Technology Addiction: Causes, Effects & Treatment Options

What is Technology Addiction & How to Treat It

While most people think of addictions in terms of drug addictions or alcohol addictions, technology can be just as addictive — and just as challenging to overcome. Think of it this way: If you’re surrounded by technology and have a technology addiction, it’s not easy to avoid dealing with technological equipment. There are also many causes of technology addiction. However, it’s possible to move past even the most challenging technology addiction with the proper treatment.

Why Technology is Addictive

If you’ve ever started surfing the Internet only to discover you “lost” an hour, you know how addictive technology can be. It’s rewarding to dabble in a piece of technology, such as an iPhone or Kindle. Not only do you receive instant gratification, but you also feel like you might just be learning something in the process. So how can this be bad?

The issue is that when technology is so addictive, a person cannot do anything other than use technological equipment. This could mean someone who has to always carry their smartphone for fear of missing a text or call or an individual who constantly avoids social situations in favor of interacting on online message boards. When technology takes precedence over real life, it presents an enormous concern and should be taken very seriously.

Why Kids and Adults Get Addicted to Technology

Both children and adults can be addicted to technology. In truth, technology addiction, like other forms of addiction, knows no boundaries. People from all walks of life can become addicted to being on their technological equipment. The same holds true for school-age children as well as their senior citizen counterparts. Technology addiction has more to do with personality, genetics, and situations than socioeconomics, gender, or race.

Ironically, we live in a culture that fosters technology addiction by making technology appear essential. Check out any publication’s website, and there’s likely to be a news tab related to technology. Technology is everywhere, and it’s heralded rather than treated with caution. This opens the door to technology addiction for those predisposed to addictive behaviors.

Symptoms of Technology Addiction

Have you ever wondered if you or someone you care about could be affected by technology addiction? Below are several of the most common symptoms shared by technology addicts:

  • The need to be on a piece of technology during all waking hours. An addict may even take a phone to bed at night or use a mobile device while in the bathroom.
  • Talking incessantly about technology and spending copious amounts of money on the latest equipment. For technology addicts, having new technology is more important than paying the mortgage.
  • Using technology to avoid social situations. A technology addict may reduce the time they spend dealing with people by focusing on technology instead.
  • Playing games online for hours and hours, even if your family members and friends are begging you to stop. You feel like you’re missing something when you don’t play the games.
  • Constantly checking social media pages for updates and making updates about even mundane, day-to-day activities.
  • Feeling “left out” when technology isn’t available and borrowing others’ devices to check-in.

If you recognize these or other common signs in yourself, you may have a technology addiction. Consider contacting a specialist who can help with technology addiction.

The Fine Line Between Being Busy and Addicted to Technology

It should be noted that some people who use technology all the time are not technology addicted. They are merely doing their jobs. For instance, a start-up entrepreneur with an online commerce site may check the corporate website regularly, especially in the first few months of the company. Similarly, a stockbroker may be required to keep up with all the developments in the financial world, which necessitates utilizing technology.

So, where do we draw the line between being busy and being addicted? True technology addiction is not usually productive. The person using technology for work can walk away from the technology and feel a sense of relief. Being “unplugged” from technology feels good to someone who only turns to technology out of necessity. On the other hand, those with technology addictions feel a sense of crushing withdrawal and anxiety when they cannot interact with technology.

Isn’t Technology Addiction Just Internet Addiction?

Technology addiction can include Internet addiction, but Internet addiction is just a part of technology addiction. Instead, technology addiction encompasses anything related to technology. This means someone is driven to play video games all night or surf message boards for hours and hours. Think of technology addiction as an umbrella term, not synonymous with Internet addiction.

What Are the Short- and Long-Term Effects of Technology Addiction?

Being addicted to technology creates numerous short-term and long-term effects, as shown by various technology addiction statistics. Some are related to the individual, and others are related to society as a whole:

