate whether you can be addicted to the internet in the same way you can be addicted to substances. The term itself internet addiction or internet addiction disorder is controversial and is not currently listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition , the guide that practitioners use in diagnosing mental health conditions. Still, although it can be difficult to draw a distinction between addiction and problematic use of the internet, the compulsion to be online is increasingly becoming a recognized concern.
International Classification of Diseases .
Whether internet addiction constitutes a mental health disorder, excessive internet use clearly encourages unhealthy behaviors often in the same way that recognized addictions do. If youre concerned that youre overdoing it, here are the signs to look for, and ways to help manage being online.
How Does Internet Use Affect Relationships
Internet use becomes a problem when people start substituting online connections for real, physical relationships. The effects of technology on relationships include increased isolation and loneliness. Defaulting to online communication also denies us the opportunity to hear someones voice and read their facial cues in-person it can also lead to poorer outcomes and miscommunication. Experts recommend that we save the important conversations for when we can be face-to-face for just this reason.
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How Technology Addiction Impacts The Brain
On a neurological level, technology addiction operates similarly to chemical addictions, in that expectation followed by reward leads the brain to release dopamine and other feel-good chemicals.
This reward might be winning a level of a video game, or getting likes on a picture.
Over time, a person begins to crave this dopamine release and often requires increasing stimulus to get the same effect.
While chemical addictions often have a magnified effect by blocking the re-uptake of these feel-good chemicals so that they stay in the brain longer and more powerfully, researchers are finding that the inconsistent rewards often associated with behavioral addictions like gambling and video games also increase the flood of dopamine.
How Screen Time Affects Brain Development
Each time a child has an experience, nerve impulses are fired in the brain. With repeated experiences, these neural pathways are fired over and over again. The more frequently neural connections are used , the stronger they become. So, a child who watches TV or plays video games regularly will have a physically different brain than a child who doesnt.
Similarly, areas of the brain that are not regularly used can fall out of practice. When neural connections arent fired habitually, they eventually stop firing at all.
This is the brains way of pruning neural pathways to maintain efficiency energy is focused where energy is used. In a developing child, it is important to provide experiences that fire connections in all areas of the brain so that it matures fully.
In order to teach kids the skills that will help them be successful in life, we must engage them in those skills on a regular basis so their brains will develop the appropriate connections.
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Dont Charge Your Phone Near Your Bed
Want to know the best way to keep your kids off their phones too much? Dont allow them to charge their phones in their bedroom.
Want to know a great way to keep yourself off your phone? Dont charge it in your bedroom.
Many of the negative effects of overuse can be eliminated by keeping your cell phone out of your bedroom. As with many of the items on this list, this is a principle Ive found personally helpful.
Signs And Symptoms Of Excessive Internet Use
Current Psychiatry Reviews
- “Shopping” for relationships on dating sites
- Cybersex or pornography
- Social media
Many of these activities can have serious repercussions, such as relationship problems or financial consequences, if you do them to excess.
Emotional or behavioral symptoms may include:
- Inability to prioritize or keep a schedule
- Avoidance of work and negative effects on your school or job performance
- Isolation and reduced involvement with your family or friends
- Mood swings or feelings of anxiety, agitation, depression, or guilt
- Loss of sleep and feelings of apathy
- Preoccupation with being online, even when youre offline
- Taking steps to hide the extent of your computer or internet use, or lying about time spent on your device, according to GoodTherapy
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Are There Resources For Someone With Technology Addiction
Many people with an IAD can find support through groups such as Online Gamers Anonymous . These 12-step programs are free and provide a network of other people going through the same journey. Unlike inpatient treatment, these groups can provide long-term support.
Groups that offer information and resources for help include:
How To Prevent/ Fix Technology Addiction
These suggestions work whether your child has an actual addiction to devices or seems to be developing a less than healthy relationship with them. The key is to be upbeat and excited about non-screen activities. Dont use them as a punishment or you may end up making screens even more attractive to them.
