Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since the industrial revolution and hasn’t slowed down to the present day.. In particular, the last decades have seen the emergence of new technologies such as social media, video games or online pornography, and their global massification. This type of technology allows us almost unlimited access to powerful stimuli immediately. And since these are extremely new inventions, we still don’t understand how much they affect human behavior and psychology.
At the same time, humans have hardly evolved for tens of thousands of years. We are fundamentally from a biological point of view, just as we were when we were hunter-gatherers. This is extremely logical, considering that this has been the reality and way of life of our species for almost all of its existence.
We therefore have, on the one hand, new ultra-stimulating technologies who appeared, and massed, for a tiny part of our existence, and on the other hand, humans, whose brains have not changed in 50,000 years, despite the gigantic scientific advances. This should not be overlooked.
At the same time, and despite living in a time of unprecedented access to resources and security in human history, we are going through a mental health crisis that disproportionately affects younger people. And yes, this crisis precedes the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantine and other restrictions.
Another way to understand the concept of addiction
Numerous studies have found a significant correlation between higher levels of depression, anxiety, or social skill deficits (among other psychological issues) and increased use of social media, video games, and online pornography.
While there is still controversy over whether the term “addiction” is the most appropriate to describe these problematic behaviors, some experts, such as Adam Alter (author of the book Irresistible “Who Made Us Electronic Junk?”), they challenge the idea that only certain behaviors are potentially addictivebut one could become addicted to virtually any behavior if certain conditions are met, which we will see below.
The only difference between these new addictions and the more classic ones, such as alcoholism, is the absence of the substance itself. However, there are addictions such as gambling addiction that are universally recognized in this way, and they are called behavioral addictionsbecause they respond to the following patterns, like any type of behavior.
Characteristics of addictive behavior
The requirements for classifying a behavior as addictive are as follows.
1. A negative impact on life
The first is that dependencies mean Unintended consequences for the person suffering from this problem.
In the case of these new addictions, we can notice certain effects on mental health such as higher levels of anxiety, depression, deficit in social skills, poor concentration, irritability or poor sleeping habits. .
In the case of pornography, sexual problems can also be included, such as the inability to have erections, premature ejaculation or anorgasmia.
Addiction means that, despite all these negative consequences in the life of the subject, he can’t stop emitting the behavior that causes them.
This addiction generates a lack of control over an individual’s daily life, and their values and long-term goals are affected by short-termism and poor judgment.
Whenever a peak of pleasure is generated when receiving a reward for a behavior, and this is repeated compulsively, the phenomenon of tolerance will be generated: i.e. the need to increase the “dose” to obtain the same effect. It will therefore take more and more stimuli to achieve satisfaction. This is why alcoholics have to consume more alcohol, on average, to get drunk.
While the first time we emit a behavior we can do it because it generates pleasant sensations, once a dependency is generated we will do it to avoid the discomfort that makes us not adopt such behavior . For example, when you start using Instagram and receive likes on our photos, you can feel happy with every nod of approval that each like implies. By generating a dependency on this social network, and in particular on the feedback provided by these likes, a person you may seek this stimulus more to calm the anxiety that makes you not have it, than for the joy that can give you a similar in itself.
Arguably, this type of behavior could be classified as potentially addictive, and it would be good to treat them that way. Many people may not know they have a problem, and all the ramifications that may come with it..
While one can become addicted to virtually any addictive behavior (in theory) lettuce is less likely than chocolate, due to the ease of generating immediate pleasure that the latter possesses, due to of certain evolutionary characteristics that make us particularly prone to experience pleasure and excitement from high doses of sugar.
The strength of the stimuli produced by new technologies, added to the ease of access to them almost indefinitely, runs a considerable risk of generating addictive behaviors, which are not also present in other types of behaviors.
As a society, there is a growing need to be aware of this problem, while mental health professionals must keep abreast of the latest advances in the most effective treatments for these addictions, in order to avoid a even greater mental health crisis.