Digital Addiction in the Digital Age

The rise of the digital age has transformed how we live, work, and communicate. Our daily lives are increasingly intertwined with the digital realm, from smartphones to social media platforms like TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram. As we navigate the modern landscape of internet browsing and online entertainment, it’s crucial to examine the growing epidemic of digital addiction in the UK. Digital addiction is a harmful dependence on digital media and devices, such as smartphones, video games, and computers. Some psychologists believe that addiction to electronic devices and media should be classified similarly to substance abuse disorders.

Spending too much time on digital devices can be bad for us. So, balancing our digital and real-life activities is important to avoid addiction. By helping you understand the digital space’s benefits and drawbacks, we hope this article will let you notice harmful behaviours within your everyday life and that of your loved ones. If, after reading our post, you have concerns about the use of digital devices and platforms in your home, contact the Providence Project, we can help!

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Forms of Digital Addiction

During our sessions with clients who came to us for help with internet addiction, we discovered that a reason why digital addiction is so prevalent is the multiple ways it can manifest. Here are some common forms of digital addiction:

  • Social Media Addiction: This addiction involves excessive use of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. It could also be an addiction to dating apps. This form of addiction is expressed as compulsive checking of feeds, posting of updates, and an obsession with online interactions. It can potentially cause social isolation and low self-esteem.
  • Gaming Addiction: Recognized by the World Health Organization as a mental health condition, gaming addiction is characterised by excessive and prolonged engagement with video games. It results in negative consequences in personal, social, and occupational domains.
  • Smartphone Addiction: Also known as “nomophobia,” this addiction refers to excessive reliance on one’s mobile device. Symptoms include the constant need to check the phone, anxiety when separated from it, and using it in inappropriate situations, such as while driving.
  • Online Shopping Addiction: Compulsive online shopping can lead to financial troubles, relationship problems, and hoarding tendencies. People with this addiction may struggle to resist the urge to buy items they don’t need, often in an attempt to cope with negative emotions.
  • Cyber-Relationship Addiction: This addiction is characterised by an over-involvement in online relationships, often at the expense of real-life connections. People may become addicted to online dating, social media friendships, or virtual reality relationships.
  • Pornography Addiction: Compulsive consumption of pornographic materials can lead to a range of issues, such as relationship problems, a distorted view of sexuality, and even erectile dysfunction.
A guy playing on his gaming PC.

Prevalence of Digital Addiction in the UK

  • Research shows the global prevalence of digital addiction in the general population is relatively high. there is 26.99% for smartphone addiction,17.42% for social media addiction, 4.22% for Internet addiction, 8.23% for cybersex addiction, and 6.04% for game addiction. The same study also found that the prevalence of digital addiction varied by region, income level, gender, and period, sadly, increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To bring it closer home, In the UK, about 77% of internet users have a social media profile. Some colleagues in the psychological and addiction treatment field have argued that excessive use of social media should be considered a distinct form of behavioural addiction.
  • A survey by YouGov revealed some specific situations when people in the UK most frequently use their mobile phones, such as checking messages or social media before going to sleep (58%), using them as an alarm clock (55%), or checking their smartphones first thing in the morning (54%). These behaviours may indicate a high level of digital dependency.

What Drives Digital Addiction?

While we understand that we cannot exist in 2023 without a smartphone and at least some exposure to social media, especially if we are building a business or a career, the dangers that lay beneath the seemingly safe surface of social media are many. Digital addiction can be driven by various factors that interact with each other. Some people may feel a need for validation from their online interactions or use digital activities to escape from real-life challenges. Others might worry about missing out on something or be influenced by the social pressure to stay connected on social media. The easy availability and accessibility of digital devices and technology can also contribute to developing digital addiction. These three factors summarise the condition;

  • The need for validation.
  • The desire to escape reality.
  • The fear of missing out (FOMO).
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The Dangers of Clashing with False Personas

One of the most concerning aspects of digital addiction is the tendency to create false personas and engage in deceptive communication. The compulsion from an addiction drives many to spend excessive time engaging in digital activities. In doing so, they lose themselves to the detriment of their personal, social, and professional lives. The anonymity and perceived lack of consequences associated with online interactions may encourage adopting new, often embellished identities. These false personas can feed into a preexisting need for validation and the desire to escape from real-life challenges. Then, these same people would become stuck in a loop that fuels a devastating digital addiction.

Creating fake personas can be really time-consuming and draining. When we are so focused on our digital lives and made-up identities, we can lose touch with who we are. This can lead to one or more of the following addiction-triggering behaviours:

  • Identity crisis
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Anxiety, including social anxiety
  • Depression and low self-esteem
  • Delusions and feelings of grandeur

Having an unrealistic self-image is often related to developing different addictions, and we are happy to help you take care of yourself before your digital usage becomes a problem. If you feel like you are abusing social media platforms to create a false version of yourself, please call us. The only way to find and resolve the underlying causes of your digital platform abuse is to look inside your habits and emotions, mend any broken feelings and eliminate your fears.

The Dangers of Digital Addiction

Digital addiction can be harmful to your health and well-being. It can lead to physical problems like eye strain, headaches and insomnia. It can also trigger mental health issues as well as negatively impact your relationships and productivity. Here are some more specific dangers of digital addiction:

  1. Loss of Authentic Connections: Building relationships based on false personas can lead to a lack of genuine connections with others. These superficial relationships may provide temporary satisfaction. Still, they lack the depth and emotional support crucial for long-term well-being.
  2. Cyberbullying and Harassment: The anonymity of the online world can encourage you to engage in harmful behaviours, such as cyberbullying and harassment. The lack of face-to-face interaction can make it easier to target others, sometimes with severe consequences for the victim’s mental health and well-being.
  3. Negative Impact on Self-Esteem: Hiding behind a false persona can lead to a disconnection between one’s online and offline identities. It may contribute to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Your authentic self may be less valuable or exciting than your digital persona, but this is only because you are afraid that you cannot elevate it. We can help you with this.
  4. Compromised Mental Health: The constant engagement with false personas and deceptive communication can take a toll on mental health. It may lead to increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation.
A phone on the grass with a heart-shaped notification

Treatment of Digital Addiction at Providence Project

While digital addiction may not seem as immediately life-threatening as alcohol addiction, it can still have serious long-term consequences for your mental and physical health. Do you struggle with digital addiction and are you finding it difficult to disconnect from your devices? Does the idea of spending time without your smartphone cause you anxiety? This is not the norm, and you may be in danger of developing an addiction.

Providence Project’s specialised treatment and residential carecan help you break free from the grips of digital addiction. Our residential facilities in Bournemouth will create a safe and supportive environment away from triggers contributing to addiction. Our specialised treatment programme can also help with:

  • Healthy coping mechanisms
  • Improve communication skills
  • Establish healthy boundaries with technology.

At Providence Project, we recognise the unique challenges of digital addiction and offer evidence-based treatment options to help you heal. Our programme emphasises a holistic approach that addresses the underlying psychological and emotional factors contributing to any digitally-based addictive behaviours. Our individual and group therapies will help you discover better uses for technology and our workshops can present you with practical tools for coping with triggers and cravings. With our personalised treatment programme, you can break free from the cycle of addiction and move toward a healthier, more balanced life.

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