Can any of us imagine a world without technology? I doubt it, with the exception of the very remote and isolated tribes that have still managed to stay clear of modern day societies. Very few people alive today remember life without TV for example, a device found in probably every home nowadays. In fact, did you know that Electronic television was first successfully demonstrated in San Francisco on Sept. 7, 1927. The system was designed by Philo Taylor Farnsworth, a 21-year-old inventor who had lived in a house without electricity until he was 14. Thanks to Philo Farnsworth and many others whom we give credit to for our amazing gadgets, we can practically do anything with just a swipe on our phone. Technology has been a blessing in so many ways- from medical advancement, communication, all the way to space exploration. But, unfortunately it has also been a major contributing factor to the drastically increasing numbers of people who have feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. Just as everything in life, perhaps the remedy is a healthy balance.
What An Individual Struggling With Depression Already Deals With
It’s true, bouts of depression can be a normal experience for all of us over the course of our life. However, when the ’bout’ seems to never end- there could be reason to find support and get a second opinion on how severe the depression is. What an individual struggling with depression already deals with can feel even more overwhelming with technology addiction as well. According to the American Psychiatric Association, Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how a person can feel, the way they think, and how they act on a daily basis. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed by the individual. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home. Fortunately, programs for how technology addiction can affect depression and be treated are available. For those unsure of what depression symptoms can look like, they include:
- Feeling helpless or hopeless when it comes to an outlook on life.
- Lost interest or withdrawal from your prior favorite hobbies.
- Lack of energy and increased amount of sleep.
- Abrupt changes in appetite.
- Feelings of no longer being in control of emotions.
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems.
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety.
- Feeling nervous, restless, or tense.
- Having an increased heart rate, and/or trembling.
- Looking at death as an escape.
There is no single cause of depression, as many factors and triggers come into play with this difficult disorder. For some people, an upsetting or stressful life event, such as bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy, and job or money worries, can be the cause. But in today’s world, the trap of social media platforms, video games, and abundance of easy entertainment found online play a role too. Different causes can often combine to trigger depression, hence the connection to how technology addiction can affect depression. In fact, according to a recent study; 61% percent of men and 50% of women polled say they are or have been depressed as a result of social media use. Unfortunately, disrupted sleep, life comparison, lower life satisfaction and poor self-esteem are just a few of the negative mental health consequences that researchers have linked to technology addiction. Ironically the same technology that can help people feel more connected and knowledgeable also contributes to loneliness and disinformation.
How Technology Addiction Can Affect Depression In A Negative Way
Depression can stem from a multitude of factors, but one of the most recently studied factors is the presence of technology. With the degree in presence of technology in our lives growing steadily over the last 100 hundred years, so has its effects. An example of this would be in comparing a teenager’s education growing up in the early 90’s versus today. Is there a difference between the child learning through books and a live lecture, versus a tablet? High School can be a challenge in itself, let alone inviting devices that can impact how we think, interact, and learn on a daily basis. Depression often makes an appearance during our younger years because during this time in life is when we are learning about ourselves and experiencing everything wholehearted. Whether it be our looks, our social status, or feelings of belonging- technology (social media platforms especially) are really showing their impact. How technology addiction can affect depression in a negative way is most certainly rearing its ugly head. Below are examples of areas in our life that can be impacted by technology addiction:
Sleep – Electronics, blue light screens specifically, can disrupt sleep which can result in a depressed mood, moodiness, and irritability. In fact Bright screen lights can actually stop our bodies from releasing melatonin – the ‘sleepy hormone. Further, activities or easy entertainment on devices can be over stimulating and make our mind and body less ready to sleep. Oftentimes, an individual can become absorbed and continue using their addictive tech beyond their usual bedtime, called bedtime procrastination. All of these behaviors impact restful sleep, which in turn can worsen depression over time.
Obesity – Unless it’s an exercise app on your phone or a steps tracker on your watch, technology addiction can really add on some unhealthy pounds. Watching television, playing video games, and other screen time activities increase the risk of obesity. Technology use decreases physical activity and outdoor time while also exposing watchers to junk-food advertising further impacting sleep by lack of spent energy. Increased eating while using technology, possibly due to the types of enhancing energy foods and/or beverages that are consumed with screens, worsen the problem. Watching media can act as a trigger or prompt more eating, extend the duration of eating, and/or distract from feelings of fullness or satiety. And unfortunately any of these factors singly, or in combination, can increase the risk of obesity.
