Thursday, March 23, 2017

Technology opens up new avenues to addiction

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos

Which came first, the Internet or the addiction?
That existential question is at the heart of a debate among psychiatrists, psychologists and other professionals in the addiction treatment field. Is all that time people spend on their laptops, computers, tablets and smartphones a sign of addiction to the technology itself, or is the technology merely an extraordinarily convenient vehicle by which to accommodate the addiction? And, either way, is there potential harm?
The answer to that last question is yes.
Internet addiction disorder (sometimes called technology addiction or Internet Use Disorder) is not listed in the latest DSM manual (DSM-5 2013), which is used by psychiatrists to officially diagnose addictions. However, Internet gaming disorder (video games that are especially popular with men in their 20s and 30s) is listed as a condition worthy of further study.
The only non-substance related addiction included in the manual is gambling disorder. And yet, it doesn’t take a scientific study to know that there are people who spend hours online looking at pornography, still others who will shop at e-bay and other Internet sites as long as PayPal will allow them to and still others who have become day traders (and night traders) on the stock market -- either because it’s right there in their living room or because of some other less obvious reason that might come out in therapy.
And, of course, there are the those who frequent social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (often at work), as well as ubiquitous texters (mostly teenagers) with smartphones at the ready wherever and whenever it’s necessary to share some news, or photo, or, you know, whatever.
Officially classified or not, some researchers believe that some of these behaviors -- hours of gaming, sex-related surfing or non-stop e-mailing or texting in particular -- have a lot in common with recognized addictive behaviors. To wit:
  • A high tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Negative repercussions.
The researchers say people who use their cell phones or computers for hours at a time may feel a “high,” similar to substance-centered addicts, as well as a feeling of restlessness when cut off from technology.
Some video gamers have been known to play non-stop for several hours, eating junk food, drinking soda or energy drinks for the caffeine, and ruining their eyesight and posture. They may have trouble sleeping or may feel depressed. School work goes undone. Job performance suffers. In-person friendships suffer. Hobbies and other interests that do not involve technology disappear. Life revolves around the game.
For gamers, or those who spend excessive time shopping online, looking at pornography, taking selfies or constantly checking Facebook postings, it’s possible, even likely, that there are issues involved beyond the constant use of technology that would benefit from the expertise of a psychotherapist.
Which brings us back to that which-came-first question. Given the constantly expanding role of technology in our daily lives -- work, school, social communication depend on it -- treating the harmful behavior is not as simple as don’t pick up the drink, the drug or the credit card, or stay out of bars or casinos, or knock off the french fries. It’s more likely to consist of recognizing when the behavior is getting out of hand and working with a therapist on a plan to address it.
There are, for example, apps that will tell you it’s time to shut off your smartphone or do it for you and others that will shut off your computer internet connection or block specific Web pages. Figure out if any of these could work for you. If you’re a concerned parent, talk to your child about cutting back before arbitrarily confiscating the phone.
Whatever the addiction is --  whether it’s in the official DSM manual or not -- it’s all about control, or lack thereof. Bottom line: If a behavior is causing problems in your life, it’s a problem.

There’s a movie about it
With all addictions, it’s always comforting to know you’re not alone. With Internet addiction, there’s an award-winning movie that discusses the challenges and struggles of young people growing up in the digital age. SCREENAGERS” explores family conflicts over video games, social media and academics. Screenings are available only through community events at a school, community group, church, synagogue, workplace, theater, etc. The Warwick Valley School District hosted a screening last year at the high school. It was followed up with a discussion featuring a panel of teens at the Albert Wisner Public Library.
More  information:

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Behind the bluster, the GOP sacks America

By Bob Gaydos

Ryan, Trump, McConnell ... the unholy alliance

One of the major problems in living with a narcissist is that everything is about him. He dominates the conversation, the day-to-day business, in sum, everything. It's easy to forget that there are other things going on in the world other than those revolving around him. He demands constant attention. He seeks constant attention. And if those around him are not aware of what is going on, he gets constant attention, whether he deserves it or not.

