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Although social media addiction may seem like no big deal to some, it has become devastating for others. Kids and teens to name, are especially at risk. San Diego State University has found shocking evidence about screen addiction particularly. According to a study from Dr. Jean M. Twenge, teens are 74 percent more likely to have trouble sleeping and twice as likely to see a professional for mental health issues than their 1980s counterparts. This is strong evidence that we may be facing new generations of health issues and problems like we have never experienced before. In comparison to past times in our civilization when a disease epidemic occurred, today seems more severe as we face a pandemic coupled with mass media coverage. Technology has proven to be a gift in many ways; such as information availability and advances in medicine. Although, in some ways it has also hindered our own judgement, instincts, and ways of personal communication. For example, perhaps before the time of cell phones we would talk more openly and proactively with strangers. News and community meetings were a source of main updates on information, rather than constant updates from many various sources online. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and many more, some of us look to celebrity views and strangers for a base of opinion. Reconnecting with the world around us, and the people in our daily lives, may be key to reducing a social media addiction.

What Is Social Media Addiction?

So, what is social media addiction and how can we possibly classify it? Scrolling through and checking social media accounts has become an increasingly popular activity over the last decade. Although most people and their use of social media is non-problematic and recreational, there is an increasing percentage of users that become addicted. Or in other words, people who compulsively engage in social networking sites on an hourly, if not minutely basis. Psychologists estimate that as many as 5 to 10% of Americans meet the criteria for social media addiction today. Social media addiction is a behavioral addiction that is characterized as being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media platforms. Therefore, devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas and obligations.

Behaviors That Can Be Observed With Social Media Addiction

Social media addiction behavior can look much like that of any other substance use disorder. Some include: mood modification (ex: engaged in social media leads to a favorable change in emotional state), tolerance (extreme increased use of social media over time), withdrawal symptoms (ex: unpleasant physical and emotional behavior when social media use is restricted or stopped), conflict within personal relationships (ex: family or partner becomes distant or jealous of device usage), and relapse (ex: addicted individuals quickly revert back to their excessive social media usage after an abstinence period rather quickly).

The Dopamine Effect On The Brain

The rise of social media addiction can largely be linked to the dopamine-inducing social environments that social networking sites provide. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Tumblr (to name just a few) produce the same neural circuitry that is caused by gambling and recreational drugs. Therefore, helping to keep consumers using their products as much as possible and then some. Studies have shown that the constant stream of retweets, likes, and shares from these sites have affected the brain’s reward area. Brain imaging research shows that stimulating glowing screens are as dopaminergic – dopamine-activating – to the brain’s pleasure center as sex. Current clinical research correlates screen tech with disorders like ADHD, addiction, anxiety, depression, increased aggression, and even psychosis. Most shocking of all, recent brain imaging studies conclusively show that excessive screen exposure can neurologically damage a young person’s developing brain in the same way that drug addiction can. Or in other words, the brain receives a “reward” and relates the activity with positive reinforcement. Therefore growing stronger and more addictive over time.

It is important to be alert to your child’s habits. A “Digital Detox” may just be what the doctor orders for those who are deep into digital addiction.

There are many treatment programs today that deal with social media addiction. If you or someone you love needs help, consider calling to find out more about how to help.

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