by Lorna Hecker, Ph.D., RP
Can we become addicted to technology? Excessive use of technology can certainly become problematic and impair one’s life. Technology is so well weaved into our everyday lives, it is difficult to know how much is too much. But addictive qualities can emerge, including an escalating amount of time spent interfacing with digital technology, and needing to have excessive screen time to achieve a desired mood. Tech-dependent individuals also find they may feel anxious, angry, or irritated when they are not able to engage with technology. Technology use can become so pervasive that it causes family conflict, and the individual’s social life, and work or academic life can suffer.
Can we become addicted to technology? Excessive use of technology can certainly become problematic and impair one’s life. Technology is so well weaved into our everyday lives, it is difficult to know how much is too much. There are several categories of dependence, when technology interferes with an individual’s life and relationships. Consider the following scenarios:
Tim is a 15 year-old high schooler, who is continually gaming online day and night with both strangers and his friends, often trading sleep for screen time. He suffers a net compulsion. Net compulsion includes compulsive gaming, gambling, shopping, trading stocks, or other obsessive use of the internet.
Jamie is a 32 year-old who obsessively watches internet porn. Jamie suffers from a cybersex compulsion. Cybersex compulsions includes compulsive use of the internet to take part in adult chat rooms, sexting, fantasy role playing sites, or to watch internet pornography.
Elise is 58 year-old woman who is obsessed with Facebook, to the point where her husband has threatened to leave due to her overuse. Elise is in addicted to cyber-relationships. This includes taking part in social networks, chat rooms, and virtual messaging online to a point in which these online relationships are more meaningful to the individual than family members or friends.
Kelly is a 65 year-old who plays Candyland online several times a day for hours on end. He has a general computer addiction. He obsessively plays on the computer, not necessarily online.
Bob is a 28 year-old knowledge addict; he loves all the information on the internet! He obsessively surfs the web or a database to the point where an it takes time away from family, friends, or regular daytime tasks a to work or home. Bob suffers from compulsive web surfing. 
The good news is that technology does not have to control your life; effective treatments are available. Therapy can change how you think about technology, and how you behave toward technology. We work towards reducing over-use of technology and then we can decide how you use that extra time: perhaps connecting with family, friends, and enjoyable hobbies! We also know that sometimes individuals who rely on technology to facilitate friendships struggle with social skills; we can work on social skills, decrease social anxiety, and help you feel confident and skillful when you connect with people in person. Therapy can be performed one-on-one with the therapist, or in some cases group therapy can bring the perfect opportunity to practice those social skills and connect with others who struggle in similar ways. Discuss what would work best for you with your therapist.
 Cash, H., Rae, C. D., Steel, A. H., & Winkler, A. (2012). Internet Addiction: A Brief Summary of Research and Practice. Current Psychiatry Reviews, 8(4), 292–298. http://doi.org/10.2174/157340012803520513