Excessive Screen, Internet and Gaming


About Excessive Use of Internet and Screens

We live in a society where the internet has become the epicenter of our worlds. People spend more time on their phones, behind computer screens or tv screens and locked into video games than ever before. Children are being exposed to screen time as early as infancy. But what happens when we can’t step away? What happens when time spent on our devices infringes on our lives, our work and our relationships with each other?

Recent studies show that the excessive use of screens, internet and gaming may have similar neurological effects as self-medicating in other ways. The use of devices triggers the brain’s reward system. Every “like” on social media, every trick or level unlocked in a video game is a hit of dopamine, the “feel good” transmitter. The more frequently these triggers are activated, the more the brain wants. This creates a craving. Over time, these neural pathways can diminish and lower the sense of pleasure because tolerance grows and grows.

Use of the internet is normal and even necessary for some individuals. There are specific components that qualify this maladaptive process behavior:

  • Excessive use that enables the user to lose track of time and neglect basic needs, such as hygiene, nutrition, physical activity or getting outside
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the device is not available, including anger, depression or anxiety
  • A build up of tolerance over time that leads to feelings of needing better equipment or more usage
  • Negative consequences of excessive use, including social isolation, fatigue, low performance at work or in school and being argumentative with others

Beyond taking time away from studying or socializing, teenagers excessive use of video games have been studied to show signs of depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and even obsessive-compulsive disorder. Internet gaming disorder (IGD) can result in violence and aggression towards parents who try to take the game or device away. It can make for a very distressing situation in the home for all family members involved.

Why There Is Hope

While excessive use of the internet is a relatively new disorder, ongoing research is optimistic that specific types of treatments and interventions can help people manage the dependency on their devices and usage. This is not a process or condition we are left with, alone. This is treatable and a gift ... it informs us about our needs, history, talents and hopes if we are willing to heal. Screens and the internet are not cast out of your life at Solstice Pacific. We discuss the deeper need and growth occurs in a slow, gentle change process.

Helping A Loved One and Early Intervention

There are many productive uses for the internet when it comes to learning, education and social connection. It’s important to create time for human connection and healing from life’s everyday trauma by removing cell phones and computers for moments, even hours. The brain, the nervous system, even the eyes, cannot respond to the multiplying stimuli and want for genuine connection the way we seek. If a person is unable to detach from the device and shows signs of aggression and anxiety upon it’s removal, mental health screening can help prepare for big gains in health. If a person finds that their use of the internet has isolated them from others, disrupted their performance at work and compromised their ability to maintain personal hygiene or commitments, we can schedule an assessment to look closer with you.

How We Treat Excessive Use of Screens

Many people who use screena and the internet excessively often suffer from another mental health disorder.  It’s important for healthcare professionals to be aware of this and to screen for mental health disorders. All other physical and mental health disorders should be addressed. For example, diabetes, insomnia, mood swings or chronic cold and flu can tell a story about the person’s systemic needs, not just their emotional state.

Studies show that positive psychology interventions (PPI) can help. PPI focuses on increasing positive emotions and positive behavior, rather than other interventions that focus on reducing the symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and talk therapy can help you understand your disease and learn to manage the fear, anger and/or aggression. Group therapy can be a great way to improve socialization, connect with others and recover physically and mentally. Our integrative team of professionals will learn about you from Day 0 all the way into your aftercare visits. Nutrition, emotional regulation, relationships, physical movement are a few ideas we will explore together. We are determined to serve your needs with exceptional customer service and a long term strategy. Screens are important to all of us. So are relationships and feeling a sense of courage to face one’s healthcare needs as an empowered decision maker.

What Ongoing Care Looks Like

Reducing screen time, in general, has been shown to reduce stress. Admitting there is a problem is hard, but it’s the first step - a big one - towards recovery. When a person sticks to a treatment plan, goes to therapy and connects with others, they increase their success rate. The internet is part of our life. That is a good thing! With the help of the Solstice Pacific community, there is hope. Internet and screens are tools we use, not tools that destroy us. We will help you begin to notice where life has changed, why and where to go now. Your self-awareness is something that unfolds with time so ongoing psychotherapy is vital.