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Your Smartphone Addiction and a Chemical Imbalance Causes Depression

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The Link Between Smartphones and Your Brain

 

Time for a hard truth: Your smartphone addiction can lead to  a chemical imbalance that may depression. That may sound like a bold statement and, in a way, it is. But it’s also true. This can sound overwhelming at first and is likely to make some people defensive. But it isn’t intended to cause shame or make people feel as though there’s no escaping depression. In fact, knowing this can be the key to finding a treatment that works.

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Depression through History

 

For a long time, depression was wildly misunderstood. Historical records mentioning depression date back to 2000 B.C. Depression was seen as a spiritual issue and often attributed to demonic possession. This attitude was common across many different cultures. As a result of this belief, treatments were brutal. Beatings, starvation, and bloodletting were some of the treatments used as ‘cures’.

This approach to depression carried on through ancient times and into the Middle Ages. During the Enlightenment era, some doctors and philosophers did offer different ideas. They suggested positive reinforcement, improved diet, and emotional support might be better options. These ideas, however, were dismissed as nonsense.

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The Modern Era of Depression

 

As time went on and the field of medicine developed, views on depression changed somewhat. But even in the modern era of medicine, depression was often seen as a weakness. People blamed it on a wide variety of sins and shortcomings. Treatment options had moved on from beatings and bloodletting. But many were still barbaric by today’s standards. People were submitted to lobotomies, electroshock therapy, and other extreme procedures. In some cases, patients were simply locked in hospitals and essentially abandoned.

 

The Chemistry of Depression

 

Today, researchers understand the role chemicals play in their mental health. This was once seen as a fringe or ‘New Age’ idea. But now we have the scientific tools to back it up. Brain imaging has helped us understand the role of brain chemistry. Researchers understand the roles of specific chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters levels are often linked to depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue.

 

What is Dopamine?

 

Dopamine is a chemical that carries messages between neurons in our brain. Our body creates dopamine and uses it to transmit many of our ‘feel good’ emotions. Dopamine also plays a role in our sense of motivation and when we crave something. Its effects are not limited to mental health either. This powerful neurotransmitter plays a role in many physical functions. Using your cell phone floods your brain with these feel good emotions.

 

What is Serotonin?

 

Serotonin is another neurotransmitter and it is often discussed in connection with dopamine. This is because both chemicals play a powerful role in our mood and emotions. While serotonin is similar in many ways to dopamine, it plays a different role. One of the biggest differences is that 90% of the body’s serotonin isn’t found in the brain. Instead, it’s found in the gut where it plays its biggest role in aiding digestion. Abnormal levels of serotonin can be linked to depression, troubled sleep, and appetite.

 

What Is Norepinephrine?

 

Norepinephrine is both a hormone and a chemical messenger. It works to control the physical reactions to stress and also plays a role in mood and sleep. In the brain, norepinephrine works in conjunction with serotonin to control sleep patterns. When working with dopamine, the pair affects mood and concentration. This dual role means imbalances with norepinephrine can wreak havoc in the body and mind.

 

Effects From Smartphone Addiction

 

Each one of these chemicals is a vital part of overall health. How they work together plays a critical role in mental health specifically. When these chemicals are out of whack, they are connected with many mental illnesses. Depression, chronic fatigue, and ADHD are all common linked to brain chemistry. Abnormal levels in any or all of these chemicals can often also lead to addiction. This form of addiction is often the result of people trying to self-medicate. This is why so many people receive a dual diagnosis when they seek treatment for depression. A dual diagnosis is when someone is diagnosed with both a mental illness and a substance abuse issue.

 

Your Mental Health and Smartphone Addiction

 

When people come in with a dual diagnosis of depression and addiction, the staff at Regency Behavioral Health takes it seriously. We understand that addiction can manifest in a variety of ways. Smartphone addiction may sound like a First World Problem at first glance. But that is downplaying the seriousness of this or any addiction. The mechanisms of addiction are the same no matter what your ‘drug of choice’ is. The fact is, smartphone addiction can lead to serious mental health problems. Depressive episodes, disturbed sleep, and broken relationships can result in this type of addiction. The good news is there is help available.

 

Effects from Smartphone Addiction

 

When people first hear smartphones affect their mental health for the worse, they can get defensive. “My phone keeps me connected to daily and friends. It helps me empower myself with research! It’s my lifeline!” While our smartphones do keep up connected, they can also cause a number of serious problems.

Smartphones aren’t addictive by nature, but the apps we use to interact with people are. Dopamine and serotonin are a part of our brain’s reward system. We are wired to crave social interaction and, when we do, dopamine and serotonin are released. When you get a Like, recognition from peers or messages from friends, the brain releases these chemicals. These emotions cause a spike in stress which triggers norepinephrine. The release of feel-good chemicals increases our engagement on the platforms. Our brain’s reward system drives us to keep checking, posting, and refreshing. Comparing ourselves to others, however, often increases our feeling of depression and anxiety.

 

How Smartphone Addiction Effects Your Life

 

This cycle created by social media platforms is no accident. Programmers work hard to provide positive reinforcement in order to keep users engaged. This is why social media platforms work to offer more options. From emojis to the stories on your feed, constant interaction keeps us engaged. It also keeps us coming back for more. Each enhancement is designed to provide users with positive reinforcement. That positive reinforcement increases dopamine production and drives user engagement. The more you use it, the more you want it. The more you want it, the worse it can make you feel. But you still want it. Sound familiar? This cycle may not be as dramatic as heavy drug use, but it is an addiction just the same.

 

Insurance Verification

 

We understand that different insurance plans offer different levels of coverage. We can accept most major insurance plans. We offer an online insurance verification tool. This is to help patients understand what treatment is available without obligation.

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Prioritize Your Mental Health

 

Dealing with addiction is tough. Adding depression or anxiety to the mix makes it even harder. At Regency Behavioral Health we understand the challenges associated with a dual diagnosis. At the same time, we understand a person is more than their diagnosis. Our treatment plans are developed with the patient as the priority. We deliver the understanding needed to use our practical tools in the real world. We have the understanding and tools, all we need is for you to call.

 

Sources

 

https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/norepinephrine

https://medlineplus.gov/dualdiagnosis.html

https://www.jax.org/news-and-insights/jax-blog/2015/december/happy-or-sad-the-chemistry-behind-depression#

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1054139X19303374

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Alexa Iocco

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