Overuse of social media can be harmful to people in addiction recovery. Social media use can become a non-substance-related addiction that can compromise recovery from drugs and alcohol. Many residential treatment centers do not allow social media use during treatment for this reason. Because smartphones are ubiquitous and social media is free and easily accessible, this form of addiction is common.
What Are Non-Substance Addictions?
Not all addictive behaviors come as a result of abusing drugs or alcohol. The most common non-substance addictions include food, shopping, sex, gambling, video games, mobile devices, and social media. These are sometimes known as behavioral addictions.
When a person engages in these non-substance-related activities too much, they may find it hard to stay away, even when there are negative consequences. Their addictive behaviors may interfere with life, relationships, and work.
Because non-substance addictions also negatively impact people’s emotional and mental health, they are considered harmful to their overall well-being. When people in addiction recovery turn to these activities to compensate for previous addictions, they may experience emotional relapse.
What Are Some Common Symptoms of Social Media Overuse?
People who overuse social media are usually unable to limit their screen time. They may experience compulsive urges to check social media. The fear of missing out on new messages or posts can trigger stress. These people may also crave attention through the use of these platforms. The feelings they get from so many likes and views or being the first to see something new can generate the same pleasure substance use once provided them.
Emotionally speaking, excessive social media use may lead to anxiety and negative moods. For example, when a person has no access to the internet or mobile devices, they can feel restless. They may also feel sad or depressed when not getting the attention they seek on their social platforms. An urge to share everything can be energy-consuming. Furthermore, addiction to social media can lead to negligence of school, work, and family responsibilities.
Why Is Social Media Addiction Harmful to Addiction Recovery?
Behavioral addictions trigger the brain’s reward system to release dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical, in response to performing an action. The same is true when using substances. As this circle of engagement and reward hardens, a person begins to feel unable to live without that habit. Even when substances are not in the picture, the brain can experience addictive effects.
Most treatment centers recommend limiting time on social media during the early days of sobriety. Early sobriety is fragile, and when you introduce the same neurotransmitters, even by non-substance means, it can slow down the brain’s healing process and even lead to relapse.
How Much Is Too Much?
It can be hard to determine whether a person’s social media use is too much or has become addictive. One way to gain perspective on this matter is to gather feedback from family and friends. As daily observers of their loved one’s behaviors, these people are in the best place to tell whether the recovering individual’s use of social media has achieved compulsivity.
If someone needs help determining the extent of their social media use, these questions can be helpful:
- Do they feel the urge to use social media more frequently than before?
- Do they turn to social media as a way of escaping from real-life challenges?
- Do they crave more views, likes, and shares on social media?
How to Begin a Digital Detox
If family and friends are concerned about someone’s overuse of social media, or if that person answered the above questions positively, a social media addiction may be present. The first step to remedy this issue is to begin a digital detox. They need to put down their mobile devices for some time.
Like a detox for substance use, a digital detox is only the starting point. Individuals should put accountability structures in place to minimize the use of mobile devices. This may happen gradually, like a partial detox, until the compulsive urge to check feeds lessens.
Individuals can do things like setting a screen time limit, agreeing to put their phone down after a certain time in the day, or avoiding using their phone when engaging in conversations. Below are a few essential tips:
- Know that social media sites are not good spaces for relieving stress
- Draw a line between keeping up with friends and mindless scrolling
- Focus on real-life interpersonal relationships
How to Boost Brain Health During Recovery
Boosting brain health can improve a person’s success rate in recovery. Apart from a nutrient-rich diet, regular exercise, and quality sleep, people in recovery need to double down on activities that help restore their mind-body connection. Such activities include yoga, experiential therapy, creative therapy, and mindful meditation.
By shaping their environment into an organized and calming space, individuals’ brains can begin to heal from the stress brought by substances and compulsive behaviors. The grey matter in the brain will gradually increase, improving sensory perception and self-control. Additionally, the thickness of the hippocampus will also increase, aiding memory retention.
For those supporting a loved one through recovery, the best way to support their brain healing is to minimize stress and friction in the home. Many teens and young adults use social media to escape conflicts at home. Family therapy can be a great way to start being more supportive.
When you are in recovery, you must separate yourself from compulsive habits that undermine your sobriety. Social media overuse is one such destructive habit. If you need extra support, reach out to Laguna Shores Recovery. We will help you and your family find a path forward. Here, you will find that our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff know the value of positive support networks and have the skills to teach you how to build them. Whether you need to distance yourself from unhealthy behaviors or set up healthier patterns for success, Laguna Shores can help. Please call (866) 774-1532 to discover how you or your loved one can be part of our strong recovery community.