Digital addiction increases loneliness, anxiety and depression
Smartphones are an integral part of most people's lives, allowing us to stay connected and in-the-know at all times.
The downside of that convenience is that many of us are also addicted to the constant pings, chimes, vibrations and other alerts from our devices, unable to ignore new emails, texts and images.
In a new study published in NeuroRegulation, San Francisco State University Professor of Health Education Erik Peper and Associate Professor of Health Education Richard Harvey argue that overuse of smart phones is just like any other type of substance abuse.
"The behavioral addiction of smartphone use begins forming neurological connections in the brain in ways similar to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief -- gradually," Peper explained.
On top of that, addiction to social media technology may actually have a negative effect on social connection.
In a survey of 135 San Francisco State students, Peper and Harvey found that students who used their phones the most reported higher levels of feeling isolated, lonely, depressed and anxious.
They believe the loneliness is partly a consequence of replacing face-to-face interaction with a form of communication where body language and other signals cannot be interpreted.
They also found that those same students almost constantly multitasked while studying, watching other media, eating or attending class.
This constant activity allows little time for bodies and minds to relax and regenerate, says Peper, and also results in "semi-tasking," where people do two or more tasks at the same time -- but half as well as they would have if focused on one task at a time.