Digital addiction: how to know when you are addicted and how to avoid it

Digital addiction: how to know when you are addicted and how to avoid it

Many people spend most of their free time in digital worlds, with studies showing an increase during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Digital addiction can seriously disrupt a healthy sleep schedule (stock image). © 123RF / toa55

Some find it difficult to detach from gaming, streaming, social media or chatting. But when can you say someone is addicted to digital devices, media or platforms, and how do you become addicted?

“It’s really bad if you neglect other areas of your life, such as your friends, family, hobbies, and at some point your personal hygiene as well,” says Martina Haas, a media psychologist and online addiction.

These people are so busy with digital devices that they barely eat, sleep or shower. Although they are aware that their behavior has harmful consequences, they cannot stop, she says.

“Plus, they keep increasing the ‘dose’ and experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stay offline.”

They don’t like to talk about it and feel guilty about their families, Haas adds, and some immerse themselves further into virtual worlds to escape stress.

An addiction hiding deeper problems

Studies show that people are spending much more time with digital devices during the pandemic than in good health (stock image).

Studies show that people are spending much more time with digital devices during the pandemic than in good health (stock image). © 123RF / nito500

Women with digital addiction tend to spend their time on social media and men on electronic games, according to Haas. What drug addicts have in common, however, is a craving for something that they lack in their life, she says: “If you find that you can’t break free, you are usually looking for something that you are missing in your life. the real world.”

Media educator Kristin Langer says it’s no surprise that many people are spending significantly more time with digital devices during the pandemic than is normally recommended.

“Immersing yourself in a digital world can give you moments of happiness and feelings of accomplishment, but living them exclusively in digital worlds is not sustainable in the long run,” notes Langer.

The ability to regulate yourself gradually develops with your personality, she explains. “The process takes time and is not yet complete in some adults.”

As a rule, it’s important not to develop an addiction in childhood, says addiction therapist Niels Pruin, because it often stays that way for life. “The sooner a child’s problematic media use begins, and the longer the behavior lasts, the harder it will be to break the habit in adulthood,” he points out.

Pruin says people who come to him for digital addiction counseling are often young men who have withdrawn from society and are struggling to make social connections. “They have lost the ability and are extremely dissatisfied with themselves. Many are afraid that they will no longer be able to be successful in real life.”

People with digital addiction frequently have health problems such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or social phobias, notes Pruin. “It’s not just a matter of digital media consumption for itself. On the contrary, they often try to make up for other deficits with their problematic consumption.”

To determine if you might be addicted to digital media, you should try to reduce your problematic consumption. “If you think you can quit at any time, then do it. And if you find that you can’t, you should seek professional help,” he advises.

Tips to avoid this magnetic attraction

People with digital addiction frequently have accompanying conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or social phobias (stock image).

People with digital addiction frequently have accompanying conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or social phobias (stock image). © 123RF / akhenatonimages

Pruin offers some tips for people who may not be addicted but who consume a lot of digital media, for example with their smartphone. “If you want to play with your smartphone less, this helps to make it as unappealing as possible, for example with an annoying ringtone, embarrassing wallpaper or a very complicated passcode.”

You can also make the dining room and bedside tables smartphone-free areas and not take the device with you into the bathroom.

“The bathroom is a place you go to and are not disturbed. Nobody wants anything from you there, and you associate that with reaching for your smartphone,” says Pruin. “It’s classic conditioning in your brain – addictive conditioning. And you have to decondition yourself.”

There are a lot of things you can do to prevent digital addiction, says Pruin. The motto is: increase your self-confidence. Sports or creative activities in your free time, a fundamental interest in people and a circle of friends play key roles.

Being able to handle boredom is also very important, says Pruin. “This is a very big problem: a lot of people don’t know how to deal with an unpleasant feeling like boredom because they have never learned how to do it.”

Cover photo: 123RF / toa55

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