Psychologists scramble to keep up with growing social media addiction

Posted on September 29, 2016

Photo: flickr

"Every time you have a spare moment, people are checking their Facebook or Snapchat, or various social networks," Perth psychologist Marny Lishman said

"There is that rising anxiety causing the urge and if you don't get to check it because you are at work, or out of mobile range, or have forgotten your phone, it is quite stressful.

"And because of smartphones we can be connected all the time. We can check social media the minute we get up, we don't even have to get out of bed."

Ms Lishman said people were becoming genuinely addicted to their devices, because of the rush generated by positive reinforcements and messages from friends.

The Australian Psychological Society issued its Stress and Wellbeing in Australia report last year, which included a section on social media FOMO, or "fear of missing out".

The report found adults were spending 2.1 hours per day and teens 2.7 hours per day connected to social media. It also found 56 per cent of teens were heavy social media users, connecting more than five times per day, with 24 per cent being constantly connected. Sixty per cent felt brain 'burnout' from constant connectivity of social media.

"There is research about sleeping deprivation with children with smartphones," Ms Lishman said.

"These kids are getting messages all the time. The minute that happens, your senses take in the information and your brain has to do something with that information, and if it is stressful content, then there is a change physiologically, your brain is going to release adrenalin and cortisol before you go to bed."

Sydney-based relationship psychologist Philipa Thornton will be speaking about online addictions at the Australia–New Zealand addictions conference in Queensland next month.

Ms Thornton said unlike internet gaming disorder, social media addiction was not yet officially recognised in the "bible of psychology and psychiatry", the DSM 5 (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, version 5) but there were definite similarities.

"FOBO [Fear Of Being Offline] is definitely along those lines, it is a behaviour, and through repetition and coping mechanisms, you are re-wiring your brain," she said.

"It is different from a habit, because I can brush my teeth, and I can forget to brush my teeth, but I am not going to be having any angst around that."

Ms Thornton said she recently came across the NoMo phobia, the fear of being without a mobile phone.

"There is a lot of anecdotal research, psychologists are seeing people coming in whose phone and social media addiction was interfering with their ability to fully live their life," she said.

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Category(s):Addictions, Teenage Issues

Source material from ABC

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