Devices make it easier to stay in touch and connected to the world around us.
When speaking about addiction, while not widely thought of, technology is something that many people fail to survive without. Many individuals develop a serious addiction to an increased prevalence of electronics and technologies. Fortunately, those addicted to technology have recovery options.
Today, as technological addiction clinics are popping up across multiple nations to try to keep people off their smartphones and laptops, some are looking at some of the arguments around this most common addiction.
India became the latest country earlier this month to sign up to what some concerned nations portray as a war against an epidemic that has its youth in its grip. The country’s premier mental health hospital has launched its first “technology de-addiction clinic” in Bangalore, India’s “silicon capital”.
In doing so, in using designated technology addiction centres, India has joined South Korea, China, Taiwan and Singapore in tackling what many Asian-Pacific communities perceive to be a rising public health issue.
statistics report that, In 2019, the number of smartphones sold to consumers stood at around 1.52 billion units, a significant increase from the 680 million units sold in 2012. Showing an upward digital trend that doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.
These numbers are relevant because people worldwide are spending more and more time on these types of devices. Medical Daily reported on one study that found “the average college student sends and receives approximately 109.5 text messages a day and checks their phone 60 times per day.”
Doctors at the Bangalore clinic, run by the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (Nimhans), told The Indian Express that children whose parents are worried with either a sharp academic downturn or their child withdrawing from family connections are usually the patients being referred.
“Dr. Manoj Kumar Sharma, one of the doctors running the Nimhans clinic, told the paper, “Parents regret that their son or daughter spends way too much time on the smartphone, or sharing frequent images on Facebook, or complaining of fear, loneliness and boredom when refused use of the computer.
The symptoms and nature of this suspected addiction differ from case to case, but depend on a perceived excessive involvement that comes at the cost of their emotional well-being with a user’s smartphone, the Internet or social networking sites. In addiction situations, constant tracking of instant messaging software and regular modification of status messages as well as the infamous posting of “selfies” are related to insomnia, depression and social withdrawal.
The act of admitting a child to a clinic for spending so much time on Facebook or playing with their mobile may seem extreme, since these kinds of treatment centres have yet to hit many Western countries.
In India, however, the opening of the clinic seemed timely, with Indian newspapers covering a case of a 13-year-old who hanged herself after her mother asked her to delete her Facebook account the same week the Nimhans centre opened.
Schools concerned with the popularity of tweeting, selfies and online multiplayer gaming have also been requesting assistance from the facility. Some have requested Nimhans workers to train their student counsellors, or to hold awareness camps for addicted students and screening and recovery services.
A year-long report released in 2013 by the Indian Council for Medical Research corroborates parental and educational issues, suggesting there was an “alarming” rate of technology reliance among its 2,750 participants.
What are the types of technology addiction?
Like gambling, technology uses the variable ratio reinforcement schedule to create a rewarding experience. The schedule is unpredictable and varied, but it also has content that’s mood-enhancing or stimulating.
Examples of these experiences include:
- video games
- social media
- online gambling
- online auctions
These addictions can range from moderate to severe. One study found that people who used Facebook showed no negative effects on their brain. But they also recognized Facebook-related images faster than road signs.
While this may not be an addiction, it can still affect your day-to-day tasks. People may react faster to a Facebook message than traffic conditions if they’re on their phone while driving.
What are the symptoms of technology addiction?
It may be difficult to recognize the signs of an IAD given how big a role technology plays in our daily lives. Someone with an IAD will display distinct habits. According to the journal Current Psychiatry ReviewsTrusted Source, someone with an IAD will:
- have mood changes
- focus on the internet and digital media
- be unable to control how much time they spend
- need more time or a new game to be happy
- show withdrawal symptoms when not using the internet or technology
- continue using the internet or technology even when it affects their relationships
- neglect their social, work, or school life
Having an IAD can also lead to other problems, such as depression, stress, and sleep disorders. Some mental healthcare providers see IAD as a symptom of another disorder.
Other signs that someone may have an IAD include:
- describing their activity as normal, or even healthy
- compulsively checking text messages or notifications
- losing interest in things that don’t involve the internet or technology
- getting less sleep due to the activity
- displaying irritability, depression, or lethargy
- going out of their way to prevent interrupted play, such as wearing an adult diaper
Talk to your doctor about all your habits if you suspect your symptoms are a result of IAD. They’ll be able to help determine the cause and provide the right treatment.
How is a technology addiction diagnosed?
There are several assessment tools a person can take to see if they’re at risk for an IAD. These tests will ask you to rate your behaviors on a scale to measure your level of internet addiction. One example is Dr. Kimberly Young’s Internet Addiction Test. It consists of 20 questions. The results range from 20–100 points. The higher you score on the test, the greater your level of addiction.
While diagnosing if you have an IAD, your doctor or mental health care provider may ask:
- Do you think about your previous activity or expect the next session a lot?
- Do you need to use more of the internet or play games for longer to achieve satisfaction?
- Have you tried to control, cut back, or stop use without success?
- Have you stayed online longer than intended?
Also, one of the following situations must be present to make a diagnosis:
- You lost a job, relationship, or significant opportunity due to use.
- You lied to a family member, therapist, or others about use.
- You use the internet or games as an escape from problems or moods.
Your doctor may also ask about other symptoms or moods to see which “came first.” This is to make sure that an IAD isn’t a symptom of another disorder. They may also about your family’s mental health history to rule out other causes. In some children and teenagers, what appears as IAD may just be a phase.
How is technology addiction treated?
Unlike other addiction treatments, researchers agree that completely avoiding the internet isn’t effective. Instead, IAD treatment should focus on time management and balancing or controlling use. However, it may help to avoid certain applications if they’re the cause of your addiction.
Treatment strategies generally include:
- suggesting a new schedule to disrupt patterns
- using real events and activities to help you log off
- setting goals to help limit use time
- quitting use of specific applications
- reminding yourself the benefits of stopping
- creating an inventory of missed activities due to an IAD
- joining a support group
- engaging in family therapy
Treating an IAD can also be a combination of therapies. Talk to a mental health care provider about your options, if you suspect you or someone you know has an IAD. They’ll be able to suggest a treatment plan to help.
What is the outlook for someone with a technology addiction?
Someone with an IAD can experience more episodes of depression and anxiety if left untreated. Significant physical effects will occur as well. For instance, to save time, anyone with an IAD may start consuming instant foods or they may miss everyday grooming. This can contribute to broader health issues, such as obesity, over time. Lack of sleep will also lead to these symptoms and raise the risk of other conditions.
Are there resources for someone with technology addiction?
Via communities like Online Gamers Anonymous (OGA), several individuals with an IAD may find help (OGA). These 12-step services are voluntary and include a network of other persons who go on the same journey. These organisations may provide long-term care, unlike inpatient therapy.
Groups that offer information and resources for help include: