There have been a massive number of stories in the media over the last few weeks detailing the mental health concerns of teenagers and young adults, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest culprit mentioned for this decline in the mental health conditions and resiliency of American youth is technology. Specifically, the constant use of smart phones, gaming devices, social media, and other technology.
There is no doubt that as a society, we are more connected than we’ve ever been, while at the same time, feeling more disconnected.
This paradox stems from technology and our constant access to it: We have 24/7 access to information and communication, yet at the same time, or even because of it, as individuals we have become more disconnected from other humans, retreating further within ourselves. Young adults no longer connect socially in person, but rather connect online. They suffer more from social anxiety, overall anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns, lacking the experience that comes with regular in-person human connection and the resiliency that occurs through life experiences. Rather than going outside to play games or sports, they play games online. Rather than picking up a book and reading, they read online, taking in short snippets of information generated to them by algorithms in rapid fire succession. They lack the experience to hold conversations or to learn to understand different viewpoints. Friendships are created online, via social media. Entertainment is consumed in 30 or 60 second clips.
Young adults are not the only individuals dealing with an abundance of technology or living a life driven by their cell phone or computer. Adults too deal with similar issues, utilizing technology to work and play. Communicating with friends and family via technology. Consuming news and entertainment in the same way that young adults do. Therefore, adults are also suffering from the mental health concerns and conditions associated with a technology-driven, microwave society. This is made worse by the isolation, fear, and disconnection that occurred since the beginning of the COVID-19 public health pandemic. As we all were driven to distance from one another, isolate, work from home, and avoid human connection, it only makes sense that we began to use our technology more, and consume more information via technology, creating a vicious cycle of the need to stay connected through technology, but becoming even more disconnected from each other, and setting ourselves up for the mental health concerns that occur as a result of technology. Therefore, we took up other behaviors to feel safe, secure, and complete. When we feel more isolated and disconnected, we reach out for avenues to cope. Drugs and alcohol, gambling, shopping, and the like.
Therefore, what can we do to make sure that we don’t allow technology to have a lasting negative impact, while still understanding that this is now the technological-dependent society we now live in? Can we detox from technology and learn to use it in a healthy manner? Can we go through a digital detox, learn healthy behaviors and coping mechanisms, and learn to manage our lives with technology without letting technology manage our lives? The short answer is, of course, yes.
Technology addiction or smartphone addiction is typically considered a behavioral health disorder or what is also known as a process addiction. It is similarly associated with other process addictions, such as shopping addiction, spending addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, or porn addiction. A process addiction is a behavior that is causing problems or difficulties in an individual’s life, but that the individual is unable to refrain from taking part in or continuing. The most common digital addiction or technology addiction is probably gaming addiction, where individual’s gaming habits and behaviors interfere in their ability to thrive and become detrimental to their life, as well as their physical and mental well-being.
For an individual obsessively connected to their smartphone or other technology, and have developed a technology addiction, there is often a need for a detox. A detox from drugs and alcohol involves the individual being physically separated from substances and using medical and clinical intervention to support the management of withdrawal symptoms, emotional and mental health issues, and getting them to a place of physical and emotional stability. Although a digital detox does not cause the physical withdrawal symptoms of substances like alcohol or opioids, there are mental health and emotional withdrawal symptoms that can occur. However, a digital detox is exactly what it sounds like, a detox from technology and the digital world. There are a number of strategies or approaches to help someone with a digital addiction go through a digital detox, they all incorporate limiting screen time or stopping screen time altogether, for a period of time. It involves unplugging, then beginning to reintegrate digital devices and digital media in a healthier way. It also includes managing any digital withdrawal symptoms, and monitoring emotions so that the person does not begin to reach out for other unhealthy and addictive coping mechanisms. Some examples of this would be substituting drugs and alcohol, food, or gambling in place of screen time.
There are a number of benefits of a digital detox. It can lead to less stress and more focus. It can lead to better social interactions and helping the person feel more comfortable during in-person situations, such as conversations, parties, and other social gatherings. It can lead to being more productive, more efficient, and helping someone better utilize their time. It leads people to be more mindful, more present, living in the moment with greater authenticity.
If someone is finding themselves too immersed in digital technology but feeling disconnected, more anxious, or depressed, that might be a sign of the need to put down the technology and go through a digital detox. Some others signs of the need for a detox from technology can include always being on your phone during social interactions, increased irritability, frustration or anger, loss of sleep or waking up to check social media or other digital media, feelings of obligation to consume digital media, only interacting with others on social media, the constant need to comment, respond, or react on social media, or finding the only connection with others or “friendships” you have are based on interactions online with people you hardly ever see or maybe have never even met.
Go out. Smell the flowers. Breathe the fresh air. Feel the sun on your face. Reach out to friends and family and go spend time with them, in person. Turn off the computer. Put down the phone. Detox from technology and realize that life is truly about living, and not about what happens on the screen.
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorders, please give us a call. Innovo Detox offers the latest in evidence-based medical, psychiatric, and clinical care for those in need of detox and medical stabilization in Pennsylvania and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or a loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a detox, rehab, treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (717) 619-3260 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on our company or services, please visit our website at www.innovodetox.com.