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Introduction to Treatments for Technology Addiction

In the first phase of our being, before what some scientists call the Big Bang, we existed in our spiritual form, in total unity, stability, and equilibrium. Then the Creator willed, “Be!” and we became manifest in our individualized forms, so as the notions of “You” and “I” and “the Other” emerged.


The Quran challenges us to accept this fact. “Was there not a period of time that came upon man when he could not be mentioned?” (76:1)


Deep in our being, even if we are not aware of our innate self-awareness, we know that we were once unified with all of creation. This is why we seek to do things perfectly even if the things we are doing are simple tasks such as washing the dishes and eating clean. The internet gives people a false sense of our origins from the state of unity, because it connects the representations of the material world. Therefore, some people may find it easy to get addicted to technology and the internet. On a spiritual level, as we become increasingly self-aware we remember that we are much greater than our physical state and the biochemical reactions in our brain.


According to Islamic psychology, we have 5 outer senses and 5 inner senses. The inner senses are common sense (the unifying sense of the 5 outer senses), memory, imagination, cognition, and the faculty of attributing meaning. After we become self-aware of the 5 inner senses we are able to embody our higher self, the rational self. From a psychological perspective, emotional intelligence includes aspects of common sense: somatic awareness and attuning to the sense of touch in our own body, and the emotional responses we have to our imagination, cognitions, meaning making process, and memory. Memory includes a vague awareness of our origins from a state of unity, even though as humans we do not know much about our spirit, other than it exists.


To treat technology addiction, we start by increasing self-awareness. As the light of our self-awareness spreads throughout our body our body increases in vitality and we become like lions and lionesses. We realize that absorption into the internet disintegrates our senses. Our sense of sight and hearing becomes focused on a virtual world, while our sense of smell, touch, and taste are left behind in the physical world. This kind of sensory disintegration causes anxiety. For example, in treating anxiety psychologists often guide clients to attune to their 5 senses in the physical world around them.


Today in countries like Korea and China, the government is setting up centers to treat internet addiction. The treatment methods used in these specialized centers include group sessions, art therapy, medicines, neuro-feedback, transcranial magnetic stimulation, behavioral therapy, dancing and sports, reading, karaoke, family therapy, and elements from the 12 step program of Alcoholic Anonymous.


When it comes to psychotherapeutic interventions for technology addictions there is no gold standard treatment. However, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing are interventions commonly employed. Motivational interviewing uses the client’s ambivalence towards using technology to reduce the amount of time on the internet. CBT may become an even more effective treatment if and when it includes a somatic awareness component and a sensory motor bilateral art therapy component. In this way, not only are the core beliefs, cognitions, and emotions discussed but also the somatic experience is discussed verbally and further expressed using art therapy interventions.


Some practical steps to augment therapy for technology addiction are to set an alarm for when it is time to get off of the internet, have a screen free zone in the bedrooms, have screen free times, such as at dinner, and to set a policy to not check your screens for the first 30 minutes of the day. Also, people can journal about all of the things they are unable to do because of how much time they spend on their technology. Then they can set goals to re-engage with their immediate environment in increasing frequencies and durations.


Steps to curb impulsivity may also be helpful in reducing or eliminating technology addiction. A subset of impulsivity is sensation seeking. People who are addicted to technology are often using the internet to seek sensations. Spending increasing amounts of time outdoors in nature is one way to reduce impulsivity and it also increases our social capital to be with the trees, plants, and animals, which in turn has a calming effect. Nature deficit disorder is often comorbid with technology addition.


Another eco-psychology intervention to reduce impulsivity is an activity which involves exciting a therapy dog for 15 minutes, then calming the dog down for 15 minutes, then exciting the dog for 15 minutes again, and calming the dog down for the last 15 minutes of an hour. To excite and calm the dog from a position of authority the client must learn to control their impulsivity. Finally, reducing impulsivity can occur by increasing emotional awareness of disappointment. When a person knows disappointment on a deep embodied level and can recall what this emotion feels like he or she is less likely to act impulsively. In this way our negative emotions can become the fuel for positive self-growth.


In today’s world it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate screens from our lives. Instead of adopting an abstinence approach to technology addiction a harm reduction approach to addiction can be used. What this looks like is certain sites, such as porn or online shopping sites are completely avoided, whereas other applications are still used. At the same time, less time is spent on approved applications.


I hope you found this blog article useful. If you would like to view an Internet Addiction Assessment tool please follow this link and book a session to discuss https://www.iitk.ac.in/counsel/resources/IATManual.pdf




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