Can Too Much Screen Time Lead to Depression in Adults?

Young man looking at tabletToo much screen time isn’t just a problem for children; adults are also spending more time than ever with laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Add in television time, and many adults are spending a significant part of the day in front of a screen. Recent studies show that adults who spend four to six hours a day on a computer or in front of the TV have a higher rate of depression than those who spend less than four hours a day in front of a screen.

Too much screen time may increase your risk of depression, especially if you have other factors that make you susceptible to depression. Scientists and psychologists believe there are a number of factors at play.

Screen time lowers the amount of time we spend connecting with others.

The term social media is misleading, because all that time you spend with your head down looking at your phone is time you are not connecting with a real person. Even if you are watching a movie with someone, you are generally not communicating while the movie is playing. A lack of time with others can lead to loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Both devices and the content we view interfere with sleep.

The blue light used by digital devices affects the way your brain produces melatonin, a chemical it needs to sleep. And depending on what you are viewing on the screen — such as a fast-paced movie, work-related emails, or a long news feed — your brain may be more revved up than relaxed. A lack of sleep can, at the very least, make it hard to focus. Continued nights of not enough rest can contribute to depression.

All that tech distracts us from dealing with our own emotions.

Zoning out in front of the TV for hours or binging on YouTube videos may feel like a welcome relief from the pain of a difficult situation, but in reality, repressing our emotions can lead to anxiety or depression. Ask yourself if you are getting online to learn something or accomplish a task, or simply to escape.

The experience rewires our brain.

Research has shown playing a simple video game for half an hour a day produces changes in gray matter within a two month period. And research also points to texting and social media interactions creating a reward signal in your brain, a pattern which can become addictive.

Signs of Depression

How do you know if your screen time is a risk factor that makes you more susceptible to depression? If you find yourself turning to your phone or computer as a way to zone out or block out interaction with people, you could probably benefit from talking to a counselor.

Other signs of depression include:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • Pessimism and hopelessness
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in things once pleasurable
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

If you think you may be depressed, talk to your doctor or a counselor.

If you have suicidal thoughts, please call 911 right away. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

LeBauer Offers Confidential Counseling in Nine Locations

Screening for possible depression and counseling services are offered in most LeBauer primary care offices and at LeBauer Behavioral Medicine on Walter Reed Drive in Greensboro, NC. There are nine convenient locations throughout the Triad. Request a counseling appointment online today.

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