Skip to main content

Understanding Technology Addiction

Written on April 24, 2022
Understanding Technology Addiction

Technology addiction, or tech addiction, is becoming more and more commonplace. Treatment for technology addiction is gaining headway in mainstream culture, though it can still be difficult to come by. Here is some background on tech addiction, how it has evolved, and what treatment options are available.

How Has Technology Addiction Evolved?

Over the last century, technological innovations have dwarfed all advancements in humankind before it. Unfortunately, the last 2+ decades have demonstrated that people are ill equipped to handle the psychological effects of some of our most recent inventions.

Video games, e-commerce platforms, and social media have taken a drastic toll on people’s mental health and addictive tendencies. Companies like Amazon, Draftkings and Facebook all offer different services, but their negative psychological effects are incredibly similar. To better understand what happens to the brain during process addiction (ie addiction to a process such as technology rather than to a substance), let’s look at the example of shopping.

When people make a purchase, their brain releases endorphins and dopamine across the reward circuit region of the brain, which causes pleasure. After continuous repetition, people can develop a routine that reinforces the pleasurable effects of shopping. Over time, this can create compulsive buying behaviors. This process is the same for things like online gambling, winning a video game or receiving positive comments on instagram. Although the software and causes are different, the pathology is the same. When people become addicted to technology, their mental health suffers.

Common Types of Tech Addiction

As with anything researchers try to study, it’s difficult to measure technology addiction with total certainty. Below are just 3 examples of some of the most notorious types of technology addiction; video games, social media, and online shopping.

Video Game Addiction

First, video game addiction, or “gaming addiction,” has become one of the most hotly debated topics in the addiction industry. While researchers agree that people can become addicted to video games, there is a ton of debate on what qualifies someone to be addicted. Although research is somewhat scarce, a study from 2009 suggests that 1 out of 10 adolescent Americans between the ages 8-18 qualify as being addicted to video games.

This study was inconclusive in measuring the predisposition of this population to remain addicted to video games as they move into adulthood. Regardless, as video game systems become more widely available, it stands to reason that adolescent addiction will grow.

Social Media Addiction

Moreover, the pervasiveness of social media and its effects on people of all ages has grown immensely. Companies like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are unquestionably siphoning our attention and deteriorating our mental health. According to a 2021 meta-analysis spanning 32 countries, roughly 5%-13% of the people interviewed fit the criteria for social media addiction. The countries discussed in this study range dramatically in overall size and span the entire globe.

Although the DSM-5 doesn’t currently recognize technology addiction as a mental disorder, it does say there is greater need for research and evaluation.

Online Shopping Addiction

Lastly, compulsive buying behavior has been rigorously researched in the past 20 years. Since the early 2000’s, people’s reports of being addicted to shopping have been steadily rising. These self reports coincide with increased access to the internet, more e-commerce platforms and growing targeted marketing campaigns. According to the NCBI, roughly 5% of people worldwide struggle with compulsive shopping.

This percentage comes from a meta analysis covering countries from around the world. While we can only speculate the causation for this increase in uncontrollable shopping behaviors, intuition and evidence suggest a strong correlation with e-commerce industries.

Treatment for Technology Addiction

The impacts of video games, social media and online shopping on mental health are becoming widely studied and recorded. In all of these instances, people who struggle to moderate their connection to these habits report some form of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The harmful effects of these addictions are becoming more studied and apparent. However, the prevalence of these technologies make it incredibly difficult to overcome.

Fortunately, addiction programs are working on treatment options! Some of the treatment approaches that are being explored include:

● Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

● Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

● Exposure Therapy

● Medication Assisted Treatment

These therapeutic modalities have a ton of research to support their efficacy in treating substance use and mental health disorders. Hopefully, in the coming years, we will have enough evidence to prove whether or not these treatments successfully help people with technology addiction. When looking for treatment options, not all addiction treatment centers or rehab facilities will provide services for process addictions like tech addiction.

Flatirons Recovery offers treatment not only for substance use disorders but for process addiction and mental health issues as well. If you or your loved one is currently struggling with an addiction, our team at Flatirons Recovery can help you! Contact us to learn more about our program.