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Change Your Phone Settings
Among the most often suggested ideas for reducing cell phone usage, you find tips and tricks by simply changing the settings on your phone.
The most common suggested ideas:
- Turn off notifications
- Remove distraction-based apps from your home screen
- Set a longer passcode
- Use airplane mode
- Turn on do not disturb
In my opinion, turning off notifications is something everyone should do regardless of how habitual their cell phone use is. Just because someone in the world wants to text you, email you, or tag you in a post on Facebook doesnt mean they deserve your attention. My cell phone screen is not currently set to grayscale, but I have found that setting helpful in the past.
Prevalence Of Technology Addiction
It is difficult to determine how many teens and young adults suffer from technology addiction, but a 2012 study found that 4.4% of European adolescents had what researchers termed pathological internet use and approximately 14% displayed what they called maladaptive internet use.
Other studies have found that approximately 10% of peoples internet use interferes with their work, family or social life.
To complicate things further, the developers of technology like video games and social media are actively trying to create products that tap into our addictive tendencies, talking openly about creating a compulsion loop.
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Can You Become Addicted To The Internet
Most often, the word addiction is used in the colloquial sense. Common Sense Media finds that 59 percent of parents feel their kids are addicted to their mobile devicesjust as 27 percent of the parents feel that they themselves are. Sixty-nine percent of parents say they check their own devices at least hourly, as do 78 percent of teens. Spending a lot of time on the internet is increasingly considered normal behavior, especially for adolescents. Much of their social activity has simply moved online. Like any new technology, the computer has changed the way everyone lives, learns, and communicates. It is possible to be online far too much, even though this does not constitute a true addiction in the eyes of most clinicians.
What Tools Can I Use To Combat My Kids Screen Time Addiction
Once parents have spotted the warning signs, they often look to introduce a screen time solution. Whether thats an actual app or an analog solution such as a device free zone at the dinner table there are a number of ways you can help your child reduce the amount of time they spend on a screen.
Here are just a few examples weve thought of and tried ourselves :
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What Are The Negative Effects Of Internet Overuse
Excessive screen time can be particularly harmful to a developing brain: It decreases focus and attention span while increasing the need for more constant stimulation and instant gratification. Those who use the internet excessively may feel anxious if their access to their device gets restricted. They tend to be more impulsive and struggle to recognize facial and nonverbal cues in real life.
Limit Social Media Use
Social networks have transformed computer and mobile use for Canadians of all ages. Whether its , Twitter, or Snapchat, impose limits on the amount of time you spend on socia media. Avoid aimless browsing and give your time online a purpose: Research holidays, catch up on the news of the day or find the answer to that random question thats been bothering you for ages. Then log off!
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What Are The Treatment Options
The first step in treatment is the recognition that a problem exists. If you do not believe you have a problem, you are not likely to seek treatment. One of the overarching problems with the Internet is that there is often no accountability and no limits. You are hidden behind a screen and some things that you may say or do online are things you would never do in person.
There is debate in the literature whether treatment is necessary in the first place. Some believe Internet Addiction Disorder to be a fad illness and suggest that it usually resolves itself on its own. Studies have show that self-corrective behavior can be achieved and successful. Corrective behaviors include software that controls the Internet use and types of sites that can be visited with the majority of professionals in agreement that total abstinence from the computer is not an effective method of correction.
Some of the more common psychological treatments of Internet Addiction Disorder include:
- Individual, group, or family therapy
- Behavior modification
- Recreation Therapy
- Reality Therapy
In many instances, multimodal treatments have been employed to treat Internet Addiction Disorder. In this method of treatment, if you are suffering from this condition, you might be prescribed both medications and psychotherapy to treat your addiction to the Internet.
Coming To Terms With My Tv Addiction
Although I failed to recognize it at the time, its clear now that watching television had become a full-blown addiction for me. An escape mechanism that I used to distract myself from the problems, fears and challenges I was refusing to deal with in my life.