When that narcissist occupies the most powerful position in the world, it sometimes seems as if there's nothing else worth paying attention to or worth writing about other than whatever mean-spirited, idiotic statement or executive order emanates from him. Every headline, every news report, virtually every social media posting involves him. It is a nation taken hostage.

I have shaken my head in bewilderment every morning as I awaken since Nov. 9 and desperately look for something to write about that does not involve him. Let those whose jobs require them to write about him do their jobs and do it well and honestly and courageously. I'm still hung up on what the others in his party of convenience are doing to this country while everyone else is busy watching his Twitter feed.

The Republican Party once upon a time had a conscience, a sense of duty and had enough members with the guts to stand up and call a liar a liar, a bully a bully, a fraud a fraud, a bigot of bigot, and a crook a crook. Even when that crook insisted he wasn't one.

No more. Their leaders have sold out to Wall Street, to big corporations, to right-wing fanatics, to white supremacists, to hypocritical evangelicals. To the people who donated millions to fund their election campaigns. And so, while the narcissist in the Oval Office has rained havoc around the world, diverting everyone’s attention, Republicans in Congress have been taking a hatchet to every conceivable program or regulation in place to protect or serve the American public.

They helped coal miners by saying it is now okay for coal companies to dump their waste into the rivers and streams where their employees live. They say we don't need a law designed to keep mentally incompetent people from getting gun licenses. They say endangered species don't need protection from man. They say funding for PBS and the arts is unnecessary. They also say funding for Planned Parenthood is unnecessary. And one of their leaders, Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, he of the constant smirk, now says he will somehow manage to find $20 billion to pay for a wall between Mexico and the United States. That's the wall, you will recall, the narcissist said Mexico would pay for. Mexico said no way. That wall will never be built.

Also, and maybe you hadn't noticed, but congressional Republicans also say there's no reason for the narcissist-in-chief to show the rest of us taxpayers his tax returns. And that plan to repeal and replace Obamacare -- which apparently many Republican voters don't realize is also known as the Affordable Care Act? It still doesn't exist, after eight-plus years. Former GOP House speaker John Boehner said the other day, ‘’It's not going to happen.’’ 

He ought to know.

And finally, the piece de resistance, that $1 trillion, job-creating, infrastructure plan that the narcissist was going to design with his Republican colleagues in Congress? Haven't heard a word. Folks, they're making it up as they go along, stepping on people with little power and running away from questions by citizens who dare to show up at Town Hall meetings.

If you watch the movie, ‘’You've Been Trumped,’’ you'll realize this is all just the same plot over and over again. In place of the Scottish government that rolled over to the narcissist and let him wreak havoc on the Scottish coastal environment, bully people, ignore laws and build an ostentatious golf course, we have congressional Republicans, smiling and nodding and saying in private to other nations, ‘’Don't pay attention to what he says.’’

Don't worry, Europe, we’re still on your side. That Russian thing? Overblown. Fake news. You know how reporters are. Besides, we've got Mike Pence warming up in the bullpen. When, not if.

I digress. A recent posting on social media suggested that perhaps our narcissist-in-chief would benefit from a dose of LSD. At first glance, I thought this was somewhat bizarre since the aforesaid seems to already have a bizarre sense of reality. But what the heck, I read the article since there's nothing else on social media. The idea is that LSD strips the ego, lays it bare. Hello? This is me. Now. The article further said that the psychedelic drug was now being used again in legitimate research as a possible treatment for various illnesses.

 I'm reporting this mostly because I came upon the article just after finishing reading Tom Wolfe's ‘’The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.’’ Yeah, I was late to the party, but synchronicity, you know?

I have my doubts that any drug could shrink that narcissist’s ego, much less induce a sense of reality that inspired love for all people. Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey were searching in different ways for something universal deep within the human spirit through the use of psychedelics. As far as we know, they didn't find it. Then the government made it illegal.

But hey, if they're really doing research with LSD again, I’d just as soon they use Mitch McConnell as a guinea pig. Wouldn't he be a blast on the bus?