Technology Addiction: Signs, Risk Groups, And Treatment Options

Last Updated: January 20, 2021

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

It can cause various psychological and social consequences that can be damaging for the user and his friends and family. Read along further to find out what technology addiction is, the signs and symptoms that someone is addicted to technology, who is at risk to develop this dependence and the treatment options in this regard.

Technology Addiction Overview

Technology addiction may be considered a relatively new phenomenon on the radar with the advent and popularity of the internet, various gaming devices, social media, and other similar platforms. It is a serious problem where the electronics addict cannot control the use of various kinds of technologies such as the internet, smartphones, tablets, social networking websites such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and video games. Although technology addiction has not been classified as an addiction in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it still remains a cause of concern among health specialists because of its negative and adverse consequences.

The technology surrounding us makes life easier for us to live and brings new troubles to an end. Mobile phones, tablets, televisions, and electronic games, on which adults tend to be busy for long hours, seem to be inevitable necessities of our time. However, they are slowly becoming inconveniences with the dependence that they create for adults and children.

The addictive effects of technological tools are strong. Due to the so-called ‘technological dependency,’ children spend more and more time with technological gadgets. The signs of technological addiction seen among kids include retreating from social life, inability to sleep, lengthy use of, and excessive reactions when they are cut off from them by parents. Also, depression, autism, attention deficit disorder, and bipolar disorder tend to be more common in this group of children.

According to a study, academic success was negatively affected by students who were categorized as internet-addicted and showed greater fatigue levels.

Another study suggests that in a group of 241 organizational users that were studied, the majority showed a dependence on their mobile and technology in general, which increased their perceived workload and technology-family conflict. This, in turn, reduced their performance and productivity.

Yet another study found that ınternational pathological internet usage rates range from 1.5 % to 8.2%. However, these numbers would be significantly higher after adding the percentage of other technology-related addictions such as smartphones, games, online sex, and gambling addiction.

Research shows that approximately 1 in every 8 US citizens is facing tech addiction.

Man working seriously on laptop at home.

Types of Technological Addiction

The misuse of technology can lead to dependency, and it can assume a nurturing role for other behavioral addictions outside the internet.

Tech Addiction Covers:

  • Video or computer games
  • Social media addiction (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.)
  • Smartphone dependency
  • Internet dependency
  • Computer addiction
  • Compulsive internet use
  • Online gambling
  • Online shopping
  • Virtual sex addiction
  • Pornography
  • Texting
  • Online auctions
  • Online betting

According to the investigations made, pathological gambling, alcohol dependence, and drug addiction have neurobiologically common etiopathogenesis; compulsive shopping, excessive internet use, and compulsive sexual behaviors may also be using the same mechanisms.

How Does the Brain Work Of Someone Addicted to Technology?

The way digital addiction affects the brain is similar to that of chemical addictions, where certain acts are followed by rewards, which lead the brain to release dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters to make one feel good. This reward may be in the form of winning a game, gaining likes and comments on a certain post on social media, or winning in online gambling. With continued use, the flood of dopamine continues to increase, thus compelling the electronics addict to continue using that technology. The user becomes psychologically dependent through this consistent and frequent exposure to the stimuli.

Signs Of Technology Addiction

Just as with alcohol and drug addictions, technology addiction affects the user physically and psychologically; therefore, there are different types of signs and symptoms which are discussed below:

Physical Symptoms

Some of the physical symptoms that a person who is addicted to technology might face include:

  • Reduction of self-care
  • Dry eyes
  • Back and lower back pain
  • Weight gain linked to lack of movement
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Impaired sleeping patterns
  • Head wounds

Social and Psychological Symptoms

The social and psychological symptoms that can indicate a digital addiction may include:

  • A decline in academic achievements
  • Personal, family, and school problems
  • Failure to manage time
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Reduction inactivity
  • Internet friends, outside isolation

Positive Use Of Technology

Technology can be used in a positive manner, especially by young users, so that it helps them explore the world and express themselves in a healthier way.

Some of the Ways that It Can be Used Positively are Listed Below:

  • It can be used as a source of learning through a wide array of resources for the young, where it provides a platform for education and civic development.
  • It can be used to foster creativity in individuals so that they can express themselves and build their metacognition skills.
  • It can be a platform for healthy and productive socializing through mutual friendships and communities.

Emotional Intelligence And Technology Addiction

Emotional intelligence, the ability to understand emotions and cope with them, allows us to manage environmental conditions. Surveys conducted on university students show that internet addiction is related to introversion and isolation. According to this study about the relationship between emotional intelligence and technology addiction, there is an inverse relationship between the severity of internet dependence and emotional intelligence. Another study suggests that dependence is the result of shifts in subjective experience and that new technology and the Internet can provide relatively reliable and potent contemporary vehicles for changing emotional states.

Mom and teenage daughter are visiting physiotherapist.

