Technology Addiction − Signs, Causes and Recovery Treatment

Last Updated: April 19, 2024

Dr. Norman Chazin Reviewed by Dr. Norman Chazin
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Technology is reshaping our world at an unprecedented pace, making this era a high point of technological progress in human history.

Yet, this transformation has also brought new disorders and diseases that clinicians are still trying to figure out. In the U.S., 48% of Americans perceive they have a technology addiction (TA), which may cause them social withdrawal, insomnia, attention deficit disorder, and even depression.

While these symptoms sound extreme, they are real and may worsen over time if left untreated. Read on to learn more about this addiction, its signs and causes and how to get help.

What is Addiction Technology?

To understand this addiction, it’s important first to clarify the concept of technology.

According to authors, technology is “a system created by humans that uses knowledge and organization to produce objects and techniques for the attainment of specific goals.” For example, humans design and produce smartphones to broaden communications.

Technology addiction is the excessive or poorly controlled urges or behaviors to use technological products, even in moments or settings where it’s inappropriate. Although not officially recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it is often treated as a behavioral addiction by clinicians.

Typically, therapy is a primary approach to treatment, including:

Types of Tech Addiction

Technology can cover several gadgets, physical/digital products, and processes, and delimiting them allows healthcare professionals and the general public to understand where their addiction may be coming from.

The types of addiction technology are:

Technology addiction is placed under the umbrella of behavioral addictions following scientific suggestions that some of these conditions, such as gambling addiction, compulsive sexual behavior and problem internet use, may have neurobiological similarities with substance use disorders (SUDs).

Why Technology Can Be Addictive?

Tech addiction works as a behavioral addiction due to its capacity to disrupt central psychological mechanisms and patterns of behavior, such as emotion management, eating or social interactions.

Tech can be addictive due to several factors:

Instant Gratification

Research suggests that technology triggers the brain’s reward system and dopamine release, producing good feelings like substance use. However, technology gives instant satisfaction in comparison to the delayed effect of alcohol or drugs.

Escapism from Negative Feelings

Negative feelings may contribute to one of the technology addictions as they provide a psychological escape mechanism to avoid real or perceived problems. As tech addiction may be a consequence of a mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression, its use may ease the associated symptoms.

Users may rely on digital technology to self-regulate and get positive emotions instantly.

Sense of Connection

Individuals with poor social skills and anxiety about face-to-face interactions are drawn to the anonymity of the Internet. Online platforms offer less intimidating settings for developing relationships, particularly for those experiencing stressful situations.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Tech Addiction

Currently, the DSM-5 only recognizes gambling addiction as a behavioral addiction. Without a diagnosis criterion to follow for tech addiction, the diagnostic criteria for gambling disorder can serve as a template.

The signs of technology addiction may include:

  • Spending increasing amounts of time on digital devices
  • Constantly thinking about using technology, even under inappropriate settings
  • Experiencing irritability, restlessness or anxiety when unable to access technology
  • Prioritizing using technology over work, school or personal obligations
  • Withdrawing from in-person social interactions in favor of online connections
  • Eye strain, headaches or disrupted sleep patterns due to excessive screen time
  • Decreased interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Hiding or lying about the extent of technology use
  • Struggling to control or reduce technology use despite repeated attempts to do so
  • Symptoms like depression, anxiety, or mood swings when trying to minimize tech use

Health Risks of Technology Addiction

While tech can be seen as innocuous, excessive use is linked to various psychiatric symptoms, particularly among teenagers, including depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, high feelings of social isolation, and inadequacy at work or school.

The health impacts of tech addiction can include:

Physical Health Risks

  • Eye strain, headaches, and vision problems due to excessive screen time
  • A sedentary lifestyle leads to obesity, cardiovascular issues and musculoskeletal problems
  • Disrupted sleep patterns and fatigue caused by late-night screen use

Mental Health Disorders

  • Increased risk of anxiety, depression, and mood disorders
  • Impaired cognitive function and attention span, affecting academic or work performance
  • Social withdrawal and loneliness due to preference over online interactions

Behavioral Impairment

  • Technology addiction harms real-world relationships and social skills
  • Indifference about community and the environment
  • Impulsive or risky behavior online, such as cyberbullying or sharing personal information
  • Decreased productivity and difficulty maintaining focus on tasks

Emotional Risks

  • Stress and frustration when technology use is interrupted or restricted
  • Emotional instability and irritability when unable to access digital devices
  • Negative impact on self-esteem through comparison with others on social media

What are the Most Healthy Strategies to Use Technology?

Cutting technology off entirely is unrealistic as it offers countless benefits in education, entertainment, and communication. However, it’s imperative to implement strategies for conscious use, such as:

  • Set daily specific time limits and ensure a healthy balance with other activities
  • Allocate time for offline activities such as exercise and spending time with family/friends
  • Plan “digital detoxes” such as weekends or vacations to reconnect with the real world
  • Be mindful of your technology usage and avoid mindless scrolling or multitasking
  • Maintain a healthy balance between work-related technology use and leisure activities
  • Add physical activity to your routine
  • Use technology to access educational resources (online courses, tutorials)
  • Keep track of your screen time and minimize excessive usage, especially before bedtime
  • If you’re a parent, use parental control apps to manage your children’s technology use

Technology Addiction − Treatment and Final Considerations

For many individuals, technology serves as a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. Therapists should apply targeted strategies that not only address the symptoms of tech addiction but also provide long-term solutions for mental health problems.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the first-line treatment options for identifying and modifying negative thought patterns and behaviors. Through CBT, individuals learn to manage cravings and establish healthier interactions with technology.

Along with therapy, medications like SSRIs may be prescribed to address co-occurring mental health issues, providing extra help for individuals on their path to recovery. Everyone can get addicted to technology, yet as children and teenagers are more vulnerable, mainly due to social media exposure and online games, prevention and discipline are imperative to protect them from tech addiction.

People Also Ask

What are the main causes of technology addiction?

Leading causes of tech addiction include instant gratification, social validation, escapism and fear of missing out (FOMO). The ubiquity and convenience of digital devices and online platforms worsen these factors.

What can you suggest to prevent computer addiction?

To prevent computer addiction, establish boundaries by setting specific time limits for screen use, prioritizing offline activities, cultivating hobbies, practicing mindfulness, and seeking support from friends or professionals if necessary.

Is technology addiction good or bad?

Tech addiction can have negative consequences, including social isolation, decreased productivity and adverse physical and mental health impacts. However, technology also offers many benefits when used consciously, such as facilitating communication, education and access to information.

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Page Sources

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Retrieved on April 19, 2024.

Published on: December 8th, 2017

Updated on: April 19th, 2024

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