Screen Addiction: An Overview

May 6, 2024

Screen addiction is a result of prolonged use of technology. It doesn’t just involve looking at your smartphone or tablet for hours. It can also include watching too much television or spending too much time on your computer. 

Some experts argue that long periods of video game use can also be a version of screen addiction. Screen addiction doesn’t relate to the behavior itself. The gadget becomes a digital drug you use to escape your negative feelings or responsibilities. 

Common Sources of Screen Addiction

Screen addiction involves all forms of technology, including the internet, social media, pornography, and video games. This behavioral addiction develops when the user becomes increasingly dependent on it. Screen addiction can involve desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and televisions. 

The individual compulsively uses these items despite the negative consequences and outcomes. Screen addiction is a serious mental health condition that could impact one’s financial situation, social life, and work and school responsibilities. 

How many hours a day is screen addiction?

According to the American Optometric Association, those who look at screens for more than two hours per day are at greater risk of screen addiction. Over the years, most people who work in offices or work-at-home settings spend up to seven hours per day looking at a screen.

In addition, the average person spends four to six hours per day looking at a phone or another device. This excessive use can negatively impact one’s mental and physical health.

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce your screen time. Some methods include reducing screen time to 30 minutes per day. This can be a big change for most people. Instead, start by limiting your screen time to one hour per day. 

Also, taking a digital detox one day out of the week or the entire weekend can reset the dopamine levels. This can be a productive step towards a healthier relationship with technology. 

What does screen addiction do to the brain?

According to Potsdam, screen addiction can put you in a fight-or-flight response. Most people rely on screen time to reduce feelings of stress or anxiety. However, it can lead to acute and chronic stress, which achieves the opposite effect. 

Increased screen time also alters brain chemistry and hormones that cause anger, frustration, and irritability. Cortisol is known as the chronic stress hormone, which gets overly stimulated by excessive screen use. Over time, it can cause feelings of emptiness or depression. 

The brain’s reward system is also triggered during screen time. It becomes desensitized with prolonged use. More screen time is needed to feel pleasure again. 

This plays with your dopamine levels. Dopamine is important for focus and motivation. Screen time can affect those levels by changing the way you feel. One’s change in character can suggest they have a screen addiction. 

Physical Effects

Screen addiction can also lead to multiple physical problems. The most common is eye strain and tech neck, the latter of which is another name for neck pain. The repetitive motion can cause strain and injury.

It also impacts the muscles and other parts of the spine. This is especially the case when the individual’s screen addiction is related to excessive computer, video game, or phone use. 

However, the most prevalent form of screen use is the stress it puts on the eyes. Other physical effects of screen addiction include blurred vision, double vision, dry eyes, headaches, and migraines. 

Most of these symptoms go away after decreasing screen use. In some cases, eye strain can cause long-term vision problems. 

Mental Effects

Screen addiction can also affect one’s mental health and well-being. You may notice you feel better when you’re not doom-scrolling. 

This is because screen addiction can cause mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. A study from Preventative Medicine found that increased screen time contributed to higher depression levels.

Those with increased screen time experience more anxiety and stress. Looking at your screen before bed can also affect the quality of one’s sleep. 

Blue light delays melatonin production, which contributes to insomnia. Watching breaking news or stimulating games makes the individual feel more “alert” and delays the need for sleep. 

If you or someone you know has a screen addiction, it’s time to get help. Birches Health has virtual addiction specialists who will work with you on your specific problem. Get started with a free and confidential assessment today. 

Resources:

Video games and screen addiction

Screen Addiction Affects Physical and Mental Health

Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.)

New Report Reveals Cost of Unmanaged Screen Time Symptoms to be $151 billion per year

What Is Tech Neck?: ISP Health PLLC - Integrated Solutions for Pain: Interventional Pain Management Specialists

What Does Screen Time Do To My Brain?

Association between screen time and depression among US adults

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