Addiction to New Technologies

Addiction to new technologies is a frequent problem, especially among adolescents. What are its causes and symptoms? How are they treated? We'll tell you in this article.
Addiction to New Technologies
Laura Ruiz Mitjana

Written and verified by la psicóloga Laura Ruiz Mitjana in 12 April, 2021.

Last update: 12 April, 2021

We can’t deny it, new technologies are in our lives and they’re probably here to stay. The benefits are many, although an inappropriate use of new technologies can lead to negative consequences, such as addictive disorders. This is the case with addiction to new technologies.

As in any addiction, its main symptom is an irrepressible “need” to consume a certain substance. In this case, new technologies. The person ends up losing control in relation to this behavior, and spending more and more time using electronic devices.

Addiction to new technologies: what is it?

Addiction to new technologies usually affects young people.
Video game addiction also falls into this group.

Addiction to new technologies is defined as a strong need to keep interacting with electronic devices, generally devices that allow internet access. This interaction is carried out through smartphone applications, computers, etc.

Within this condition, we also find addiction to video games, whether through video game consoles, the internet, computer games, online platforms, etc.

Beyond feeling that “need” to be connected to the internet, the person addicted to new technologies usually needs the devices they use to meet certain parameters.

These parameters have to do with the enjoyment or the possibility of a more complete experience in terms of content, device characteristics, etc.

What else do we know?

A study published in the scientific journal BMC Pediatrics, carried out by the Young Research Group and Information and Communication Technologies (JOITIC), has reached interesting conclusions in relation to this problem.

According to the study, tobacco, alcohol abuse, drugs, school failure and problems in the family environment are related to addiction to new technologies. In addition, the study also affirms that the role of the family can be fundamental in efforts to prevent this type of problem.

Regarding figures, the study was carried out with 5,538 students between 12 and 20 years old, and it found that 13.6% of those surveyed had a problematic use of the Internet; 2.4% a problematic use with mobile phones, and 6.2% problems in the use of video games.

Symptoms

What symptoms does a person with an addiction to new technologies show? In addition to the need to be connected, the most frequent are the following:

The compulsive need for information

One of the symptoms of this addiction is a strong need to always be informed. The topics you want to be informed about usually have to do with everything that interests the closest circle. In adolescents, for example, this may be related to new fashions, influencers, YouTubers, social networks, etc.

Strong dependency

New technologies, just as they generate addiction, also cause dependence (as occurs with toxic substances, for example). Thus, a strong dependence on these devices appears. This implies that the subject “needs” more and more of the “substance” in order to feel the same effect.

This means that, especially at the beginning, you need to spend more and more hours connected to feel the same pleasure.

Limitations in other situations

This addiction implies limitations when facing situations outside the context of new technologies or screens. In this way, it’s increasingly difficult for the person to enjoy activities that aren’t related to technology.

A person addicted to new technologies can be very efficient when carrying out activities using a smart device, but very ineffective when doing them in another context.

The search for “state of the art” appliances

Another symptom of addiction to new technologies is the need for the devices used to be innovative, new, or cutting edge. This occurs in people who are more addicted, or who have been interacting with this type of device for more years.

They’re people who are always looking for “the best”, the latest in technological advances. This can be related to the dependency we’ve already explained, as the person increasingly needs products of higher quality or with more functions to feel the same as they did at the beginning of the addiction.

Social isolation

Social isolation is another of the characteristic symptoms of this type of addiction. People who are hooked on this type of device gradually isolate themselves from others. They stop practicing activities outside of this area and spend more and more hours connected to the internet or their devices. They can lose many friends as a result.

Causes

After an addiction to new technologies, what we find most of the time is some lack or emotional problem that the person tries to “cover up” by using their addiction.

This is almost always an unconscious process. When we talk about emotional problems, we’re referring to problems of all kinds: family, relationship, self-esteem, relationships with peers, etc.

On the other hand, another cause of this addiction may have to do with a distortion in the person’s reward system. This can lead to an alteration at an organic level. In addition, at the brain level, these types of behaviors also leave their impact.

When we carry out an activity in a compulsive way, or when we adopt new habits that generate pleasure or satisfaction, our brain secretes a neurotransmitter known as serotonin. Serotonin, also called “the hormone of happiness,” is released when we feel euphoric, happy, or when we receive a large dose of pleasure.

The experience/pleasure addiction

What happens with everything that we’ve explained? Well, this substance, serotonin (and many others) can also “generate” an addiction (or contribute to its appearance) in the sense that, because we feel so much pleasure, we seek to experience it over and over again.

This also has a lot to do with dependency. The more pleasure we experience over time, the more we “need” that pleasure, and the more we need something specific to experience it.

How to treat addiction to new technologies

Addiction to new technologies may require treatment.
Psychological care may be necessary to deal with these problems.

From a psychological point of view, an addiction of this type should be addressed by working on the causes of the addiction. This all means that it’s little use to work on the symptoms of the disorder if the cause that explains the symptoms isn’t treated.

That’s why the first step will be to know what has led the person to develop their disorder. However, this isn’t to say that the symptoms shouldn’t be worked on as well, as they’re also important.

Thus, in children and adolescents, behavior modification techniques can be used, for example, in order to reduce the time of exposure to this type of device. You can also use strategies that include negotiation with them, the token economy (point system), etc. Of course, you should never forget to treat the emotional part of the disorder (and its symptoms).

Specific techniques

Some of the most effective therapies for this type of disorder are, on the one hand, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and on the other, behavioral therapy.

The first seeks to work on the dysfunctional thoughts of the patient. The second uses, among other techniques, exposure with response prevention (RPE). Through ERP it is intended that the patient is able to resist the impulse to connect, tolerating that anxiety until it overpowers it.

Relaxation and breathing techniques can also be used in order to reduce the anxiety levels often experienced by these types of patients.

Pharmacotherapy

At a medical level, several drugs can be used to treat anxiety (or the depressive symptoms that cause or result from the disorder). However, we insist again that the underlying cause that explains the disorder should always be treated. Nevertheless, treating its symptoms can also be beneficial in helping the patient to regain control of their life.

From a pharmacological perspective, anxiolytics and antidepressants are the main drugs to be used. As always, seeking professional help will be the first step toward progressing with this disorder.

A common but controllable problem

As you’ll have seen throughout the article, dependence on technology is complex and involves several emotional and behavioral aspects. If you, or anyone close to you, is going through a similar problem, then it’s best to see a mental health specialist.

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