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Depression 2.0 – Enter Technology

Depression in the modern day is changing. Sure it has the traditional components that we associate with depression. Sadness, restless sleep, withdrawal, irritability and lethargy still exist. But the explosion of technology in the last generation is unavoidable. And it is impacting “traditional” depression.

Technical saturation can prevent mental down time and warp our thinking. 24/7 social media, online bullying, auto emails/texts, and pages of mobile apps on our phones can not only be consuming, they can become addicting.

What does that mean to someone suffering from depression?

Technology and Depression

Some studies are linking excessive social media use and depression. We use social media for connection and affirmation. But subconsciously, many compare what they see and read to their own lives. This can cause us to feel inadequate, unsuccessful and uninformed. For someone struggling with depression, these feelings can exacerbate their grief.

One doesn’t need to look far to be experience discourse online, on the radio and on television. Political, social, and even sports programs thrive on bitter exchanges. For those struggling with depression, repeated exposure to negativity can reinforce their feelings of despair.

Anxiety and Depression

This technology phenomenon is also driving a significant increase in anxiety. For many, anxiety is now becoming synonymous with depression. While different diagnoses, about half of people with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety. Approximately 16 million U.S. adults experienced a significant depression episode in the last year. About half of those, eight million, also experience serious anxiety with their depression.

When both are experienced together, characteristics are often amplified. Recovery can be slower. Recurrence rates are higher. Chronic symptoms are more pronounced. Social and familial impact can be greater.

With technology having a deeper impact on our lives, co-occurring anxiety and depression is increasing. Fortunately, both depression and anxiety are treatable, individually and as co-occurring disorders.

Depression, Technology and Sleep

Are you using your mobile device in bed right before bedtime? It may be adversely affecting your sleep. Excessive use of your computer or mobile device close to bedtime can have a negative impact on your sleep. Emotionally, interacting with upsetting, negative or argumentative content close to bedtime can contribute to restless sleep. Physiologically, the lights from electronic devices can impede melatonin secretion, the hormone that promotes sleep.

What Can I Do If I Have Depression (and Anxiety) Affected by Technology?

The first thing to “do” is to know that both depression and anxiety are treatable. Even if you have both together, a licensed professional or treatment center can help restore your balance. It can return you to the normal functioning, happy person you know still exists inside you. The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, is an excellent center that is recognized nationally for its success treating depression and anxiety.

Here are tips you can incorporate into your daily routine to help.

It sounds simple, but use less technology. Disengage as much as possible from social media. Do not watch or listen to programs you know will be filled with arguments and negativity. Spend that time to journal. Write down each day three things for which you are grateful. Write down one thing that inspires you. Write down one goal. Spend time with those who uplift you and do not judge you. Avoid those who bring you down and who do not encourage you.

One hour before bedtime, quit watching television. Do not eat heavy foods within an hour (or more) of bedtime. Create a quiet, dark cool and comfortable sleeping environment. Good sleep will provide restoration and support for your immune system, support cognitive function, and provide more energy for your body. More energy and better cognitive alertness can help minimize depressive and anxiety episodes.

Modern depression is becoming more complex for many. Fortunately, our understanding on how to treat depression, anxiety, and both together has advanced. If you or a loved one are struggling with either or both, contact a mental health professional.

 

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE. For over 30 years, The Center has treated thousands with depression and anxiety. Recognized as a Top 10 Center for the Treatment of Depression, The Center utilizes the whole person approach to care. Dr. Jantz is a leading voice and innovator in mental health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

 

Is Social Media Making You Depressed?

In today’s tech intensive world, we invest increasing amounts of ourselves online—our time, our energy, our identities. But for all of the time and effort we put into our virtual lives, how much does is really add to our happiness and overall fulfillment? Is it possible that our social networking can be contributing to our feelings of depression?

In Dr. Jantz’s book, #Hooked: The Pitfalls of Media, Technology, and Social Networking, he cites a study of “disconnect anxiety.” In it, participants described the following feelings when unable to connect via Internet, email, social networks, texting, chat and other online activities:

  • Feeling lost
  • Having only half a voice
  • Disoriented
  • Tense
  • Empty
  • Inadequate
  • Loss of freedom

Paradoxically, we also suffer anxiety when we are connected. Maybe we’re overwhelmed with a multitude of social networks we’re intent on updating on a daily basis. Or maybe we’re suffering from information overload, struggling to stay on top of every development, from world news to the latest from our Facebook friends’ news stream.

In other words, at any given moment throughout your day, the desire to connect online may be a source of anxiety. Even the conscious decision to voluntarily disconnect can be anxiety ridden, making you certain you’re going to miss something or, worse, that your “friends” and “followers” are going to forget you. These feelings of anxiety and social disconnection can lead to depression.

If you suspect you may have an unhealthy level of anxiety associated with your online activity, or lack thereof, consider the following criteria used to determine nonchemical addiction:

Importance: How important has it become to your sense of self and the way you live your life? You can determine importance not only by how much you’re doing it, but also by how much you’re not doing other things. Priority equals importance.

Reward Response: Does doing it make you feel better and more in control? Does not doing it make you feel worse? Doing things you enjoy makes you feel better. Avoiding things you dislike can make you feel better, at least initially. There is a positive payoff to all this activity that can obscure the activities’ negative consequence.

Prevalence: Do you find yourself doing it more often and for longer periods of time than you originally planned? If you feel compelled to say “Just a little bit more” all the time, you’re carving out more and more space in your life for these activities. The question becomes, in order to carve out this time, to what else are you taking the knife?

Cessation: Do you feel anxious or uncomfortable if you cannot do it or if you just think about not doing it? One way to gauge how important these things have become for you is to consider doing without them. The higher level of panic and pain you anticipate, the stronger the hold they have over you.

Disruption: Has doing it disrupted your life and your relationships, causing interpersonal or personal conflicts over what you’re doing?

Reverting: Do you often say to yourself you’re going to do something different but then turn around and keep doing the same thing—or doing it even more? Before you know it, you’re right back to doing what you did, and more.

It is difficult to recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy on the inside when you are struggling with feelings of anxiety, disconnection, inadequateness, and emptiness caused by the constant bombardment of technology and social media. The answer is in taking back control, as much as is possible, of the outside environment of your life. Either we allow our activities and our circumstance to carry us along, or we take control of the direction our lives are going.

Take a moment to examine the role of technology and social media have on your life. Which elements of this technological connection is fulfilling? Which parts leave you feeling inadequate, drained and depressed? Ultimately, the environment you create for yourself is vital in overcoming your depression. Structuring a holistic recovery plan, taking into consideration nuances like technology use, is imperative to this process.

The Center • A Place of HOPE has been consistently ranked among the top treatment facilities in the country for depression. If you believe you are struggling with a technology addiction that may be contributing to your depression, call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 to discuss treatment options. Know that you are not alone during this struggle, and never lose hope.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Turing Your Down into Up: A Realistic Plan for Healing from Depression.