Digital Addiction Disorder: Are You at Risk?

Digital addiction disorder is now serious. Case studies, definitions and possible treatments in this article.

Digital addiction is a disorder characterized by the loss of impulse control in the excessive use of digital devices, technologies and platforms. This condition involves obsessive reliance on the Internet, video games, online platforms, mobile devices, digital gadgets and social networks. This phenomenon is a growing area within Cyberpsychology, which investigates problems related to obsessive and excessive use of digital media and devices.

In this article, a critical analysis of current research will be conducted and a concise overview of digital addiction will be provided. Most of the papers considered focus on the concepts of definition, symptoms, and coping strategies related to digital addiction.

Digital Addiction

In the context of widespread digital media and constant access to the Internet, a significant percentage, 38% of adults worldwide, say they are online continuously. The number of networked devices is steadily increasing, reaching the figure of 5.16 billion individuals, corresponding to more than 64 percent of the world’s population.

Despite the many benefits of using digital platforms and the improvements in productivity resulting from Internet use, a growing body of scientific literature points out that many people are developing excessive use of their devices, with consequences that negatively impact their daily lives.

The first relevant article in digital addiction research, titled “Internet Addiction: A Brief Summary of Research and Practice”. It was published by Hilarie Cash back in 2012. In this context of modern disorders, digital addiction precisely emerges as a new form of addiction related to the abuse of digital media and devices.

Definition of generic addiction

In short, addiction is a primary and chronic pathological condition involving brain structures related to reward, motivation, memory and related neural circuits. This condition can manifest with relapse, progressive development and even possible fatal outcomes if not treated properly.

Traditionally, addictive disorders have been associated with the pathological use of substances such as alcohol. More recently, also psychoactive substances have been recognized as disorders. However, thanks to advances in neuroscience, the perspective regarding addictions has broadened to include so-called behavioral addictions, which include disorders related to food, sex, shopping, and gambling. This development has been supported by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

In the contexts of studying digital addiction, synonymous terms such as technology addiction, Internet addiction, computer addiction, and so on are used, depending on the specific facets of the problem under investigation.

Definition of digital addiction disorder

Digital addiction, often abbreviated as (DA), is described as follows: “Digital addiction is characterized by a problematic relationship with technology, manifesting compulsive, obsessive, impulsive and frenzied behaviors (Alrobai, Amen; 2018).” This term is commonly used in colloquial language to refer to a growing addiction to digital devices in the modern era, highlighting warning signs about excessive involvement with technological gadgets.

This phenomenon emerges at a time when the use of digital devices in daily activities is steadily increasing, generating growing concerns about the possibility of developing true addiction to them (Rugai, Joseph and Joy-Telu Hamiliton-Ekeke; 2016).

The American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Psychiatric Association define digital addiction as “a primary, chronic disease involving the brain circuits of reward, memory, and related circuits. Dysfunction of these circuits is reflected in biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations, leading the individual to pathologically seek gratification and/or solace through substance use and other behaviors (Peper, Erik and Richard Harvey; 2018).”

Categories of Digital Addiction

Digital addictions disorder can manifest themselves in several categories, each characterized by varying degrees of involvement with technology.

Gaming Addiction

Games, including popular titles such as Fortnite, World of Warcraft, League of Legends and others, have become extremely addictive due to rewards, hidden features and side quests. Every success in a game triggers a release of dopamine, creating a pleasure that drives one to keep playing. Socially interactive games, such as eSports, are also becoming increasingly popular, although they can create a false sense of social involvement. Online gambling can also be connected to gaming, such as betting on eSports, leading to double addiction.

Social Media Addiction

Social media platforms, including those such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, are highly addictive. Interaction through likes, comments and shares releases feel-good neurotransmitters, encouraging greater engagement. However, social media can create a false sense of social engagement and can lead to feelings of loneliness. Continuous scrolling of feeds and obsession with not missing anything contribute to addiction.

Online Gambling Addiction

This type of addiction involves gambling practiced virtually, including online casinos, online poker, online sports betting, eSports gambling, and more. Internet gambling is recognized as a mental disorder. It should be noted that gambling addiction has the highest suicide rate of all addictions.

Pornography Addiction (Online Sexual Addiction)

Pornography addiction involves obsessive and compulsive viewing of pornographic material, often accompanied by masturbation and emotional dependence on pornography itself. This can negatively affect sex life and real relationships. In addition to the thousands of sites that offer adult content for free, there have also recently been Tiktok nude leaks, which have allowed over-18 material to land even on the platform originally intended for teenagers.

Online Buying Addiction

Online buying addiction, or compulsive buying disorder, results in impulsive and compulsive purchases of goods and services online. Often, the goal is to gain pleasure, avoid negative emotions, or fill boredom. Since Covid, our habits with respect to online shopping have changed greatly.

Digital Work Addiction

Work addiction, although different from digital addiction, can involve technology problems, especially in management positions or office environments. These problems include constant email browsing outside of work hours, affecting relationships, mental well-being, and stress.

Causes of digital addiction disorder

Some of the reasons for digital addiction, are personal factors such as low self-efficacy. In most cases or studies, it has been found that people who are excessively shy and cannot easily relate to their peers are also at higher risk of developing addiction. Some people are predisposed, such as those who suffer from anxiety and depression. Lack of emotional support also causes them to turn to digital media to fill their need.

Studies conducted by the University of Iowa show that digital addictions are quite common among males in their 20s and 30s who suffer from depression. Stress and unhappiness can also contribute significantly to the development of this addiction.

Symptoms of digital addiction disorder

Digital space addiction manifests itself with both physical and emotional symptoms. The main emotional symptoms are typical of digital addicts: anxiety, depression, and isolation. The main physical symptoms of digital addicts are back pain, headaches, weight gain or loss,
sleep disturbances, blurred or fatigued vision. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most significant symptoms of digital addicts. Regarding social media, there is already an estimate of the five very clear signs of social media addiction.

Some tactics for coping with addiction

To cope with digital addiction disorder, a number of methods and tips can be followed. Some of the most obvious and simple include:

  1. Disconnect before bed: Turn off devices, media and digital platforms at least an hour before bedtime. This allows you to prepare for sleep and improve its quality.
  2. Turn off notifications or turn off your smartphone completely. Reduce interruptions and the constant need to check your phone by turning off notifications.
  3. Digital Detox: Apply a periodic and comprehensive “digital detox” as suggested by Varma Harshika back in 2018. This involves taking a temporary break from excessive use of technology to re-establish a healthy balance with nature and yourself. There are even already books on digital detox and other materials that can be helpful.
  4. Stress Management: Recognize that stress management is key to coping with technology addiction. Developing effective strategies for coping with stress can help reduce overuse of digital devices. A Digital Detox Log Book (not digital) is also a good idea.
  5. Last but perhaps most important tip: Seek support from family and friends who are not addicted! Real, healthy living is in the company of other healthy people who share real interests and activities….

These tips can help reduce digital addiction and cultivate a healthier relationship with everything around us.


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