I used television to distract myself from the shame, embarrassment and stress I felt about some irresponsible financial decisions and their resulting fallout. I used it to avoid facing my fear of stepping out into the world more fully, connecting with others and pursuing the higher purpose to which my soul was being called. I used it to cope with boredom and fill the void of an otherwise empty life.
In short, my life was a mess, my self-esteem was shot, and while TV may have provided a short-term escape from that reality, it ultimately kept me locked within it. Said another way, instead of using my time and energy to deal with my problems and improve my life, I was wasting it on television.
Doesnt everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
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Make A List Of Your Electronic Distractions
In order of preference, list the electronic devices you can’t live without. The most common include: cell phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, iPod or similar device, computer games, TV, and the movie theater. Also make a list of the websites that you can’t seem to avoid, like Facebook, Twitter, and so on.
List The Times You’d Most Like To Stop
It’s especially sad when a parent is mesmerized by their cell phone while their child is participating in a sporting event or other function. Maybe you can’t even stop checking your phone while you’re eating dinner with your family.
* List all the times you use your electronic devices but know you shouldn’t. Those are the most important places to start.
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Use Apps To Bolster Self
There are apps for almost every problem in life. In fact, there are even some wonderful apps built to help us limit our time on our devices. Here are some of my favorites:
Space. Set goals and track your daily progress to manage your habits.
Forest. Stay focused, be present. Forest is a beautifully designed app that brings gamification to productivity and results in real trees being planted based on your personal phone use habits.
Moment. Through short, daily exercises, Moment helps you use your phone in a healthy way.
Flipd. Lock away distracting apps for complete focus.
Screentime. Set daily usage limits on your phone or specific apps.
The Worlds Smallest Slot Machine
Just like gambling, you keep doing it because you keep getting rewarded.
But theres another side to technology, too.
Because as well as the positive aspect to social media, theres an equally powerful negative aspect. You might call it antisocial media.
Thats when someone writes something hurtful, stalks you online, or makes your life a misery in other internet-related ways.
And then you still might be glued to your phone, because even negative attention is still attention.
These things might seem obvious. But what are some of the less obvious problems that can arise due to technology addiction?
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Technology Overuse And Addiction
Technology users who make technology a priority over family, friends and work may have a problem that will adversely affect their relationships and other commitments.
You may have a technology addiction if you:
- Compulsively check email, social media, text or use the internet excessively
- Have a preoccupation with being online
- Are lying about or hiding the extent or nature of your online or smartphone use
- Struggle with controlling your online or smartphone behavior
If you are struggling with a technology addiction, you will have some or many of the following symptoms:
If you feel you have even one of the above symptoms, consider it a warning that a problem may be starting. If you feel you have to two or more of the above symptoms, please consider getting help now.
First Steps On My Journey To Recovery
Fortunately, I met Ellen, my life partner for the last several years. When I met her, she didnt even own a television. This puzzled me. What does she do for entertainment, I wondered. Doesnt she get bored? How can she stand the silence? I didnt ask her those questions directly, because I didnt really care. In fact, on a deeper level, I respected and envied her for that choice.
In Ellen, I saw a person living a mindful, purposeful life that revolved around the things that matter most her health and well-being her family, friends and community and her lifes work as a Yoga Therapist. In her, I saw a potential life-partner, and an inspiring example of the kind of person I wanted to be and the type of life I wanted to live.
Hardly a day goes by that I dont thank the Universe for bringing Ellen into my life. She provided the inspiration, encouragement and support to help me see beyond the challenging circumstances of my life at the time. Besides the inspiring example of how she was living her life, I remember an article she published for her Yoga students, in which she wrote:
I remember that article, because it described my life so perfectly at the time. I had no vision for the future. I was locked in my misery, and my life had essentially come to a halt.