Outside the U.S. it may be a lot easier to find a treatment center specifically for addictions to various types of technology: technology addiction and Internet addiction disorder (IAD).
In the U.S., though, there are only a handful of digital detox facilities that treat patients who are unable to put the brakes on texting, tweeting, surfing, gaming and the like.
Even if there’s not a nearby, dedicated facility, you or a loved one can still get help. Most addiction specialists and treatment centers can tailor their treatment methods for addictions related to technology. In fact, some of the principles used for treating other types of addiction, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), have been shown to be effective for treating Internet addiction. Treatment options for technology addicts can include inpatient, outpatient, aftercare support and self-help support groups, as well as individual, group and family counseling and workshops for addicts and their families.
While there are no official steps recovery groups specifically for tech or Internet addicts, at the Center for Internet Addiction: Depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder is common among Internet addicts, as is an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Therapists oversee a 45 to 90 days outpatient program to help addicts wean themselves from pathological new devices use and “reprogram” their social skills.
Since technology addiction is an emerging problem and one that’s not very well-studied to date, it’s best to talk to your health care provider about treatment options. A person’s mental health history; what kind(s) of technology they’re addicted to; and personality can all play roles in deciding on the best approach.
We live in a world where most of our life essentials are one click away. Food, clothing, companionship, entertainment, and even sex can be attained by just a click. More and more we are giving our vital life energy to electronic devices. The bent head, focused-non-blinking stare, the raised hand holding an electronic device, with the other hand probably tapping or swiping the screen. We have been becoming electronically fed addict with new technology. Our interactions with one another are becoming less in person and more facilitated by an electronic device. It is reported that four in ten Americans suffer from problematic internet use and an estimated 38.5 percent of the population in China is highly addicted to the internet. Individuals who struggle to form real-life connections are more likely to turn to social media sites to connect with others in an impersonal and non-threatening way. Other studies show that people with anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, or Bipolar Disorder have an increased chance of developing an addiction to technology.
We are becoming programmed to be at the beck and call of our technological devices. A recent study noted that 70 percent of emails are checked within 4 seconds of arriving in the inbox. Further, on average people click, tap, or swipe their phones 2804 times a day. The heaviest smartphone users touch their phones 5417 times a day. An electronic device has taken up moments of your life. Can you imagine what you might have missed in those moments? Life is too fleeting and fragile to be spent staring at a smartphone screen.
We have to stop and wonder what impact this is having on our children. When smartphones were first introduced they were considered a luxury and few children had them. Now it appears that every child has a new electronic device. Children mimic adult behavior. They are spending less time playing with each other in order to spend time in isolation with their phone. They are not developing the important social skills necessary with friends and family. We are creating a generation of individuals who will have trouble connecting with each other in a real-world.
Technology addiction is not yet a disorder recognized by the DSM-5, but it is an umbrella term that may include addictive behavior such as cybersex, online pornography, video gaming, gambling, social media, emails and excessive texting. It is an information overload that is causing a world wide disconnect from one another and most importantly from ourselves. Social isolation, loneliness or living alone is a significant factor contributing to premature death. Each of these factors were shown to be a more significant risk factor for an early death than obesity. It is estimated that 43.9 million Americans over the age of 45 are suffering from loneliness. Marriage rates are declining and the number of people living alone is rising. Technology is robbing us of time we could be spending forming healthy connections with one another, in person. Do you find yourself wishing you had more time to do the things you love? If you do, don’t worry… you are not alone.
We are social beings and perhaps this love of sharing about ourselves is helpful to form social bonds and a sense of community even if it is only a virtual reality one. The need to share and in some cases over share becomes a problem when it begins to interfere with our lives. The constant stimulation of the dopamine system becomes an exhausting never ending loop of clicking and tapping when we receive notifications about the latest posts. Much like we are being trained to respond to cues from our electronic devices to check and recheck our phones.
Be honest with yourself about the time spent on technology. This includes emails and any form of social media . If you have a child, it is important to be mindful of the amount of time they spend on their phones, computers or other devices especially new. An electronic device is being used to disconnect people from the world.
When it is not absolutely necessary to have your phone by your side, put it away. Take the phone away from your child. If you must have it with you, turn off the notifications so you are not being prompted to check and recheck it. You might start off checking your email and then an hour later start to wonder where the time went. As with any addiction, you may find some of the behaviors seem impossible to break and are interfering with the quality of your life.
It is important to remember that there was life before social media and there is more life to be lived and experienced outside of technology. Technology is good but … We are learning to pacify ourselves with the use of social media. Bored, angry or upset we turn to social media to soothe us. Perhaps we should take a cue from Rene Sekouo, the Florent Sekouo’s father. He has wisely limited the amount of time his own children spent on technology.
Allow yourself to have at least one or two days a week without social media. Interact with your love ones and real-life friends.
“Remember, happiness is to enjoy the present with family and friends … without any devices.”