Do I need a digital detox?

May 9, 2022

Are you playing endless games on your computer or wasting hours scrolling on social media? 

Then you might be in need of a digital detox. ‘Detoxing’ from our digital devices – even just for a few days – can help us relax, recharge and focus on real-life interactions with our family and friends without distractions. In fact, research shows that a digital detox can improve our mental health.

The truth is technology has infiltrated our lives. At work and at home, we have become dependent on digital devices, and although they can improve our lives in countless ways, they can also negatively impact it. 

With this rise of technology, we have witnessed the introduction of new detrimental addictive behaviours – sometimes called internet addiction, screen addiction, device addiction, social media addiction, video gaming addiction or gaming disorder.

According to a study by Monash University, Australians have a problem with phone usage. Researchers surveyed 2838 Australians on their psychological attachment to their phone and usage habits. They found almost half of all participants (43.3 per cent) spent over three hours a day on their phone. The more they used their phone, the higher their level of nomophobia (no mobile phone phobia) and the greater their risk of problematic dependent, prohibited or dangerous usage. 

While technology addiction is not formally recognised as a disorder in the DSM-5, it is similar to other types of dependence and addiction, because it involves dopamine. Every scroll or swipe of the screen sends a hit of dopamine to the same areas of our brain that respond to addictive and illicit drugs.This is why for those in recovery from addiction to other substances or processes, technology addiction can often emerge as a secondary addiction. “Those in early recovery are often looking for healthy activities to fill the time they once spent using [technology],” says Tori Siggery, therapist at South Pacific Private. “However, it’s important to remember that it’s possible to replace one addiction with another, and technology is a common secondary addiction.” 

Is your digital use affecting your life?

There are several ways to determine if your digital device usage is a problem. Ask yourself:

  • Do you find that you lose hours at a time when on your phone or computer? 
  • Are you having difficulty sleeping and/or do you wake up in the night to check your phone? 
  • Do your family and/or friends comment or argue about your screen time? 
  • Do you look at your phone or device when you first wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep? 
  • Do you find yourself phone phubbing (the act of snubbing someone you’re talking with in person in favour of your phone)?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you’re not using the internet, technology or a device?
  • Do you experience feelings of dissatisfaction, anger, frustration or lack of productivity after online/digital behaviour?

Research shows that there is a connection between internet use and stress, depression and anxiety. Using a device just before bed can actually interfere with the quantity and quality of your sleep. Not only does the activity stimulate your brain, making it harder to switch off, but the screen’s artificial blue light suppresses melatonin, affecting your circadian rhythm. 

Switching off, on the other hand, has been shown to improve our mood. Staring at a screen also leaves you more at risk of headaches, migraines, neck pain, poor posture and vision problems. 

According to Tori, there are the benefits to unplugging from our wired world. “Taking a few days to switch off from all your devices and recharge can help, however it’s important after doing this ‘digital detox’ not to return to old behavioural patterns. Monitor your usage and put in place measures to limit the amount of screen time you have,” she says. “For example, don’t use or play on your phone during dinner time or for an hour before bed. Making small changes can drastically improve relationships, sleep and your mental health,” she adds.

Taking a break from your digital devices can free up your time, allowing you to reconnect with family and friends face-to-face. This can lead to more meaningful interactions and helps strengthen these important relationships. 

“At the end of the day, phones and other devices are here to stay, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of the risks attached to technology, and know the warning signs that you may have become overly dependent on it,” explains Tori. “If your work, school or relationships are becoming unmanageable because of social media, gaming, online gambling or general phone usage, it could be time to reach out for help.”

Seeking treatment 

At South Pacific Private, we’re committed to providing holistic treatment of both established and emerging addictions, disorders and mental health issues. We understand the toll that device, internet and gaming addiction can take on individuals and their relationships with family and friends. 

If your life and the lives of those closest to you are being negatively impacted by your use of technology, please call us on 1800 063 332 or contact us here to find out more about our programs.

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