Addictive Screen Use

Addictive screen use is when someone is addicted to a screen activity or activities. Gaming, social media, pornography, gambling, shopping, or virtual reality all can be addicting activities.

 

Addiction to a screen activity is called a behavior addiction. The following definition of addiction was adopted by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Board of Directors September 15, 2019.

 

“Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.

 

Prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases.”

 

Cue reactivity is connected with addiction. Cue reactivity means the level of arousal experienced from an activity. The higher the arousal an activity gives us the more likely we are to become addicted to that activity.

Internet Gaming Disorder is a behavior addiction listed in the DSM-V under “Conditions for Further Study.” The DSM recognizes the addictive qualities of gaming. At least five of following symptoms must be present for 12-months.

 

  • Preoccupation with gaming

  • Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away or not possible (sadness, anxiety, irritability)

  • Tolerance, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge

  • Inability to reduce playing, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming

  • Giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to gaming

  • Continuing to game despite problems

  • Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming

  • The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness

  • Risk, having jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming

Struggling with a gaming addiction? Check out these resources to help.

 

Gaming Disorder was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019 and is characterized by the following.

  • Impaired control over gaming

  • Increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities

  • Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences

 

“For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.” – WHO

Social media addiction does not exist in any formal diagnostic manual.

However, many can struggle with addiction-like symptoms using social media.

Addictive social media use can look like all or most of the following.

  • Preoccupied by social media  

  • Become upset, irritable, and/or anxious when can not use social media

  • Spending more and more time on social media

  • Tried to stop or cut back on social media use but can not

  • Would rather use social media than do other activities previously enjoyed

  • Continue to use social media even when you know it's causing issues

  • Lies to others about social media use
  • Use social media to escape a negative situation or relationship

  • Grades or work performance jeopardized due to social media use
       

Similar to social media, there is no diagnosis for pornography addiction.

 

Addictive pornography use can be viewed in a similar light to addictive gaming and social media use.

 

By supplementing pornography with social media use, do you meet the majority of those symptoms?

Struggling with porn addiction? Find support from these resources.


   

Escape Addictive Screen Use

How to Treat a Screen-Based Addiction

Detox

Stop engaging in the screen activity for at least 60 days. This does two things. One, it gives your brain a chance to re-calibrate from the heavy dopamine flooding which happened while engaging in that activity. After 90 days, you will be able to enjoy other activities that you normally did not enjoy.

Join a 12-Step Group

For those legitimately addicted to gaming, porn, or any other screen activity, joining a 12-step support group will dramatically improve your chances to stop the addictive behavior. They are proven to give their members the tools, mindset, and support to get their life back from addiction. Outside of just porn use Sex Addicts Anonymous offers support for those struggling with sex addiction. A good gaming addiction 12-step group with daily phone meetings can be found at Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous.

Find Support

Spend time with people who will support you in your journey to stop addictive screen use. Maybe you need to stop spending time with people who encourage your addictive screen use. Reestablish old friendships or make new ones who will encourage and support your positive changes.

Engage in Meaningful Activities

You will have a lot of extra time on your hands now that you’ve stopped your addictive screen use. Use that time to engage in healthy outlets that add value to your life. Jump into your school work or career, learn a new skill, get involved in an exercise class, or start improving your mental health through meditation or prayer. Replace the addictive behavior with something that is meaningful.

Seek Professional Help

You will have a lot of extra time on your hands now that you’ve stopped your addictive screen use. Use that time to engage in healthy outlets that add value to your life. Jump into your school work or career, learn a new skill, get involved in an exercise class, or start improving your mental health through meditation or prayer. Replace the addictive behavior with something that is meaningful.

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