How many times a day do you check your phone or mobile device? More importantly, how many times do you check your phone at night? Many of us have developed a compulsive habit of picking up our phone, swiping through our apps, and picking the first one which seems interesting. We are constantly looking for an update, a photo, a news story, or something else to feed our brains and distract our attention. According to Forbes, “Americans check their cell phones or mobile devices over 9 billion times per day; 50% also check their phones in the middle of the night.”
Are we addicted to our smart devices? Many researchers believe that is a true statement. Various parts of the interactive experience with our devices trigger the brain in a way which produces a reward, making it a pleasurable experience. For example, the blue light which hides behind our screens is meant to simulate natural daylight, telling our brains to be awake and alert. Multiple studies have found that looking at our devices late at night keeps us awake and interrupts our ability to get normal, deep REM sleep that we need. When we scroll through our news feeds late at night, numbing ourselves to sleep, the activity might seem mindless. On the contrary, we are stimulating our brains in the same way cocaine might. Some research has compared the way the brain lights up in the reward center just from scrolling through a newsfeed to the way it does after ingesting cocaine. Additionally, when we receive a notification of a like or comment on one of our posts, we get an extra boost of pleasure and reward. Unfortunately, that reward isn’t satisfying but instead leaves us hungry for more. Various research projects have evaluated the way social media interactions make us feel about ourselves in terms of body image, especially. More time spent online can be depressing and lower our sense of self-esteem, depending on what kind of media we consume.
Treatment is a time where there is not a lot of interaction with mobile devices. If you feel that your distraction from digital devices is preventing you from seeking the treatment you need to help a substance use or mental health disorder, call Avalon today for a confidential assessment: 1 888-958-7511.