Social media has become such a huge part of everyday life. It has enabled people to connect with friends and family worldwide. But for some people, social media comes at a cost. More time spent on technological devices means more exposure to screens, and in fact maybe more disconnection than authentic connection. All these things have led many people, particularly young adults and adolescents, into a mental health crisis. Social media addiction is a real issue and should not be overlooked. If you or someone you love is suffering, speak in confidence to trained professionals who can help you seek treatment and begin a fulfilling and joyful life in recovery. 

What is a Social Media Addiction?

Social media addiction is considered a behavioural addiction. This type of addiction is driven by an uncontrollable urge to use social media, becoming overly concerned with social media and devoting vast amounts of time and effort to using it. Similar to alcoholism and substance use disorders, social media addictions can impair other important aspects of your life.

Signs of Social Media Addiction

Addictive social media use can look much like other substance use disorders, causing mood swings and drastic changes in behaviour. Whilst every addiction will affect people differently, there are a few common signs to be aware of. These can include:

  • Preoccupation with social media 
  • Increase of use on technological devices 
  • Behavioural changes 
  • Drastic changes in emotional states; mood swings 
  • Neglect of personal hygiene 
  • Emotional outbursts when access to social media is restricted or stopped
  • Interpersonal relationship issues 
  • Isolation 
  • Low self-esteem
  • Drastic comparison of oneself to others
  • Other substance use such as alcohol and/or drugs

How to Spot a Social Media Addiction

Although many people habitually use social media, very few are genuinely addicted. If you’re worried that you or someone you love may be at risk of developing an addiction to social media, here are a few questions you can ask yourself. 

  • Is there a preoccupation around thinking about social media?
  • Is there a preoccupation around planning to use social media?
  • Are there urges to use social media?
  • Is social media used in order to forget personal problems? 
  • Is there an unsuccessful attempt to reduce the use of social media? 
  • If social media use is unavailable does this cause a problem and/or emotional distress?
  • Is the use of social media interfering with other areas of life such as responsibilities, work, studies etc? 

If the answer is “yes” to more than three of these questions, you may have or be developing a social media addiction. As a precaution, engaging in a digital detox may be helpful. A detox typically includes spending a period of time during which time spent on electronic devices is significantly reduced or entirely abstained from. 

Social Media and Mental Health

There is an undeniable link between social media use and mental health struggles. Social media platforms of course have their benefits but using them too frequently can make people feel increasingly unhappy and isolated. These negative emotional reactions are produced due to social pressure of sharing things with others, posting the “perfect pic”, and the comparison of material things and lifestyles of others. Whilst scrolling through curated content, people often see posts by people who share the highlight reel of their life. 

Some people may feel happy or inspired by these people, however, others may feel jealous, depressed, or even suicidal due to them comparing their life to these people. An unrealistic comparison is drawn between realistic offline selves, to the flawless, filtered online versions of other people; a comparison that is deadly. Excessive social media use can not only cause unhappiness and general dissatisfaction with life in users but also increase the risk of developing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. This constant comparison of oneself to others can lead to feelings of self-consciousness or a need for perfectionism which often manifests itself into anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder. 

Healthy Social Media Use

Ensuring we have a healthy relationship with our devices and in turn, social media is the surest way in reducing the risk of social media addiction. Steps can include: 

  • Turning off notifications
  • Reducing time spent on social media, setting a time limit
  • Having periods in the day of no-screen time, such as during meal times
  • Leaving the phone in a separate room at night so as not to disturb sleep
  • Not checking the phone first thing when one wakes up

How is Social Media Addiction Treated?

Social media addiction treatment is available on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Your decision will ultimately be based upon your individual needs and circumstances. While residential rehab is considered to be the most effective form of treatment for social media addiction, clinics like CATCH Recovery offer exceptional outpatient addiction treatment. 

Effective treatment for any addiction consists of a medical detox where necessary. However, for behavioural addictions such as social media, where no substances are involved, an intensive form of psychological therapy is required. 

Treating the psychological aspects of addiction will provide you with the tools you need to maintain long-term sobriety. Psychological dependence is the term used to describe the emotional and mental components of substance use disorder. This is usually characterised by a strong compulsion to participate in a particular behaviour and the inability to function normally without doing so. 

CATCH Recovery uses evidence-based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), grief and trauma therapy, one-to-one counselling sessions, group therapy and online therapy. We also teach relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation which can help with managing stressful situations such as the compulsion to engage in certain behaviours. 

Whether it’s residential rehab or intensive outpatient therapy, finishing a programme can also feel daunting. You may feel overwhelmed without the structure and safety you’ve become accustomed to. With this in mind, we have created an exceptional aftercare programme designed to prevent relapse and help you deal with the stressors of everyday life. 

Treatment for Social Media Addiction in the South East

Treatment of a social media addiction is possible. Asking for help can always be difficult but here at CATCH Recovery, our addiction specialists can create a treatment plan specific to your needs. 

You can call our admissions team for your free addiction assessment, and they will be able to advise you on the next steps. 

Our clinic is based in South West London, which is accessible from anywhere in the UK. However, if you need additional support but don’t live in the South East of England, you may benefit from some of the outpatient services we offer. If you require residential rehab and are unable to travel to London, we also provide referrals to rehabs in other areas in the UK and Ireland.