Digital Dementia & Technology Addiction

The numbers tell the story. On average, Americans today check their smartphones 52 times per day. For millennials, that number skyrockets to 150 times per day. A recent study indicates that the average cell phone owner actually touches the phone in excess of 2600 times a day, with the most extreme phone users touching it over 5000 times a day. Smart phones on average are checked every 10 minutes. Baby Boomers spend five hours each day on their smartphone, and Millennials are on their phones nearly six hours each day. Thirteen percent of Millennials and five percent of Baby Boomers say they spend, get this, twelve hours every day on their phones. And that is just phone usage. Those numbers do not even include time spent on desktop computers, laptops, or tablets. In a sense, we could say that all people in today's world have some sort of addiction to technology. We are just beginning to understand how we may be physically damaging ourselves with all the technology connectedness that invades our everyday lives. We know that attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds in the last few years, and we know that memory ability is diminished as we rely more and more on our devices.

Most of us have probably sensed at one time or another that we need to cut back on a technology. Those senior moments that many of us experience, such as forgetting why we walked into a room, or not being able to recall something that we know we know, are actually occurring more often and earlier, and that memory loss is now being connected to technology use. Digital dementia is characterized by deterioration of brain function as a result of overuse of technology. This overuse of technology causes a breakdown of cognitive ability, a loss of memory, and damage to vision. Increased anxiety and tension-related problems are also associated with technology use. The medical field tells us that structural changes occur through the overuse of technology, including the development of a problem informally known as “tech neck.” We now have confirmed the development of more and various psychological disorders as a result of playing video games (See the previous section), and surely in time we are going to connect more physical and mental abnormalities to uses of technology.

It is ironic that developers of so much technology have been the first to realize the danger that is associated with overuse of technology. They now warn us about children being exposed to technology too early for fear of damage to their brain development, as well as the impact that technology may on the Middle Mind. Silicon Valley moguls themselves keep their children away from technology and send their children to schools that avoid using technology at all during the formative years.

Granted, technology is amazing. We now have access to an amazing amount of information that can be helpful in our daily lives. I certainly use technology for business-related purposes, for outside interests, and for social purposes. But I too have found myself at times disappointed in my own behavior when it comes to technology. It really hit home for me one day in a grocery store. As I was going down one aisle of the grocery store on a weekend morning, I checked my phone to see if I had any notifications or anything I needed to tend to. As I made my way to the next aisle, I found myself instinctively reaching from my phone and checking it again, on a day and at a time I knew there would be very little internet traffic. I resolved right then that I needed to temper my use. (I suspect my wife would still say I spend too much time connected.)

I assume that my issues are very moderate when I see the numbers that we set out above. But for those who are being wrapped up by technology and want to make a change, hypnotherapy provides a good starting point for gaining control over the addiction. As we have indicated in other chapters dealing with various forms of addiction, addictions are habits. Sometimes there is a chemical dependency, as with drug usage and alcoholism, which needs to be addressed. But other addictions are purely Middle Mind, subconscious behaviors. Technology usage has simply become instinctive for addicts. They do not think about its use, and they begrudge the times in which they cannot go online. Technology is destroying some people as the habit becomes an outright need, sometimes superseding the needs of their own families, bodies, or lives. The behavior is totally non-thinking. When addicts who are physically and emotionally damaging themselves come to a point in which they realize that they need to make a change, they should explore hypnotherapy.

The goal of hypnotherapy is simple, but getting there varies from person to person. Since the technology addiction is a habit, we know it is unthinking behavior. When behavior is unthinking, it is originating in the Middle Mind or the subconscious, and it overwhelms and overrides an individual’s thought processes. The overall goal of hypnotherapy will be to take this automatic, uncontrolled behavior and move it into the consciousness, so that clients can take back control of their behavior. One of the first goals of therapy is to change behavior so that clients recognize consciously what they are doing. The clients are no longer acting simply on instinct without being alerted in their conscious mind as to their behaviors. Recognition is a good starting point, but once the conscious mind realizes the behavior, is it going to make better decisions? Everybody has had the experience of being faced with a particular food that he knows he should not eat, but he eats it anyway. Similarly, there needs to be strengthening of confidence and commitment to making right technology decisions for each tech-addicted client. These goals can be achieved with hypnotherapy, utilizing hypnosis.

Hypnosis is simply the bridge to the Middle Mind. It is not magic; it is a tool. Accessing the Middle Mind will not change anything. The work is what happens after a client is in hypnosis with the trained assistance of the hypnotherapist. Hypnosis is a safe activity in which the subject is well aware of everything that is taking place. The goal is simply to allow a client’s own mind to resolve the issues. Hypnosis provides the mechanism to give the client the raw materials to make changes. These raw materials come in the form of suggestions, the term given to the verbal instructions the therapist uses during the process. Therapists and clients develop these suggestions during the pre-hypnosis stage of each session, so they are tailor-made for the particular needs of the client. Once the suggestions are received, a client's own mind will begin to reprogram itself. With the technology addict, the client will begin not only to recognize automatic behaviors, but also to gain control of them, and to make important behavior changes, confidently and instinctively. Hypnotherapy becomes the method to ending the madness.