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Technology Addiction: Are We Too Obsessed with our Gadgets and Games?

How do you know if you are addicted to technology?
An Interview with Dr. Brent Conrad

Article Appears in Living Safety Magazine, a publication of The Canadian Safety Council
Vol. 31, No. 4, Winter 2013

Anyone born after about 1990 has never known life without the Internet and mobile communication. Those of us who grew up with cellphones and interactive video games can’t imagine living without them.

These technologies can become so all-consuming that susceptible individuals develop symptoms of addiction. When they are not online, they are thinking about being online. They stay up all night, leading to sleep deprivation and its associated problems.

The consequences may be similar to other addictions: financial problems, job loss, and relationship breakdown. Very much like other addictions, they are using the technology to satisfy something that is missing inside; their compulsion may be driven by sensation-seeking, harm avoidance or reward dependence.

Researchers have found similarities between the brain patterns of compulsive gamers and those of drug addicts. These games seem to trigger a neurological response that affects certain pleasure centres of the brain. The popular World of Warcraft, for example, has been nicknamed “World of Warcrack.”

“For most people, there is nothing wrong with occasional use of the Internet or video games as a way to relax, to learn, to connect with family and friends, or simply as a form of entertainment,” explains Dr. Brent Conrad, a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating video game and Internet addiction.

“The key, of course, is moderation. Is there a balance between how much time you spend with online and offline friends? Do you have real world goals that you are working towards and achievements that you are proud of? Does your use of technology add to the quality of your life or does it interfere with your relationships, your mood, your career, your personal accomplishments, or your academics?”

Dr. Conrad operates the site, which offers extensive resources. Of particular interest is a set of questions to ask yourself if you want to determine whether you might be a technology addict.

While Internet addiction is not yet an accepted medical diagnosis, Internet Gaming Disorder may soon be officially classified as a psychiatric disorder. Teens and pre-teens are especially at risk.

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Are we too obsessed with technology?  Do you know anyone who is "addicted"?

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