The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront one of the more difficult addictive behaviors seen throughout society that many people don’t even think about: Digital addiction. While often digital addiction is thought of as a behavior associated with young children or teens, the pandemic lock downs, quarantines, isolation, and disconnection have caused rising rates of this addiction in more than just children, teens, and young adults, but throughout society at large.


According to the United Brain Association, digital addiction is “a harmful dependence on digital media and devices such as smartphones, video games, and computers.”


Another definition, describing internet addiction, is via a paper published on the National Library of Medicine website, says that “internet addiction is characterized by excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges, or behaviors regarding computer use and internet access that lead to impairment or distress.” Digital addiction is a umbrella term that can often encompass numerous types of technology addiction, including internet addiction, gaming addiction, social media addiction, online gambling addiction, online sexual or pornography addiction, or online shopping addiction.


Basically, digital addiction is an addictive behavior that someone engages in related to any online use that becomes harmful, causes consequences, or interferes with daily life. While digital addiction can take different forms, or a single person can engage in multiple types of digital addiction, the overriding issue is that to the person, digital technology on one or multiple forms has become problematic to healthy, balanced, successful living.


Many mental health and behavioral health professionals believe that digital addiction should be closely classified with substance use disorder. Often, the behaviors and emotions of someone suffering from a digital addiction mirror those of someone suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction. Additionally, many studies have demonstrated a correlation between a digital addiction or technology addiction and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, just like other behavioral addictions such as gambling addiction or shopping addiction, a digital addiction can carry with it many types of consequences. Those consequences can be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or material. Digital addiction impairs the individual’s functioning or causes distress, leading to life and emotional difficulty. Further, it can lead to difficulty in relationships, in social connection, or in school or employment.


Major symptoms of digital addiction include:

• Using digital media or technology as a coping mechanism
• Using digital media or technology as an emotional escape
• Preoccupation with using technology or digital media
• Inability to stop or limit the use of technology or digital media
• Emotional attachment to using technology or cravings to use digital media
• An unwillingness or an inability to stop or moderate the use of digital media or technology
• Withdrawal symptoms that occur when an individual cannot use technology or digital media, including emotional deregulation, anger, physical outbursts or violence, anxiety, or depression
• Lying about the use of technology or being deceptive about using digital media
• A loss of interest in other activities that used to be enjoyed or caused joy, or a replacement of those previously enjoyable or pleasurable activities with technology or digital media
• Isolation or disconnection


Like drug and alcohol addiction or other behavioral addictions, there is treatment for digital addiction.


Treatment for digital addiction includes:

• Individual therapy
• Family therapy
• Group therapy
• Experiential therapy or adventure-based outdoor therapy
• Wilderness therapy or nature-based therapy
• Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
• Motivational Interviewing (MI)


As we enter an age in our society where more interactions, more activities, and even more jobs require the use of technology, the issue of individual’s suffering from digital addiction will only increase. Younger and younger children are growing up as digital natives, knowing no other life than one that includes cellphones, computers, or tablets. This also includes gaming devices and social media accounts. For adults, more and more time is tied up consuming media digitally, as well as on social media. Dating and relationships now are often formed via digital media. The rise of the Metaverse and new technology platforms like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are moving society towards a more digital world. As society engages in more digital technology use, more individuals and families will be impacted by digital addiction and technology addiction. The good news is, although no one will be able to run from a digital world, disconnecting from digital and managing one’s digital media and technology use is certainly attainable, and like other forms of behavioral addictions, recovery is possible.


If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at