How Smartphone Addiction Is Harming Your Teen’s Mental Health

How Smartphone Addiction Is Harming Your Teen's Mental HealthMany of today’s teenagers are glued to their phone. They spend countless hours online, checking their social media accounts and watching YouTube videos. Based on this premise, researchers from Seoul’s Korea University say this should worry their parents.

Why Parents Should be Concerned About Their Teen’s Smartphone Usage

This year the university conducted a consumer survey in which they discovered that 82% of Americans own or at least know how to use a smartphone. They also found that 92% of Americans use their smartphones while shopping, 78% use them while eating at home, and 44% use them while they’re walking across the street. The Pew Research Center also discovered that 73% of teens have access to a smartphone and 92% of American teens admit to spending time online daily.

According to Dr. Hyung Suk Seo, Americans are addicted to their smartphones and given the data that was just mentioned, he has proof. Unfortunately, he says this means Americans are doing much more than wasting away a lot of time. He says that teens who are addicted to their smartphones and the internet have a chemical imbalance in their brain. This imbalance predisposes them to suffer from depression and anxiety. This is something that was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, which was recently held in Chicago, Illinois.

Why Teens who are Addicted to Smartphones are More Likely to be Depressed and Anxious

In Dr. Seo’s study he worked with 19 adolescents who were all around 15.5 years old. There were 9 males and 10 females, all of whom were diagnosed with either smartphone or internet addiction. These teens were matched with 19 other participants who didn’t have these addictions but who were the same gender and age. Each of these teen’s underwent several modalities:

  • Their brains were examined with magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) – a technique used to evaluate the level of chemicals in the brain.
  • Twelve of the teens who were suffering with addiction received 9 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that was adapted from a treatment program that’s commonly used for treating people who have gaming addiction.
  • Standardized testing that focused on the extent to which smartphones and the internet affected their daily performance, harmed their social life, caused sleep disturbances and impulse control issues, as well as resulted in mental health issues including depression and anxiety were also administered. Dr. Seo believes that the higher the test score, the more severe the addiction was.

What Dr. Seo’s Research Reveals

The teens who were suffering from addiction underwent MRS both before and after receiving CBT. However, the control group only received MRS once. The researchers’ goal here was to measure their brains’ levels of glutamate-glutamine (Glx) and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA).

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that’s responsible for interacting with neural synapses and slowing the signals between cells. It balances out Glx’s effect. Glx itself is an excitatory neurotransmitter that speeds up the signals between cells. When these are imbalanced, they oftentimes result in mood disorders including both depression and anxiety.

After conducting the MRS exams researchers discovered that those teens who were suffering from addiction had more GABA and Glx than the healthy control group. It’s important to note that this was prior to receiving CBT in their brain’s anterior cingulate area to help with cognition and regulating emotions.

The Study’s Conclusion

According to Dr. Seo the ratios of GABA and Glx to creatine is significantly linked to the severity of the teen’s addiction and their resulting depression and anxiety. He hypothesizes that GABA levels in those addicted teens is associated with their brain’s having damaged cognitive and emotional processing. This is yet to be confirmed by other studies. Nevertheless, if your teen is suffering from a smartphone or internet addiction and showing signs of depression or anxiety, you should reach out to The TMS Advantage for immediate help.

Picture Credit: Pixabay

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