Communication – While technology positively affects communication by making it possible to communicate closely with others who may even be on the other side of the planet, it has come with a price. For those people who connect with others primarily through technology, they often find it difficult to engage in normal conversation in person. Issues on understanding non-verbal cues due to lack of practice with face-to-face interaction that can’t be paused, edited or filtered being the main cause. This is easily seen with very young children who watch speech and emotional learning through devices more than in person with others.
Cyberbullying- For some the internet has provided connection and friendship to others, but on the flipside of that is the opposite kind of connection. Cyberbullying is referred to as bullying through the use of technology. Cyberbullying is unwanted, repeated, aggressive, threatening, negative behavior that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, tablets, and computers. The effects of cyberbullying also include mental health issues, increased stress, anxiety, depression, acting out violently, and low self-esteem. Cyberbullying can also result in long-lasting emotional effects, even if the bullying has stopped. Technology has made it harder to escape from bullying, and easier for bullies to escape from confronting their victims. When we hear ‘bullying’ most of us think about the High Schooler days, but cyberbullying affects the lives of people of all ages.
Self Esteem – One of the most important qualities a person can have is self confidence and self esteem that they are the best version of their own unique self. However, over-reliance on technology can affect and even damage a person’s self-esteem. For children especially, tech overuse can slow relationship development, create a lack of empathy, and hinder their emotional development. In a recent study, research shows that the more time people spend on Facebook and Instagram, the more they compare themselves socially. This social comparison is linked, among other things, to lower self-esteem and higher social anxiety. Technology can negatively affect developing social skills, relationships, health, and overall ability to focus. Which in turn can lead to more children being socially awkward, withdrawn, shy, or intimidated by social situations from a lack of healthy self esteem.
Isolation – This effect is the most ironic in how technology addiction can affect depression in a negative way. When technology takes the place of in-person relationships, it has been found to increase loneliness and disconnection. The frequent use of digital technology can even heighten ADHD symptoms and interfere with emotional and social intelligence. This can lead to addictive behaviors, increased social isolation, and interferences with brain development and sleep. A compulsion to use technology, or technology addiction, might ultimately harm users and contribute to real-life social isolation.
Maui Recovery Understands The Gravity Of Technology Addiction And Depression
One of Maui Recovery’s ultimate missions is to address and treat the disorder of this millennium- Technology Addiction. While those with the deepest depression feel technology offers an escape from the pain, stress, and loneliness in their life- nothing could be farther from the truth. This is precisely how technology addiction can affect depression in a negative way, pulling the struggling individual deeper into a dark hole. While technology and its incredibly advanced devices can seemingly provide a place of comfort, entertainment, and escape- it can come with a price. There are three major parts to consider in understanding how technology addiction can affect depression, and how the recovery process is broken down.
The Obsession – Playing video games, checking social media, watching YouTube, sending emails, surfing the web, porn engagement, smartphone usage are all examples of places a person can obsess. However, these behaviors can become more than just obsessions in how technology addiction can affect depression. In fact, in some cases, these obsessions can be debilitating addictions and clinical disorders that have ruined peoples lives.
The Compulsion – A whole generation of “Failure to Launch” Millennials have seen their schooling, job prospects and/or interpersonal relationships suffer, or even destroyed, as a result of depression and technology addiction. So many young people are struggling with this issue, yet there are so few therapy options. While countries like South Korea have over 400 Tech Addictions rehabs, here in the United States there are extremely limited options for meaningful healing from tech addiction.
The Solution – Now there is a dedicated specialized program at Maui Recovery to effectively treat this issue. Dr. Kardaras, our Co-CEO and Chief Clinical Officer, is considered one of the world’s leading experts on digital addiction (social media, video games, smart phones, etc.) and its treatment. He is the author of “Glow Kids” (St. Martin’s Press, 2016), the seminal book on the clinical, neurological and sociological aspects of digital/technology addiction and, over the past 10 years, he has clinically worked with hundreds of young people struggling with this issue. Specifically how technology addiction can affect depression, and how to treat these disorders.
At Maui Recovery, we strive to help clients cope and realize the roots of depression and anxiety in their life. As with anything else, the understanding of how technology addiction can affect depression and their treatment will be tailored to the specific needs of each individual. We make sure that we help the individual manage and reduce the symptoms of each of these disorders simultaneously. If the individual is struggling with both depression and technology addiction, the treatment for both will start simultaneously because it will be difficult to tell which set of symptoms are predominant. For those in the deepest of depression and addicted to technology going offline is unthinkable. But at Maui Recovery, we strive to help clients understand that is part of the healing process. Making the unthinkable into reality in the healthiest way possible. By focusing on the sources of the depression and technology addiction, we’re able to teach our clients that they can walk away from bad habits. Our goal is to replace the addictive glow of the screen to an immense glow of self love felt eternally within.