Technology Addiction


What is Technology Addiction?

Technology is used daily in the modern era.  Due to the increased access to various technological devices, technology addiction is becoming a more significant concern for many people.  Technology addiction is when an obsessive and impulsive use of technology causes negative consequences to the user.  Technology addiction is categorized as a process addiction.  Other examples of process addictions include compulsive gambling and sex addiction.

Is technology addiction common?

There are varying reports on how many Americans suffer from this problem. Numbers vary from 8-38 percent of the general population. This variance is likely related to the fact that there is no standard list of characteristics to define technology addiction.

What are types of technology that may cause addiction?

Video and computer games, smartphones and tablets, social media, and the internet are all examples of technology that can promote dependence and potentially cause negative consequences for users.

  • Video and computer games:  This technology addiction is known as a gaming disorder and is the compulsive use of video games or smartphone applications. There is a connection of fantasy worlds, puzzles, and challenges seen with this type of disorder which focuses on a story or game. A gaming disorder plays on the psychology of wanting to be good at something and also provides a sense of choice due to the variety of game options available.
  • Smartphones and tablets:  These devices are mobile, allowing for easy and regular access to the internet and various applications. They also remove a time barrier that may have been present before due to its convenience and regular access.
  • Social Media: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are examples of these individualized portals of information.  Humans require emotional connection for our psychological health needs, and these platforms fill the human need for connection. This might explain why they are being accessed regularly and sometimes also dangerously.
  • Internet:  Internet use disorder is the most common form of technology addiction.  This is usually seen with excessive online activity from social media, web searches, and constant use of smartphones.  Many that suffer from this type of addiction have a fear of not being able to know the latest news or popular culture updates.

What are risk factors associated with technology overuse?

Although there are many benefits associated with access to technology, one must be aware of potential risk factors related to its overuse.

  • Instant gratification– this is related to instantaneous access to information due to the speed of technology.
  • False sense of relationships– due to regular communication with unseen individuals around the world. 
  • Sleep disorders– related to individuals staying up late on their devices.
  • Sedentary lifestyle– which can result in weight gain and medical complications such as heart disease.
  • Lack of social skills– which can disrupt socialization.


What causes technology addiction?

There are no specific causes for technology addiction, but many researchers believe there are multiple contributing factors. Some feel this addiction is due to brain chemical imbalances similar to what is seen with drug and alcohol dependency.  Research also shows that technology addiction may be related to a change in brain structure, such as the brain’s prefrontal lobe, which is responsible for prioritizing life tasks.

How does technology become addictive?

Technology has the capability of becoming addictive. It can easily fulfill basic needs quickly and efficiently, such as stimulation, distraction, change in environment, and interaction.  Technology addiction works very similarly to substance or alcohol abuse since it affects our pleasure systems by releasing dopamine.  Because overuse of technology can cause similar brain chemistry to those with substance abuse issues, researchers believe those who suffer from technology addiction may also be predisposed to substance and alcohol abuse.  Lastly, those who may already suffer from anxiety or depression may be more susceptible to this technology addiction.


What are signs of technology addiction?

There are a variety of symptoms that can be seen from technology addiction which includes:

  • Feeling of isolation when without technology
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Poor hygiene
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling the need to be dishonest about use
  • Inability to keep schedules
  • Euphoria while using technology
  • Avoidance of work to use technology
  • Neck pain
  • Emotional instability
  • Delaying tasks
  • Boredom from regular tasks
  • Backache
  • Wrist pain
  • Headaches
  • Vision problems


How to diagnose technology addiction?

Currently, there is no formal way to diagnose technology addiction.  Just because someone uses the internet constantly, does a lot of online shopping, or is regularly on social media does not mean that they have a technology addiction.  Technology addiction occurs when its use begins to interfere with daily activities negatively.


What type of criteria can be used to help diagnose technology addiction?

  • Constantly thinks about technology
  • Uses devices longer than planned
  • Emotional instability when unable to use devices
  • Inability to successfully reduce the use of the technological apparatus
  • Must use technology for long periods of time to feel satisfied
  • Lost personal or professional relationships due to technology overuse
  • Uses technology as a way to escape real-life issues
  • Dishonesty about technology use to friends and family members



What is the best way to treat technology addiction?

An effective form of treatment for technology addiction is prevention.  This can be done in a variety of ways.

  • Participate in equally exciting and stimulating offline activities.
  • Develop authentic relationships within families, school, work, or communities.
  • Develop healthy stress management techniques so technology can not be used as a quick fix for stimulation and escapism.

What are other self-care methods for treatment when prevention fails?

If prevention is not successful in avoiding technology overuse, the first step is to admit that there is a problem.  Some research argues that technology addiction does not require treatment and can be resolved on its own.  Exercise and increased activity are helpful with addictive behavior.  Many self-corrective steps can be taken to reduce technology use as well.

What are medical treatments for technology addiction?

  • Medications:  If prevention and self-treatment are not successful, healthcare providers may prescribe medication.  This is usually antidepressants or antianxiety medications because many feel that this addiction is likely related to an underlying problem such as anxiety or depression.  Once these conditions are better managed, many times technology use may be reduced by as much as 50 percent.
  • Psychotherapy:   There are various therapy options available for this type of addiction, such as group, individual, art, equine, and behavioral therapy sessions.
  • Treatment centers:  Some people may require in-patient treatment to remove technology from their lives altogether.  This is becoming more popular and readily available as compared to the past.  In-patient treatment may include smartphone detox where all devices are taken away, and the focus can be on recovery.

Are you someone who can not imagine being without your smartphone for even just one minute?  If you or anyone that you know are having trouble balancing technology use, one of our professionally trained healthcare providers at Specialty Health Clinic of Austin may be able to help.



Center of Dependency Addiction and Rehabilitation. (n.d.). Tech Addiction.

Hamissi, J.,  Babaie,M., Hosseini,M., and Babaie, F. (2013).  The Relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Technology Addiction among University Students. International Journal of Collaborative Research on Internal Medicine & Public Health . Vol. 5 (5). 310-319.

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. (2017, March). Technology Addiction:Creating a Healthy Balance

Psycom. (2020, November). Internet Addiction Disorder.

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Medically reviewed by:

Charles Sweet, MD, MPH

Dr. Sweet is a native Texan and attended The University of Texas at Austin for undergraduate studies. He earned his Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health degrees at the University of Illinois and then did residency training at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Sweet came back to Austin, TX for specialized training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and has been in practice since 2009.

Dr. Sweet believes strongly in working with, and training Physician Assistants to treat the behavioral health needs of adults, children and adolescents.

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