Is too much screen time causing Depression

If you are struggling with depression and want help relieving the pain, one of the first things professionals have begun recommending is reducing the amount of time spent looking at your computer and phone screens. Studies now show that the impact from screen time has detrimental impacts on individuals struggling with depression in how they view themselves and their peers.

Staring at Your Screen Can Worsen Your Depression

There are a number of factors at play when addressing an individual looking to get help in battling depression. There is a chemical component that plays a major role, and working closely with a therapeutic program equipped with the proper staff for diagnosing and developing an appropriate medical treatment plan is vital to successfully combating its negative impact on your life.

However, in addition to the chemical component, research published by San Diego State professor of psychology Jean Twenge found some alarming information regarding teen suicide and depression that could correspond to the increasing use of electronic devices. In comparing anonymous survey data, the suicide rate in teenage girls between the ages of 13-18 increased by 65% between 2010 and 2015.

Coincidentally, the number of girls experiencing “suicide-related outcomes” – which includes feelings of hopeless, considering suicide, planning for suicide or attempting suicide – rose by 12%. The number of teen girls that reported symptoms of severe depression also rose by 58%. In analyzing the data, part of the survey included questions regarding how these girls spent their leisure time, which most acknowledged spending more time on screens and less involved in other activities. It was the biggest observable change in their lives, and one most would consider detrimental to their mental health.

Digging even further into the statistics to find out if a true correlation between screen time and depression help were connected, they found that “48% of teens who spent five or more hours a day on electronic devices reported at least one suicide-related outcome, compared to only 28% of those who spent less than an hour a day on devices.”

Teen Suicidiality screen time

Major Components of Depression

When we consider this research and our own experiences working with young adults seeking depression help, we’ve found a few major components impacting their state of mind:

  1. Comparing to Others: One of the most significant problems that come out of screen time for an individual that may need help with depression is their ongoing comparison of themselves to others. Be it celebrity stories or the feeds of their Facebook friends, we all at some point or another is guilty of playing the comparison game with little success. As one person put it, “we compare the highlight reels of others to our behind the scene footage.” For the most part, people only put up the things that make them look the best. The best angle photos with filters or experiences doing the most amazing travel adventures can easily put us in a position to look at our own life and wonder if we’re doing something wrong or provide an excuse to look at why we’re not good enough. For someone struggling with depression and in need of help, this type of browsing offers zero benefit and only harm.
  2. Loss of Gratitude: Many who struggle with depression also struggle with alcoholism and addiction. For those on the road to recovery, the destruction of their past has put them in a serious hole for which they are slowly getting themselves out of. While they may have made great progress in improving their lives, seeing an old school friend on a trip to Italy can easily cause them to forget their recent near-death experience. As we trudge the road to the happy destiny we must deal with temporary setbacks including loss of income, family or perceived stature. Social media is fantastic at reminding us of everything we’ve lost and how everyone else in our lives has apparently “gained”. Gratitude is what keeps us happy, joyous and free and we must not forget that there are many paths to get to the same place. We are where we are and for the most part quick to forget how far we’ve come compared to only a short time ago. Remaining grateful for life has given us another chance means the best is still yet to come.
  3. Takes Away from Other Activity: The more time we spend looking at what everyone else is doing the less we spend on improving our own. Apple recently released a very interesting addition to their newest software release that tracks the amount of screen time we have with our devices. Every few weeks we get a friendly reminder as to exactly how much time we have spent in front of our phones, and for many, this can be a sobering reminder as to how much time we’ve wasted! Recently I got a message saying I spent an entire 8 hours of screen time…8 whole hours! That’s an entire work day! Can you imagine what I could be doing in that same span of time if I wasn’t browsing the news or checking out what an old girlfriend has been up to?

Depression and Screen Time are Linked

There are enough studies to show that the amount of time we spend on our electronic devices the greater likelihood we are to need help battling depression. Research distinctly links habitual users with increased depression and suicidal tendencies, and a decrease in those who use those same devices less.

In the same time we spend comparing our blooper footage with an old friends highlight reel, we could be doing more productive activities that make life far more enjoyable and time consuming then that of the phone. The evidence is clear, and while there is a distinct chemical component to depression that can necessitate pharmaceutical intervention along with professional medical care, we can clearly say that less time on our electronic devices increases our quality of life and decreases the impact of clinical depression.

If you’re looking to speak to someone about getting help for depression, call Florida House at 866-421-6242.

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