How Dangerous Is Social Media To Your Mental Health?

Click here for the infographic summary of the stats in this post

Finding and responding to information on social media can give your brain a tiny surge of dopamine. Each dopamine “hit” reinforces addictive compulsion.

It’s Addictive Here.

This is also why many drugs are addictive. Speaking of heavy internet users, MIT media scholar Judith Donath said

“Cumulatively, the effect is potent and hard to resist.”

In the U.S. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is being marked as a ‘real’ disorder, by virtue of it being added to the (DSM-V, 2012 edition) “bible of Psychology.”

Several other countries also accept IAD as a psychological diagnosis, and it is being  being treated as “a grave national health crisis” in some. But integration into business, society and education means quitting cold turkey is near impossible for most people.

Effects of Heavy Use

The internet “Fosters our obsessions, dependence, and stress reactions,” according to Larry Rosen, psychologist specialist in effects of the net.

Researchers have linked ADHD and hostility to Internet addiction in children. ADHD has risen 66% in the US in the last 12 years.

Case Western Reserve University correlated heavy social-media use and texting with stress, depression, and suicidal thinking.

Important Parts of Your Brain Have Shrunk

Web veterans display fundamentally altered prefrontal cortexes.

Internet ‘addicts’ have 10-20% smaller brain areas in the locations responsible for:

  1. Emotion,
  2. Speech,
  3. Memory,
  4. Motor control,
  5. Sensory and other information.

Looking at that list, it almost seems you might as well call them internet “zombies.” The more time a test subject spent online, the more signs of brain “atrophy” there were in these brain areas.

Human Attention Spans Less Than a Goldfish for First Time

In the U.S., attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds since 2000.

Using similar tests, the attention span of Goldfish is measured at 9 seconds. This isn’t looking good for the humans, folks!

The Internet RAPIDLY Rewires Human Brains

Gary Small, head of UCLA’s Memory and Aging Research Center reported the results from a test of people who were new to using the internet.

They got online for just 5 hours total in a week and had their brains rescanned. The result?

“The…subjects had already rewired their brains”

Of course, spending a lot of time on the internet can mean cutting back on sleep, exercise, and face-to-face exchanges, which can have a depressing effect on anyone.

Multiple Personalities.

At Stanford University, Dr. Aboujaoude tested internet addicts and found their results to be extraordinarily similar to results from those with multiple personality disorder.

How Is Internet Addiction Defined?

  1. “Preoccupation” (38+ hours/week) with the internet or internet gaming
  2. Withdrawal symptoms when internet is not available
  3. Tolerance (spending more time to achieve the same “high”)
  4. Loss of other interests
  5. Unsuccessful attempts to control use
  6. Use of internet to improve or escape dysphoric mood.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the recommended treatment. Treatment Goals:

  1. Abstinence from problematic applications,
  2. Retaining controlled use of the computer for legitimate purposes
  3. Increased motivation
  4. Improved social relationships
  5. Improved sexual functioning
  6. Engagement in off-line activities

U.S. Teen Stats (2000 vs 2012)

  • Teen have more than doubled their time using the internet (was 3.43 hrs/day now 7 hrs/day).
  • Teens multitasking on multiple screens have more than tripled (3.43 hrs/day to 11 hrs/day).

Infographic Summary

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