  • Technology addiction creates a disconnect between human beings. Many people addicted to technology find face-to-face interactions awkward, embarrassing or uncomfortable.
  • Technology addiction eats up time that could be spent on other things, such as time with loved ones, chores, hobbies, schoolwork, etc. This waste of productivity becomes noticeable as weeks and months pass.
  • Technology addiction can lead to job loss. If a worker cannot concentrate on their job, they may face unemployment.
  • Technology addiction can lead to distraction. Most people have heard of individuals walking into walls, poles, and even mall fountains while focused on their technological devices.
  • Technology addiction can be fatal. Fatalities associated with a phenomenon such as texting or emailing while driving is well-documented. If the technology addict is not killed, they may kill another person, leading to jail time.
  • Technology addiction can stunt learning and achievement in children. Kids who constantly play games on their technological devices are likely to have poor grades in school, especially over time.
  • Technology addiction creates a sense of false urgency and the need for immediate gratification. In turn, this makes dealing with relationships and events — most of which involve delayed gratification — difficult.
  • Technology addiction can lead to lying. Technology addicts can become hackers or begin to engage in illegal activities, including downloading pirated music or videos. Those with a desire to engage in online porn watching may hide their desires from friends and family, leading to further deception.
  • Technology addiction can be expensive. New technologies are not cheap, and it’s not uncommon for technology addicts to “need” the latest gadgets. Like other addicts, they are willing to spend whatever it takes to get their fix.
  • Technology addiction can be a precursor to negative emotions such as anger and depression. If the addict is unable to be near technology, they could even become suicidal or suffer from panic attacks.
  • Technology addiction can lead to obesity, which can lead to diabetes. Technology usage is typically sedentary, contributing to unhealthy eating habits and a lack of motivation to exercise.
  • Technology addiction is a form of escapism that helps tamp down feelings. This allows the addict to avoid dealing with problems in their life by pushing them aside. In time, the emotions associated with those problems will bubble to the surface in other ways.
  • Technology addiction can fuel insomnia. Some addicts will spend very little time sleeping, allowing them to be on their computers and mobile devices more frequently.
  • Technology addiction may increase episodes of headaches, including migraines. Staring at a computer or mobile device screen for long periods causes eye fatigue, which is a cause of headaches. Eye fatigue can eventually become eye strain and necessitate the need for glasses or a stronger glasses prescription.
  • Technology addiction can lead to a decreased focus on hygiene. Addicts may stop showering or taking care of basic hygiene to spend more time with their technological equipment.

It’s easy to see how technology addiction’s effects can devastate the addict and those around them. Fortunately, there is treatment available for technology addicts who are ready to move past their addictions.

How Technology Addiction is Treated

Numerous steps are frequently taken to treat technology addiction. Some of the more popular ones include the following:

  • Complete removal from all technologies. This may not be possible, as in the case of someone who works in an IT department. However, to the extent that technology can be removed from the addict’s life, it should be. This should not be done without the supervision of a therapist, as withdrawal symptoms can be intense, especially for technology addicts who have been addicted for a long time.
  • Getting rid of all or most technological equipment. Another way to reduce the visual triggers leading to technology addiction is to remove the equipment. Selling off equipment can be a way to help pay for treatment or to gain extra money to spend on other things, such as non-technology rewards.
  • Committing to intensive therapy. This can be done in an inpatient or outpatient center or a combination of the two. Therapy can assist the addict in uncovering the reasons for their technology addiction, such as a fear of dealing with people.
  • Substituting healthy behaviors for technology addiction behaviors. For instance, an addict may choose to take up gardening or rock climbing, which are activities that do not use technology. Substitutions can be a remarkably successful way to reframe how our minds work and stimulate the pleasure centers of our brains in a positive sense.
  • Having a relapse plan. What happens if an addict relapses? What are the first steps to take after giving in to the desire to use technology to excess? This should always be part of the treatment plan. By outlining exactly what to do should a relapse occur, the addict will feel more empowered to take steps after a relapse.
  • Creating a plan to plug back into technology in a way that doesn’t interfere with everyday living. This typically requires specific details, including how much time will be allowed on social media, the number of texts or emails that can be sent, the sites that can be visited each day, etc. Some addicts thrive on having a regimented routine laid out. This gives them a course to follow and a means to stay on track.
    When you’re ready to get treatment, there’s no need to wait to get better. The faster you get assistance dealing with your technology addiction, the quicker you can overcome it. Remember, this will be good for everyone in your life, not just you.

Paying for Technology Addiction Treatment

Though your insurance carrier may not cover technology addiction, the therapy associated with overcoming any addiction could be. As you begin getting help for technology addiction, making a few phone calls to your insurance provider is worth it. You may discover you can get some or all of your therapy sessions covered or at least partially covered. Don’t forget that most therapists will also accept credit cards for co-pays. This allows you to stretch out your payments over a period of time, which may be more feasible.
If you’re unsure how to talk to your insurance representative, ask your intended therapist or inpatient center for help. They’ll be able to tell you whether they have dealt with your insurance before and how other technology addicts have been able to afford the treatment they require.

Prevention of Technology Addiction

Knowing technology addiction is a real issue in our country, how can we help future generations avoid becoming technology addicts? There are plenty of ways, and some are pretty simple:

  • Don’t allow children to spend hours on their technological devices. Be very specific and limit their exposure.
  • Stop using technology when you’re around your kids, except when necessary.
  • Have times when you leave the house without any technology. Consider these “unplugged” moments.
  • Turn your cell phone off occasionally, such as with your family at a restaurant or enjoying a vacation.
  • Take a trip somewhere you cannot use your technology. This will force you to focus your attention elsewhere.
  • Avoid your technology addiction triggers, such as aimlessly surfing the Internet instead of doing other work.
  • Don’t use technology in every room. This will stop you from turning to technology all the time.
  • Do not play any technology games. Period. Remove all game apps from your smartphone or tablet.

These steps will not just assist you in overcoming your addiction. They will have a terrific impact on those around you as well. When you make technology less important in your life, others will follow suit, especially as they see the benefits.

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Reviewed By:

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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