Do new technologies have an effect on our mental health?

Do new technologies have an effect on our mental health?
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For the most part, telephones, computers, information systems, remote controls, the TV, etc. punctuate our daily life. We are not far enough removed from the situation to determine precisely what the consequences of such habits may be on our brain, but neurological researchers are increasingly establishing a strong link between use of technology and mental illness.

Technology: a factor in stress and depression?

Although the growth of the internet has provided the possibility of accessing an infinite well of information and of making countless acquaintances, technology could also have negative effects on our brains.

According to a study carried out in 2012 by researchers in the University of Göteborg in Sweden, excessive use of computers and phones could be a factor in increased stress and in the appearance of the symptoms of depression. This practice could also be linked to reduced sleep quality in young adults.

Additionally, a number of diverse facts seem to suggest that new technology is slowly driving us mad. In 2014, a 19 year old English man spent his days taking selfies, having left school at 16 years of age to follow his obsession: taking the perfect selfie. Having attempted suicide by taking an overdose, he was treated for dependency on technology and dysmorphobia (conviction that one is ugly).

The cult of physical perfection driven by the technological sphere (TV, films, series, social networks, advertising, etc.) can have a powerful influence on people, especially young people trying to find their own identities, who could develop an unhealthy obsession. 

50% increase in hyperactivity in children in the past 10 years

In the United States, the number  of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has increased by 50% in 10 years. This is an incredible increase, which according to experts, is due to too much technology in young American’s daily lives. 

New technologies are very time consuming. They have to potential to capture and hold attention. Even if it is widely agreed in the medical world that the use of technology has an impact on our attention and concentration, no concrete link has yet been established with an increase in ADHD and other such attention disorders.

However, a new golden rule has been released by psychologists, which has gone viral, relating to children and screens: the 3, 6, 9, 12 rule.

You can become addicted to technology

When we say “I’m addicted to this series”, we don’t necessarily mean that we have an addiction as such, but that we probably spend more time watching it than we feel we should. However, we manage to keep our priorities in order -generally, the series comes after important tasks, and is used as a reward.

The term addict” medically refers to people who truly suffer from addiction. It is used to refer to people who no longer manage to organise their time to put their usual activities or obligations before their technology addiction (social networks, video games, watching porn, etc.). This addiction interferes with their lives and their social relationships, within their families, friends and romantic relationships.

Technology makes us anxious and hypochondriac

Anxiety and hypochondria (excessive anxiety about our health) is another consequence of excessive use of technology. Somatic symptom disorder, which was previously called hypochondria, is becoming more and more frequent.

We tend to become our own doctors, and to type our symptoms into Google to try and self diagnose. But the danger is that when we don’t consult a doctor about a problem, ailment or illness that doesn’t go away, it could have serious consequences for our health.

In terms of anxiety, health specialists have identified new pathologies such as nomophobia -the fear of being without your mobile phone, or fomo -the fear of missing out, for example on social networks. But they have also discussed problems such as the inability to communicate with people who aren’t far away, and boredom caused by the absence of stimuli.

Just like with video games, many technologies only make existing problems worse, such as solitude, self-isolation, or social phobia. The person seeks to escape the world and even to escape themselves.

Can technology be used as a treatment?

Paradoxically, the medical sphere are resorting more and more to digital tools to treat certain mental illnesses, such as addiction, schizophrenia, mood disorders or anxiety. For example, by collecting data on an illness, smartphones and other such mobile technology can monitor someone’s health and suggest a tailored treatment programme for them.

Sometimes, virtual reality exercises are suggested for patients affected by certain types of anxiety such as fear of heights, claustrophobia or post traumatic stress disorder. Virtual reality can be used to desensitise patients and help them get used to the object of their fear.

Finally, we can’t ignore the fact that the internet is extremely useful for bringing people together to solve a problem, whether this relates to rare and unique problems, or simply the struggles of everyday life. People can form online groups, communities and forums to discuss problems, exchange tips, remedies and solutions and also to provide comfort and mutual support.