Treatment for addiction to social media

The term “social media addiction” refers to when someone is incessantly and compulsively preoccupied with social media. Treatment interventions for social media addiction include psychological therapy, group counselling sessions and other holistic options all of which are offered by trained experts at CITA.

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A recent study found that the average person spends around two and a half hours on social media platforms every day, with the duration growing at a remarkable rate.

Social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, X and messaging systems such as WhatsApp offer immediate interaction and instant gratification which makes them extremely attractive to the always-online younger audience. Without boundaries and controls in place, children and teenagers spending time on these networks can be harmful.

In fact, in May 2024 the European Commission opened an investigation into META, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, over concerns that the platforms are creating addictive behaviour among children and damaging mental health.

CITA is a pioneering centre in the treatment of addictions, including to social media.

Who is at risk for social media addiction?

While most social networks are available to everyone, only a small portion of people may end up abusing them and becoming addicted. However, according to some studies, as much as 21.3% of adolescents in Spain are at risk of developing addictive internet behaviours due to abusive use of social networks.

Generally speaking, pre-teen and teen age groups are highest at risk of addiction to social networks as their developing brains are more susceptible to the instant gratification and reward systems that social media platforms offer, such as endless scrolling and impulsive behaviours. Young social media users, particularly those aged 18 to 22, represent a significant portion of those addicted to social media in the United States, with average screen times of over 7 hours per day for teens and nearly 5 hours for younger children.

That younger age group also tends to be the one most familiar with new technologies and new networks.

However, there are also certain personality characteristics or emotional states that tend to increase someone’s vulnerability.

Renowned psychiatrist and Founder and Director of CITA, Dr. Fàbregas, explains: “when we talk about addictions to social networks there is usually an underlying problem that must be treated psychologically as well.”

Excessive shyness, low self-esteem, rejection of body image, depression or hyperactivity are just a few examples of behaviours that can manifest themselves from using these platforms excessively.

“In these cases, the abuse of the internet and social media is like a smokescreen that shows the existence of a fire that needs to be located and controlled, for example a personality problem or a mental disorder – and this is what should really be addressed,” he adds.

There are other cases in which addiction to social networks may demonstrate a personal dissatisfaction with your life or attempt to hide family or social shortcomings.

So the internet or social networks act as technological prostheses that facilitate escape from real life, even if in the long term it has negative consequences.

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    CAUSES OF SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION

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    Dependency on social media has multiple causes. Research shows the following to be top among them:

    • Ease of access: The platforms are easy to reach. With all types of smart phones and mobile devices now able to download the apps, they are always also readily available in our pockets or bags.
    • Normalised use: Much like alcohol, which is legal and ubiquitous, society considers social media usage normal. It is in fact more common these days to be questioned if you don’t have any social media or messaging platform profiles.
    • A filtered life: We can show people and our followers only what we want them to see, creating and presenting the life that we wish or think we have.
    • Ego boosting: With the option to quickly like or ‘heart’ stories/ posts/ reels/ tweets or follow other users with the press of a button and equally be able to receive affirmations on what we share on these platforms, social media can serve as an intoxicating ego boost.
    • Addictive design: Social media platforms are designed to maximise engagement using algorithms that personalise content feeds based on past online behaviour. This creates a “treasure hunt” experience for the user, where discovering engaging posts can feel as rewarding as winning a slot machine.
    • Social anxiety quick fix: If you find yourself uncomfortable or anxious meeting people in person, social media can help you avoid such exchanges and situations by effectively allowing you to hide behind your device.

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    SYMPTOMS AND EFFECTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION

    A range of symptoms manifest affecting physical and mental health and daily-life functioning manifest themselves in cases of social media addiction. These are similar to those seen in behavioural addictions like gambling and substance abuse as the same dopamine pathways in the brain are disrupted.

    Physical symptoms include:

    • Neck pain
    • Backache
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome
    • Headaches
    • Insomnia
    • Eye strain due to prolonged usage of devices for social media activities

    Behavioural symptoms can be:

    • Low self-esteem
    • Loneliness
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Exaggerated search for strong emotions
    • Impulsiveness
    • Intolerance to negative stimuli like daily upsets or worries
    • FOMO (fear of missing out)
    • Poor sleep patterns
    • Diminished physical activity
    • Impaired work or educational performance
    • Neglect of real-life relationships
    • Increased self-consciousness.
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      FAQs

      CONSEQUENCES OF SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION

      Regarding the consequences of addiction to social networks, we find the following:

      • Anxiety
      • Emotional dependency
      • Low self-esteem
      • Unproductive coping styles
      • Extroversion Issues

      Other associated disorders may include internet or mobile phone addiction. Being addicted to social media comes with problems like these that need to be dealt with by a team of experts.

      PROBLEMS RELATED TO SOCIAL NETWORKS

      Problems linked to social networks sometimes come from extreme use or malpractice of the platforms.

      The opportunity offered by social networks to have a public profile and to be able to get followers and become known quickly, whether by behaviors, tastes, looks, etc. also hides the difficulty of being exposed to public opinion constantly and that can generate an uncontrollable addiction.

      Many family members wonder if a person is hooked on the internet and if this can cause them significant emotional problems in the short or medium term.

      It is important to know how to identify social media addiction and try to change habits when you start to denote a possible addiction. When the relationship seems uncontrollable, a treatment will always be the best option.

      SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION

      The treatment of addiction to social networks tends to require an intervention from the psychological aspect, but sometimes and as required by the patient’s condition, it is absolutely necessary to complement it with psychopharmacological intervention.

      What social media addiction treatment seeks is not elimination, but re-education. We are aware that these applications are necessary in our day-to-day lives, but they must be used functionally and appropriately. Dependency on social media, in the right hands, is a thing of the past.

      PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIOTHERAPEUTIC TREATMENT

      The psychological and sociotherapeutic treatment of conduct disorder due to the abuse of social networks, new technologies or addiction to mobile phones should be considered according to the context of the affected person. Taking into account circumstances as different as the plurality of human beings, as well as the environment, their personality, the problems they have and their way of facing them.

      Psychology is going to be very important during therapeutic treatment. The treatments we carry out from our addiction center respond to an individual evaluation, with a personalized program, which aims to improve the patient’s absolute improvement through the most effective intervention strategies.
      All these treatments for addiction to social networks in adolescents are used at Clínicas CITA, a center specialized in this type of pathologies in which we seek to overcome dependence and not suffer from the dreaded withdrawal syndrome.

      PHARMACOLOGICAL TREATMENT FOR INTERNET ADDICTS

      The use of pharmacology will be decided according to the severity of the situation of the person suffering from this pathology.

      As with other behavioral addictions, social media addiction can be linked to high levels of bipolarity or anxiety.

      Depending on the evolution of the person and how it affects their health, drugs aimed at reducing these episodes of intensity and/or impulsivity, mood swings, etc., may be considered useful. Along these lines, antidepressant drugs can improve episodes of high anxiety.

      It is important that the use and prescription of medications is carried out by a psychiatrist who specialises in this type of pathologies, such as the CITA doctor, whose main objective is to achieve the total improvement of the patient.

      YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX HUB

      At CITA Clinics we are specialists in social media detoxification treatment. Contact CITA to find out more about your case and overcome your addiction to social media with complete discretion.

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