Internet and Tech Addiction

Smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and game consoles are ubiquitous in our Bay Area culture.  These devices have incredible benefits for work, learning, communication, and entertainment or recreation.  Most of us use technology and access the Internet in work and school settings, and enjoy the myriad options for staying in touch and entertainment available through our smartphones and other electronic devices.  In moderation, pursuits like surfing the Web, texting, emailing, participating in social media (Facebook, Snapchat etc.), playing games, watching videos, and shopping online can be an enriching and positive aspect of our lives.  In excess, these pursuits can become unhealthy, and, in some cases, addictive.

The negative consequences of tech addiction include:

 

  • Neglect of work or school responsibilities, witth possible job loss or academic failure
  • Neglect of family responsibilities
  • Disruption or loss of relationships, including breakups or divorce
  • Social isolation
  • Financial problems
  • Physical problems (sleep deprivation, backaches, weight change, headaches, repetitive stress injury)
  • Withdrawal from real-life pleasurable activities
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, hopelessness, and depression.

 

How can I tell if I’m addicted?

If you answer yes to a majority of the questions below, you likely have a tech addiction:

  • Are you unable to control how much time you spend online or using your smartphone or other electronic devices?
  • Do you find your usage increasing?
  • Have you tried to cut down and failed?
  • Do you think about what you have done or will do online when you are away from your phone or electronic devices?
  • Do you feel anxious, depressed, or irritable when you try to cut back on activities based on your phone or electronic devices?
  • Have you jeopardized work, school, or important relationships because of your use?
  • Do you lie to conceal how much time you are spending in these pursuits?
You may be addicted to one or more of the following:

 

  • Internet gaming
  • Online pornography or sextingsending explicit sexual material with text, chat, or instant messaging applications
  • Internet infidelity (online affairs)
  • Internet gambling
  • Internet shopping
  • Social media

It is also possible to have a more generalized addiction to screen time, encompassing a variety of pursuits, such as web surfing, checking messages, texting, and activities listed above.

How I help

Treatment depends, to some extent, on the nature of the tech addiction being addressed.  First, we need to more clearly understand your use and how it is affecting other areas of your life, such as your work/school, social interactions, and relationships.

The primary objective of treatment is to learn what difficulties in your real-life experience are at the root of your tech or internet addiction, and to address those.  We will discuss your experience – your thoughts and feelings and behaviors – in real life, as well as when you are involved in online or smartphone activities, to understand the relationship between them and learn how your involvement with technology may be helping you manage or avoid real-life challenges.

As this awareness develops, new options to overcome real-life difficulties open up, and the need to turn to the internet or other electronic devices to compensate diminishes.  You become able to regain control of your use of electronic devices and can moderate frequency of use and type of activities in a healthy way, appropriate to your work/school and recreational needs.  We may also establish specific goals and ways to moderate or limit usage while this discovery of the underlying issues is ongoing, so that you begin to experience some relief early in the process.  However, the goal of my approach to treatment is to go beyond quick fixes to keep your usage in check and, instead, resolve the underlying issues that cause you to turn to online or smartphone activities in ways that are not serving you.

If you are ready to get help for a tech or internet addiction, I invite you to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation to discuss how we might work together to resolve your problem.

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