Risk Factors For Electronics Addict

Everyone seems to have a reason to use technology, such as a “need” for instant access to the social world. The risk factors for being addicted to technology include:

Genetics and Gender

Some genes are more dispositioned than others to seek compulsive behavior, thus increasing the risk of developing an addiction. Males are more at risk as compared to females. Single people also have a greater tendency to become an electronics addict.

Previous Mental Health Conditions

People with a mental condition such as anxiety, depression, frustration, stress, and other mental health disorders are also at an increased risk of developing a dependence. Individuals who have suicidal thoughts are more at risk of developing technology dependence.

Internet Usage Time

The more time a person spends on the internet or using technology, the more chances are for him to be addicted to it. Excessive online gaming also increases the risk of developing an addiction.

Technological Addiction Diagnosis

There are several questions that electronics may be asked to diagnose whether or not he is addicted to technology or not.

These Include the Following:

  • Does an addict keep thinking about their previous tech-related activity or expect what the next session is going to be like?
  • Does an addict need to use the internet or technology for longer periods to achieve some kind of satisfaction?
  • Does an addict feel that they needs to limit the usage time but fails to do so?
  • Does an addict sue the technology for a longer time than what he had intended?

Apart from these questions, there could be several behavioral acts that could point towards a technology dependence. These include:

  • Increased time spent on technological activities
  • Failure at controlling behavior
  • Increased feelings of euphoria when accessing technology
  • Excessive craving and desire towards technological activities
  • A decrease in interactions with friends and family
  • Feeling unrest when not in operation (for example, waking up in the night to be online, resulting in lack of sleep affecting the day)
  • Losing integrity in social environments (for example, lying to get out of previous engagements so as to spend more time with technology)
  • Problems in performance at work or school
  • Losing a job, relationship, or a significant opportunity because of excessive usage
  • Spending and losing money on the internet not leading to feeling guilt, shame, anger, or sadness
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Lying to family members and therapists about internet or technology usage
  • Weight gain, physical changes such as headaches, back pain
  • Withdrawal from other pleasurable activities
  • Using technology as an escape from problems or stress

If you think that you suffer from tech addiction, there are behavioral and pharmaceutical treatments. Please ask your doctor or call our help center number to find more information.

Internet Addiction Treatment

There are several approaches to treating technology dependency. Some of these are discussed below:

Psychological and Psychosocial Approaches

These include certain therapies that have been proven successful in treating digital addiction:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT has shown successful results by which patients are taught to uncover unhealthy patterns and find ways to create healthier thoughts and actions. CBT combined with electroacupuncture has also shown promising results in this regard.
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI) – MI helps patients learn new behavioral skills that can help them give up addictive behaviors.
  • Reality Therapy (RT) – RT works by making the patients realize that a problem exists and they have to change their lives through behavioral changes. It also focuses on teaching patients how to pass the time and finding alternative and healthy activities to keep themselves occupied.
  • Counseling – Through counseling, a counselor can help patients cope with stress and negative emotions that they might feel during their recovery journey. Usually, patients also have a co-occurring mental health disorder, which is also dealt with through counseling and other therapeutic approaches.
  • Family Therapy – Family interventions play an important role in addressing relationship problems that might have caused or been a result of internet addiction. Marriage counseling may also be helpful when the addiction disrupted the family unit.
african american girl and her parents at reception of psychologist.

Medication

Certain medications may also be prescribed to digital addicts to help them recover from technology dependence. These usually include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These work for many addicts who also develop symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety. SSRIs can help improve mood and decrease cravings for internet usage. Common SSRIs Prescribed For This Problem Include:

Support Groups

There are several support groups that one can join in order to overcome tech addiction. These support groups may also be in the form of 12-step meetings and groups based on the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) model. Through these support groups, addicts can find support and motivation from people who are also in similar situations and consequently move towards recovery together.

What Can One Do To Avoid Technological Addiction?

There are some useful tips for an electronics addict who wants to overcome his digital addiction. These include:

  • Plan a new schedule to disrupt patterns
  • Change daily internet and smartphone usage hours.
  • Set goals to limit use time.
  • Limiting or quitting the use of certain apps and games.
  • Prepare weekly internet usage schedules and ensure compliance.
  • Spend some time with support groups or other methods, like family therapy.
  • Create a list of activities that were missed because of excessive technological usage.
  • Make a list of activities that one would like to do and adhere to it.
  • Remind oneself of the benefits of stopping excessive usage.

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Page Sources

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  3. Jalaleddin Hamissi, Mohadese Babaie, Mehdi Hosseini, Fatemeh Babaie, The Relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Technology Addiction among University Students, https://www.iomcworld.org/abstract/the-relationship-between-emotional-intelligence-andtechnology-addiction-among-university-students-18720.html
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Published on: December 8th, 2017

Updated on: January 20th, 2021

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.